Kosmic playmates


My Integral City colleagues and I are offering an unconference within a conference – the coming Integral Theory Conference in San Francisco this summer. Here’s a bit of poem I caught this week when we circled up to work together.


A playful invitation 
to kosmic playmates
to close the distance 
to discern the direction
of momentum in place
to co-create a centering space
that nourishes the
flow of relating
at scale




A change in perspective

retires one

for another

perhaps unknown

a journey of surprise

deliberate or not

either way it calls

for unguardedness

to allow

shadow to light

to allow

flow and movement

for which I can

(not) prepare



A poem caught while spending time with my community of practice last night.


Weaving a basket of generosity


Weaving a basket of generosity

in which we waken

to promise

to harmony

of no harm



A poem caught while meeting with colleagues as we support a city embarking on a visioning process for a city and a surrounding First Nation. The above is the work we are sensing into.


Pause to hear what you heard


After hours and hours of listening to the public – and answering tough questions – during a series of public engagement events, my client took a few moments to hear what they heard. It was powerful.

My client is an organization at the beginning of a multi-year negotiation process with another organization. Caught in the middle are a number of citizens that will be directly affected by how this shakes out.  After a series of meetings with the affected citizens, my client pulled together all staff involved in the engagements to debrief. The objective of our debrief was simple – to pause and hear what we heard over the last month.

We took the first 15 minutes of our hour-long meeting to pass a talking piece around the table, allowing each of the 15 of us to notice our response to this question.

With all that you have heard, what is resonating in you?

Here’s what they noticed:

  • Citizens are searching for a place for their voice to be heard
  • Citizens are searching for a place in the decision making
  • Citizens are confused by mixed messages
  • Citizens want to know how the proposal will affect them personally
  • There are many voices among citizens – they are not unified
  • There are varied reactions to the proposal; for some it’s a threat, for others an opportunity

They moved past the information collected, and they moved past the process used to collect the information. They discerned the undercurrents of the work they are doing.

The process underway is complicated and complex and will take years, the result of which is uncertainty and confusion. Most importantly, they recognized that their work affects peoples’ lives in real ways.

Here’s what they noticed about themselves:

  • We are here to serve citizens
  • “Us vs. Them” does not serve us – or citizens
  • As an organization, we need to step up
  • When threatened, it is hard to listen
  • We need to demonstrate that we care. Saying it is not enough
  • We have a lot of work to do internally to ensure we can deliver what we say we will deliver

They learned to take a few steps in others’ shoes, and they let those steps change how they dance with others. Wonderful.

As you read this, what resonates with you?


The gifts


Don’t forget the invisible

love in the fire

for sacred work

connecting roots

rooted, deep

together in joy


Don’t forget the invisible

energy that heals

a global family

trusting play

and the delight

in life


Don’t forget the invisible

unexpected resolve

to energize

to carry

to move

and be still


Don’t forget the gifts

of belief

in the big

break through

of collective intelligence

in circle



Poem caught in the closing circle of the Second Fire gathering of the Circle Way, at Marsh House, Whidbey Island, May 3, 2014.



I said yes


I said yes to an invitation

to being

a pioneer, a tributary

sitting, in ambiguity and uncertainty

to build

to give

to never leave, here

the moment, the lineage

the flow of the river

circling, wanting us now

to serve

by yearning

purposefully, carrying,

prototyping, feeling,

feeding, fielding

the field



Poem caught in the opening circle of the Second Fire gathering of the Circle Way, at Marsh House, Whidbey Island, April 30, 2014.



Nourishing transformations


Our cities are transforming, and so is the role of planners in the midst of this transformation.

Last month, I hosted a conversation at the Canadian Association of Planning Students annual conference about transformations, to give them an opportunity to dig into what they know and see. Here’s what we found.

We are transforming into organizers. We think of planning as a linear, mechanistic activity but cities don’t work that way. What’s coming is a new social habitat, so we played with this idea using a World Cafe, using these new operating principles:

  1. Create places for you and others to experiment
  2. Know and trust that the transformation never ends – it’s  a never-ending quest
  3. Cities will forever learn and adapt, and they will only learn and grow as much as we – the component parts – learn and grow
  4. Choose to swim, rather than float

So here’s what the students noticed.

The best stuff and what we're transforming into
What is the best stuff happening in our cities? What are we transforming into?

There’s great stuff underway in our cities and we are transforming into cities that are about people. We are paying more attention to public spaces, to diversity, to our cultures. We celebrate with food and festivals. There is a shift underway, where we share more. Technology and social media are changing how we look at our cities and planners. Everything is more visible.

And we face significant challenges.

The challenges and vulnerabilities
What are the challenges we face? What are our vulnerabilities?

