U Lab Reflections at the turn of the U

Reflections and learning
12th October 2015

I’m undertaking the U Lab programme sponsored by Scottish Government. Angie Meffan-Main who is coordinating the programme invited me to write a blog post on the experience so far.  Here’s my reflections….

Half-way through the U Lab programme it’s too early to report on outcomes. We’re currently sitting at the bottom of the U.

Instead I reflect on the origins of The Melting Pot Hub in Edinburgh and some of the questions that are arising for me as Host. Maybe these questions will resonate with others.

Hubs are a feature of the U Lab programme and bring the learning alive. They’re self organised and connect people by virtue of special interest or locality.

Since the independence referendum and probably long before, people in Scotland, whatever their political affiliation, seemed to be searching for something different. It was nebulous but palpable.

If change is so ‘wanted’, does this mean that the journey to the ‘something different’ will be easier? Less fraught?

When the conditions are right and the political will is there, will change happen more fluidly?

These are some of the questions that have emerged for me.

The Roots of What’s Gone Before Are Still Growing

Otto Scharmer describes the dance between the security of the familiar and fear of the unknown as the complex interplay of ‘Presencing’ and ‘Absencing’.

Dayna Cunningham’s contributions as a guest speaker during week 3 of U Lab were particularly powerful. Using a tree metaphor to describe her experience of campaigning against racism, she reflected that you can chop down the tree but the roots continue growing unseen for years to come.

Liken the roots to the behaviours that support the status quo and you get a sense of why planned change can be problematic. The roots of what’s gone before are still there to trip you up.

There will always be forces pushing for change as well as those resisting it, whether welcomed or opposed, even within ourselves. The discombobulation is much the same.

If Scotland’s political leaders are looking for change and communities are too, the people in the middle – cross sectoral leaders and their teams – must feel enormous pressure to make things happen.

But despite the longing for change, people aren’t necessarily consenting to the disruption that it’s likely to bring. They’ll still resist it. Indeed systems theory tells us the primary role of the system is to preserve the status quo.

So, how then are leaders being sustained to deliver what communities are looking for in this heartfelt and seemingly welcomed revolution?

Navigating Change

This for me was the basis of inquiry for The Melting Pot Hub. The topic came up during the U Lab Hub Hosting event in July. Given my work helping people and organisations navigate change, I felt naturally drawn to it.

Claire Carpenter, Director at The Melting Pot, offered up the use of meeting space. Hence, the Sustaining the Change Makers Hub emerged. So my decision to Host the conversation was as much a case of ‘getting a leg up’ as stepping up!

Fourteen people joined the Hub. We’ve had two meetings so far and we’ll have two more before the end of the U Lab programme. It’s a diverse cross-sectoral group with executive coaches, educationalists, activists, researchers, entrepreneurs and a scientist.

We view the topic from different angles. Some support people who make change happen, others are leading or influencing change themselves. The golden thread that connects us is a deep desire to contribute to a better, more equal future for Scotland.

A Global Classroom

Scottish Government could have ignored the voices from the system. They didn’t. Instead, they provided a vehicle in U Lab and encouraged everyone to get involved.  The 8 week programme brings leading-edge thinking and tools to enable change from the grassroots. It connects people in Scotland, fuels their passion and links them to a global classroom.

I feel the urgency. A sense of personal responsibility that this could be an opportunity lost if we don’t maximise it. But then I catch myself and realise the urgency is obscuring my vision. And I let go….

At The Melting Pot Hub we’re not sure what the outcome will be but, like Scottish Government, we’re giving ourselves over to the process.

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