Gaining perspective, world-wide and history-long

Nagarkot, Kathmandu valleyWhat do you do to gain some perspective in the midst of the busyness of your everyday life and work, and what does it do for you?

It is now two months since I became a freelancer (facilitator, trainer &  consultant), after stepping down as Chief Executive of ICA:UK at the end of September. My earlier post explains that decision, announced in July – really a decision to end that, rather than a decision to start this.   In fact I have not yet decided to continue to freelance long-term, but I am enjoying it enough so far that I am certainly tempted.  After 16 years with ICA:UK, however, I am also enjoying the uncertainty and the potential of being open and available to alternatives, at least for now.  Of course it helps that I  do already have a few new and continuing client contracts to pay the bills, but initially at least I have been very happy to spend much of my extra time exploring before I commit myself to pursuing any next big thing.

I have long been used to what I think many would regard as a very reflective approach to my practice as a facilitator, and as a leader more generally. Reflection and learning are deeply embedded in ICA’s values and methodology, and I have been steeped in both for over 25 years now.  I guess that has only raised my aspirations, so it has been a treat for me to have been able start what I like to think of as something as like a sabbatical (although my partner takes care to remind me that I am not on holiday and do have bills to pay).  For a long time I have aspired to blog, but not found the time, so I thought I’d start by sharing something of what I have been doing recently to broaden my perspective, and where it has been taking me. I’d welcome any further suggestions…

A major feature of my last couple of months has been travel, so I’ve been in no danger of ‘freelance claustrophobia’ from working too much from home.  The first trip was to Minneaoplis, birthplace and registered office of the of the International Association of Facilitators (IAF), for a rare face-to-face meeting of the Executive Team of the global Board. That enabled me to make a stopover on my way back in Chicago, birthplace of the Institute of Cultural Affairs and home of ICA USA.  The second trip was to Geneva, home to much of the world’s humanitarian movement and venue for the 2012 IAF Europe Conference Facilitating Across Cultures: Unleashing the Power of Diversity. The third was to Kathmandu, for the 8th ICAI Global Conference on Human Development, hosted by ICA Nepal.  I attended the ‘Growing a New Sense of Leadership’ stream of the conference, plus a rare face-to-face Board meeting of ICAI International (I shall begin a term as President from January) and a two-day deliberative Open Space event on the future of ICA globally (in Nagarkot, where I took the photo above). My reflections on the Nepal trip are featured in the latest issue of ICA:UK Network News.

At home, now in London, I have attended events of the RSA including How To Change the Future, Does Africa Need Our Outrage?, How to Govern Intelligently in the 21st Century and the FRSA London City Reboot, and others including Beyond the headlines: UK public opinion on aid and development, and a meeting of the new England & Wales chapter of the IAF.  I have been enjoying tweeting vigorously (follow me at @martingilbraith if you do not already), and having time to jump into and follow all sorts of events and chats remotely, most recently #acevoconf, #drr, #leadership2013 and #charityskillsconference.  It has also been good to have the time to attend many of the 14 online AGM sessions of IAF held in October and all of the online regional gatherings of the global ICA Network held in November, to broaden and deepen those network connections and also boost my virtual facilitation expertise in the process.

Finally, I have discontinued receiving many periodicals that too often prevented me from finding time to read books, and I have begun to keep and work my way through a wishlist of more substantial reading.  So far this has included The End of the West: The Once and Future Europe, Turning to One Another: Simple Conversations to Restore Hope to the Future , Revolution 2.0 , The Road from Empire to Eco-Democracy, the Leaderless Revolution: How Ordinary People Will Take Power and Change Politics in the 21st Century, Here on Earth: A Twin Biography of the Planet and the Human Race, Transformative Scenario Planning: Working Together to Change the Future, The Soul of a Leader: Finding Your Path to Fulfillment and Success – and (most exciting of all), the new book of ICA’s international experience launched at the Kathmandu conference Changing Lives Changing Societies: ICA’s Experience in Nepal and the World. This last one is not yet available online, but I shall try to make sure that it is soon.

Already I’m beginning to wonder how I have had time for directly delivering or developing any paid contract work. However, I have been able to continue my facilitation work with the RSA, now as an ICA:UK Associate, by facilitating a Development Planning workshop for the London Region. I have also put in quite a few days preparing for facilitation of an international cross-sector partnership workshop on Community Preparedness and Disaster Risk Reduction for IFRC in Zurich in December. I have a few other contracts coming up for the New Year, I have submitted a couple of bids for larger contracts (one UK and one global) and I have begun conversations on a couple of partnership opportunities at home and abroad. I have even applied and interviewed for a couple of jobs.

Any more substantial reflections (and book or event reviews) will have to wait now for future posts.  Suffice it to say for now, however, that my efforts to gain some perspective working a treat for me.  I have come to think of my professional expertise and interests, broadly, as leadership in human development, at the intersection of facilitation, management and governance.  I have loved my management roles in ICA:UK all of these years – I learned a lot, and I’m happy to think that I achieved some things too.   I had wondered how I would miss the management role, and I expect that I shall in time.  Fow now though, I am more than happy to focus on facilitation and governance, and to have some extra time for personal and professional development.  I am already feeling that I can make more sense of all that I have been doing with ICA:UK these last years, and how it and I have contributed in some way to fulfilling the responsibility that life in this world demands of us at this time in history.  I am feeling newly enthused and inspired by connecting and reconnecting will friends and colleagues around the world, and with ideas, old and new.

I’m also feeling pleased a little with myself for finding time to blog again at last.  Hopefully it won’t be as long until the next post. And hopefully that won’t be as long, either.  What do you think?

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