When we resist change, we are at our most vulnerable.  We are lured by convenience. Small thinking and  lack of vision make us vulnerable. We feel the pressure to do it “right,” yet it is not possible to know what is coming. We grapple with the unknown. The choices we make matter. The leadership we create and support matters.

There is a way through.

Planners role through
What role do you want to play to move through these vulnerabilities?

Look at the whole. Grasp a vision and keep it in mind. It’s not about sacrifice, its about choice, and choosing to be informed and to inform. It’s about facilitating understanding, so that we can hold and consider new possibilities. Its about respecting and honouring roles and responsibilities, but also challenging them to see and pursue new possibilities. It’s about improvement.

We have no idea what we are transforming into. We just know that its underway. And we can transform into what works for us, or what does not. The only way we’ll get what we want is if we choose to engage with the transformation.

What transformations are taking place that you wish to nourish?   

_____ _____ _____


This post is a wee bit of the book I am working on, while I am working on it. Here are some plot helpers of Nest City – The Human Drive to Thrive in Cities:


Citizens engage (10 tips)


When Pam Moody was elected mayor of Yarmouth, Nova Scotia 15 months ago, she was inundated with demands to fix things: “The town should do this, you should do that.” She could see the difference between a pity party in a struggling town, and a town that stood up to look after what needed to be done. Her response:



Jim Mustard, deputy warden of the County of Inverness, Nova Scotia, is driven by his passion for children. His passion has led to an exploration of early childhood development and how our brains develop because we spend time together. In our communities, he sees lost opportunities for us to grow and develop when we place experts at the front of the room and we remain alone and in silos. We are not creating new structures in our brains to build connections with each other that will allow us to be more resilient – and create communities that serve us in the best ways possible. We don’t talk about what binds us – we sit and listen.


Paul McNeil, publisher of Island Press Ltd. followed his passion to create a place for Atlantic Canada’s rural communities to find local solutions. He brought people like Pam and Jim to Georgetown, Prince Edward Island, to tell stories and notice what works. They did not sit and listen to a few experts; they explored the stories in the room and they are changing the face of rural communities.


I met Pam, Jim and Paul as moderator for a session at this week’s Federation of Canadian Municipalities’ Sustainable Communities Conference and Trade Show in Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island. To replicate the Georgetown Experience, which was all about connecting people and supporting the development of new relationships, we began with their quick story of Georgetown, then we asked everyone in the room to dig  into the panel’s stories and tease out the story behind the story.

Our little FCM community built connections with each other they would not have if we would have stayed in the “sage on the stage” pattern. They also proved that there is significant expertise everywhere in the room – in the community.

When citizens are engaging themselves, here’s what’s happening, according to our pop-up community:

  1. Bring your best self – leave the negative at the door
  2. Tell stories
  3. Pursue unusual partnerships
  4. Take action – don’t worry about the specifics
  5. Trust that people want to contribute
  6. Trust that people want to take responsibility
  7. Offer minimal structure
  8. Practice working with each other – commit to meeting more than once
  9. Get together – bust the silos
  10. Pause to look at what’s really going on, the macro


As Pam, Jim and Paul reflected on the session, they all noticed that people are started for leadership, but its not leadership from elected officials thats missing. Its the leadership of people standing up to say:



What work is your community calling to you to do?

Only you hold yourself back.

_____ _____ _____


This post is a wee bit  of the book I am working on, while I am working on it. Here are some plot helpers of Nest City – The Human Drive to Thrive in Cities:


Appreciating the patterns in people


The people in the room are the pattern

the voices, perspectives together

we are the same

with busy heads

we choose

to listen

life will be ok

we do need each other

we do need perspectives

to discern

to appreciate

to hear it out

to think through, checking reality

to think through what it will take

to survive

threat by threat

experience by experience

difference by difference

reinforcing appreciation

and flow forward


each doing one thing deeply

to work on it all


_____ _____ _____


A poem caught as participants noticed what they learned after a day of Collaborating in Complexity – Navigating the Systems of Community, my advanced training session delivered with Marilyn Hamilton, at FCM’ Sustainable Communities Conference in Charlottetown, February 11, 2014.

Circling up in Winnipeg


Ever notice how when something is on your mind, more of it comes to you?

I was looking forward to the start of a big meeting in Winnipeg last weekend, where we were bringing people together from across Canada to chart out a new path for a national organization. I knew we were going to sit in a circle to start  our meeting, and the day before we started, as I was walking through Winnipeg to get to our meeting place at The Forks, I noticed circles everywhere I went.

It felt like Winnipeg – and The Forks – was getting ready to host leaders from across the continent, a role this place, where the Red and Assiniboine Rivers meet, has played for over 6000 years. I also felt Winnipeg was helping me circle up with my Self, and the place in which we were meeting, to prepare.

As a shape in which to have a conversation, the circle allows us to more fully see and hear each other.

The only thing in the way is ourselves.


_____ _____ _____