GLEN Origins

Can We Evolve New Methods of Collaboration?

In 2017 a close-knit group of colleagues in the field of organizational development began to discuss the future of human collaboration. In our work we often saw how challenging it was for organizations to navigate change. And increasingly complex global crises called for increasingly skillful collaborations ‚Äď across organizations, sectors, even nations. As a human community, how would we rise to the challenge? As a consulting company, The Grove Consultants International offered services and tools in the areas of visual facilitation, teaming and strategy, but really needed to push further through an R&D frame given the scale and rapidity of change.
 
Advancing approaches to collaboration, we agreed, will be key to creating the communities of the future. As consultants we were paid to provide answers ‚ÄĒ and in order to evolve our understanding, we also needed to engage more deeply with questions arising from our work. So we began to meet in San Francisco ‚Äď first at The Grove Consultants International, and later at the Thoreau Center for Sustainability ‚Äď to explore how to support one another‚Äôs growth and learning.¬†¬†
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Initial Conversations at Thoreau Center for Sustainability, Presidio, San Francisco

Leaning Into Inquiry
 
At these gatherings we shared our insights with generosity — and our challenges with vulnerability. We leaned into inquiry, invited experimentation, and embraced failure’s valuable lessons. We explored what ancient wisdom traditions could teach us about contemporary corporate challenges. We tapped into collective wisdom to discover new approaches to change. And we were surprised how much fun we had along the way. 
 
Not only did our peer-learning experiment ignite new enthusiasm for our work – it also advanced our personal and professional growth. We rediscovered how enriching collaboration could be and how much we needed one another to evolve as change leaders. 
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Gisela Wendling

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David Sibbet

Encouraged by Colleagues

A mutual friend Alan Briskin, co-author of The Power of Collective Wisdom and a deeply experienced organizational consultant, saw the potential of exploring the interface between visual facilitation and dialogue that Gisela and David represented. He had worked with Gisela on a Wisdom at Work conference in Australia, and he knew David through the San Francisco Bay Area Thought Leader Gatherings sponsored by Heartland Center. Through his extensive work in health care systems, Alan had prior experience creating a Relationship-Centered Care Network.

Gisela and David invited Alan and another colleague, Amy Lenzo, principal at WeDialogue, as well as Aftab Omer, a social psychologist and president of Meridian University, to join in their conversations. 

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Alan Briskin

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Amy Lenzo

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Alan Briskin

Rob Eskridge and Bill Bancroft, two long-time Grove senior consultants, soon joined them. Rob trained at P&G and is an expert in marketing for mid-market companies; he reinvented strategic planning in the 1980s using Arthur M. Young’s Theory of Process. Bill leads strategic visioning processes, has a passion for leadership and neuroscience, and has worked in Latin America. The Grove’s senior consultant and team performance expert Laurie Durnell and Rachel Smith, the Grove lead in digital communications also participated.

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Rob Eskridge

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Bill Bancroft

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Laurie Durnell

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Rachel Smith

Two Years of Dialogue With "The Allies"

This group came to call themselves the GLEN Allies, and their interaction has been¬†rich. Their¬†initial stream of contact grew into in a strong river of interest over a year‚Äôs worth of gatherings. They were a ‚Äúbeating heart‚ÄĚ for the purpose of evolving the field of collaborative practice. In day-long meetings, which gave rise to the idea of "Exchanges" as special dialogues focused on inquiry, the allies began articulating The GLEN. They mapped all the kinds of collaborative networks they knew about, and the associated models of change that animated collective action. It was clear that an integrative effort should acknowledge the differences between¬† intangible, subjective realities¬†as contrasted with tangible, objective results, or the mindset of seeing things whole versus seeing things as parts. They imagined a kind of village marketplace of ideas and mutual support that would encourage¬†GLEN members¬†and others to take on some of the big challenges of our time¬†through inquiry and a more holistic perspective. They all knew from personal experience that being seen and supported by colleagues is essential to doing the kind of social change work they felt was being called for. Here is a map of the many processes we already knew about.

