top of page
  • loribaughlittlejohns

Head + Heart + Hands = Facilitating complex systems thinking

My head, heart and hands are full after a stimulating week on the beautiful west coast of British Columbia where I participated in two wonderful learning events.


Chris Corrigan, Caitlin Frost, Amanda Fenton and Kelly Foxcroft Porier were terrific hosts on Bowen Island. They skillfully and joyfully guided us through steps and facilitation methods to authentically connect people and "harvest collective intelligence" for action. It was a return to heart and hands after 8 years in my academic head. The experience rekindled many memories of my community development practice and helped me integrate knowledge and skill for Eddy Turn Consulting work. Creating space (or a container) for meaningful dialogue is central for systems change: It is people who shift systems. My confidence was greatly enhanced through experiencing familiar and carefully designed Circles, World Cafe, Open Space Technology, and presentations. I was acutely aware of the design and the flow of the course. I learned two new and exciting leadership practices. The first was Being Present, Hosting Myself, and understanding my Limiting Beliefs (and stressful thinking) by applying processes from The Work. I hadn't seen such a powerful yet fairly simple process to uncover personal thinking that might interfere with facilitation practice! The second was experiencing a Proactive Cafe. I am keen to facilitate dialogue using this method and immediately think of the important work in identifying leverage points in systems to enhance health promotion and prevention action.


It was a bit jarring moving from a container designed for meaningful conversation and participatory leadership to a formal conference of (mostly) people talking and people listening. Putting that aside, I am so grateful for the opportunity to network with new found colleagues. "We need to start thinking differently" was a call to action for conference participants. Why? Because public health needs to harness the knowledge of the complex adaptive systems we work in and the complex interventions needed to address wicked problems. I was particularly touched by the heartfelt presentation by John Millar who spoke about the "converging complex crises" of climate change, rising inequalities, declining population health, declining democracy, failing capitalism, and diseases of despair (addictions, mental illness, crime, violence, etc.). Shari Laiberte then challenged us to advocate for community organizing to mobilize the public and in essence, a return to fundamental public health practice. This resonants with my first blog post about the need for "urgency". Joslyn Trowbridge and I connected in a big way as our PhD research is very much aligned with respect to systems thinking and public health leadership. Can't wait to follow her path: Watch for some synergy. Finally, the workshop hosted by Charles Lee came full circle for me. He lead a group of us in many of the same exercises I just participated in The Art of Hosting. I loved his Trioka Consulting activity: one person posed a challege and sat in a chair with their back to us; 2 of us stood behind the person and were consultants; the catch was that the consultants could only pose questions and the person with the challnge had to only listen. In my group the fellow who posed the challenge said the questions were excellent and that we should be consultants. Yay!!

10 views0 comments

Recent Posts

See All
bottom of page