First Wednesday Conversation 2018

Olympia, Washington


Here is the world. Beautiful and terrible things will happen. Do not be afraid.

Frederick Buechner

Another world is not only possible, she is on her way.

On a quiet day, I can hear her breathing.

Arundhati Roy

Everything is connected. Everything changes. Pay attention.

Tenneson Woolf


2018 Intention

My intention is to practice shifting from certain conversations that, while satisfying and true, have no power and no accountability – to stop telling the old stories. Instead, we will practice a pattern of conversation that is restorative and creates accountability wherever we engage. Within this context, we’ll study methods and tools and practices that can liberate us from the old stories and help create the future.


Overall Purpose (since 2007)


The First Wednesday Conversation will continue to develop our capacity for systems intelligence by focusing on a collection of tools and methods that can give us valuable insights into complex issues.

And here’s a reminder about what I mean by systems intelligence. I define it as the capacity and ability to apply systems thinking to complex challenges. Such challenges are different from technical problems. Learning is needed, both to adequately understand the problem and to address the emergent challenge. Systems intelligence enriches and enhances any change methodology. When an organization or community or leader can do three things – develop their systems intelligence, nurture mutual learning, and discern complex adaptive challenges – wise action is possible.That’s what we’re about at the First Wednesday Conversation.

Time & Place

The 2018 First Wednesday Conversation will continue to take place in the lobby of the Olympia Senior Center from 5:00 until 6:30pm. It’s fine to bring coffee, tea or a snack from home or the Bread Peddler on Capital Way, just across the street. I am grateful to Senior Services of South Sound for the use of their Olympia lobby. Thank you, Eileen!



“Change the conversation one room at a time.” This is necessary in order to tell new stories, to create the future. Our discussion will start with an excerpt from Peter Block’s “Civic Engagement & the Restoration of Community” (pp. 16-17)

Certain conversations are satisfying and true yet have no power and no accountability. The conversations we want to avoid or postpone are:

Telling the history of how we got here

Giving explanations and opinions

Blaming and complaining

Making reports and descriptions

Carefully defining terms and conditions

Retelling your story again and again

Seeking quick action

Talking about people not in the room


Here are the conversational shifts we seek, which are restorative and accountability-creating:

Invitation replaces mandate, policy and alignment

Possibility replaces problem-solving

Ownership and Cause replace explanation, blame, and denial

Dissent and Refusal replace resignation and lip service

Commitment replaces hedge and barter

Gifts replace deficiencies

In subsequent months, we will relate the current topic to one or more of these conversations.


The Quality of our Inquiry: Questions With Little Power & Questions With Great Power (See Peter Block’s “Community – the structure of belonging,” pp. 104-106). Handout will be provided!



The Art of Harvesting (handout from Chris Corrigan) Artofharvesting3.1



Appreciative Inquiry (handout from Chris Corrigan) appreciative_inquiry



Appreciative Inquiry, continued by popular demand! Please see this article by AI creator David Copperrider: 




The Authentic Leadership Container Principle (handout) Container Principle



The July 2018 conversation is about poetry – poetry that is meaningful to us, helpful in our work, powerful in transformational possibilities, inspirational for our leadership practice. Bring a poem to share, preferably several copies so others can follow along as you read your poem.


Sense-making with the Cynefin Framework Snowden and Boone Leader’s Framework for Decision Making


Practices of a Recovering Knower: the Knower-Learner Survey and the Left Hand Column (handouts will be provided)



Engaging with Conflict: the Ladder of Inference and Genuine Inquiry (handouts will be provided)



Eight Behaviors for More Effective Teams & the Mutual Learning Model Eight-Behaviors-for-Smarter-Teams



CHANGE: In December, we’ll continue the November conversation, so please review the eight behaviors described in the paper provided for November. The conversation about the Habits of a Systems Thinker will take place in January!