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Inaugural Event in 2017

After two years of meetings the group decided to hold an event at the Presido Golden Gate Club in San Francisco and invite a large group of colleagues to join the network. Several became active members right away. Teresa Ruelas, a senior OD consultant who worked in Silicon Valley but returned to her native Philippines, was organizing a Community Alternative Food System based on organic gardening. The GLEN chose her project as one of the initial active collaborations. Ronita Johnson, an artist activist who created a one-woman play called FOREGIVEable: Race Rage, and Religion (based on a book by the title), led an Exchange on the subject in the fall of 2017. Mary Gelinas, a long-time colleague of Gisela and David (starting when she was a Senior Consultant at Interaction Associates and more recently as co-leader of Gelinas & James and co-director of the Cascadia Leadership Academy). She, David and Bill hosted an Exchange series on the Neuropsychology of Collaboration in the spring of 2018. 

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Teresa Ruelas

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Ronita Johnson

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Mary Gelinas

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LASP eBook

 

Leading as Sacred Practice

During these years a project that had special energy and meaning emerged called Leading as Sacred Practice (LASP). Holger Scholz, founder of kommunikationslotsen shared Gisela's idea of "life as ceremony." They invited David and Alan to join to explore what was possible. Several retreats were supported by Karolina Iwa, a social entrepreneur from Berlin who took many of the emerging ideas into Leadership Festivals in Europe. The pandemic sparks an on-line series in 2021 and a popular LASP eBook (click the image for more information).

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Karolina Iwa

GLEN Website Development

It was clear that a global network needed a "collaboration backbone." This has developed and changed along with the network. Gisela and David as Co-Directors, kept relationships at the center and resisted growing for the sake of numbers. With initial work focused on Exchanges, and subsequent efforts on Collaborations, attention turned toward a second and more functional website to begin sharing Learning Resources much more broadly. The LASP eBook was an outgrowth of this orientation. Rachel Smith used The GLEN as a learning platform, and facilitated several dozen authors co-creating The World of Visual Facilitation: Unlock your Power to Connect People & Ideas through a series of innovative writing "sprints" at The Grove. David & Gisela collaboratively wrote Visual Consulting: Designing & Leading Change with support from Exchanges on each step of the process.

Becoming a Non-Profit

In 2020, The GLEN gained the fiscal sponsorship of the nonprofit, Inquiring Systems, Inc, enabling The GLEN to accept tax-exempt donations. An Advisory Board was created that held regular calls to provide overall direction. This group consists af Alan Briskin, Rob Eskridge, Mary Gelinas and Karolina Iwa along with Gisela and David. In the process the pandemic hit, and fundraising for projects did not proceed.

Recruiting a Program Director

In 2022 Krista Bremer  joined The GLEN as program director. She is a published author and experienced publisher and development director. Working closely with Gisela, David and the advisors, she greatly expanded The GLEN community programs and successfully raised support for her position from a donor. (See archived Exchanges to see the range of program produced in this time.) The GLEN Café was established and has become a popular way to meet GLEN members.

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Krista Bremer

New Era

In 2023 Gisela Wendling became CEO of The Grove. Her work with change and liminality and experience with The GLEN is taking the Grove's consulting deep into change work and leadership development. The Grove's commitment to supporting a community of practitioners is even stronger.

Post-pandemic, however, found that attraction to on-line networks shifting. Many global networks now exist. We also discovered that funding a separate non-profit was not working. Membership fees were not sufficient to support staff. As a result The GLEN was not able to continue to support Krista as full-time program director. David also declared he needed to turn more of his attention to supporting the new Grove direction.

As an evolution, Krista and John Schinnerer facilitated several member's meetings, using a sociocratic process, to create a Stewardship Circle that will help organize  member sourced and led programming. GLEN members Phil Bakelaar, Jerry Chang, Luci McLean, Babgide Agboola and Kathryn Gonzales were selected by consent to help organize involvement circles that will carry on Krista's work.

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Because the ISI relationship had fees attached, and we were not spending time raising special grants, The GLEN reverted to being the R&D network extension of The Grove, exploring evolutionary oriented, member-led efforts to explore the edges of collaborative practice and mutual support. The Stewardship Circle will meet and propose the next steps in growing this vibrant community.

Address:

The GLEN
c/o The Grove Consultants International 
 275 Bel Marin Keys, Suite B
Novato, CA 94949
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