Quakers, Slavery and Climate Change

February 11, 2014 § Leave a comment

I’ve been looking at how American Quakers changed from condoning slavery, and some Quakers being slave-owners or slave-traders, to in 1758 making slave trading an enforceable breach of Quaker discipline. I was inspired by a quote from Bill McKibben: “Since all of us are beneficiaries of cheap fossil fuel, tackling climate change has been like trying to build a movement against yourself – it’s as if the gay-rights movement had to be constructed entirely from evangelical preachers, or the abolition movement from slaveholders.” [1] (my emphasis)

Given how endemic slavery was to the economy and society at the time, few people could have imagined the situation ever changing. If we knew how Quakers internally made that shift, might there be valuable lessons for those working to inspire change today in response to climate change?
Here is the article I’ve now written: Quakers, Slavery and Climate Change; I would be very interested in your responses or comments.


[1] Quoted in the Guardian on 30 November 2012 by Anne Karpf, Climate Change: You Can’t Ignore It http://www.guardian.co.uk/environment/2012/nov/30/climate-change-you-cant-ignore-it

Training courses for 2014

December 19, 2013 § Leave a comment

This year has seen a very successful return of open supervision skills training courses – programmes ran in Manchester, Edinburgh and London. I also ran a workshop at the Midlands Mediation Network in early December.

Here’s a flavour of the feedback:

  • I felt comfortable to share my views with the rest of the group which I don’t normally feel able to do; so I was definitely more vocal and this was down to John’s training style and relaxed atmosphere. Brilliant!
  • [It put] depth to the structure I already have in place, to make the process more meaningful and productive for all involved.
  • A very well thought out day with a great mixture of learning tools.
  • This was excellent. John brings so much wisdom, respect, balance and thoughtfulness to the training. Just about as good as it gets!

And from a post-course e-mail:

“I gained a great deal from the day and loved the way in which you managed the needs of us all so calmly and peacefully (a strange word to use for this purpose, but that’s the environment which you created).  The way in which you gave us info – instead of the usual constant brainstorming and discussion to get to the same result but more slowly(!) – was much appreciated and has enabled me to focus on key issues which I will need to raise with the Trustees of Mediation Bucks when we continue discussions about how I will work with them as a supervisor – thank you.”  Jackie Miller.

Here are my plans for training in the coming year – expressions of interest welcome, so that I can keep you informed:

  • Supervision skills either the Midlands or the South-West, depending on interest; in London; and in Edinburgh or Glasgow
  • An advanced supervision course, for those who want to really deepen their practice; likely to be in London and Edinburgh or Glasgow
  • Reflective Practice
  • Innovation and creativity for leaders, managers and practitioners

All these courses will carry CPD points, accredited by the College of Mediators

E-mail to register your interest, especially if you want to influence the location of any of these courses; and sign-up to this blog, as details of all courses in 2014 will be promoted here.

Training dates announced

November 4, 2013 § 2 Comments

My Supervision Skills course for supervisors of mediators is running again as an open programme.

For more information and details of how to reserve your place, download the following brochures:

Edinburgh 21 November 2013

London 29 November 2013

This one-day programme is accredited by the College of Mediators (6 CPD points).

Feedback from previous courses:

  • “I felt comfortable to share my views with the rest of the group which I don’t normally feel able to do; so I was definitely more vocal and this was down to John’s training style and relaxed atmosphere. Brilliant!”
  • “I was particularly impressed with the sensitivity and knowledge that John brought to his role as facilitator and the way he supported each participant to find their own voice.”
  • “I really enjoyed the content, delivery and encouragement. I feel positive about becoming a supervisor.”
  •  “I feel that John is really skilled at enabling creativity and also clarity – I always feel much ‘freer’ after a coaching session.”
  •  “Relaxed contributions created by John made contributions easy.”

I’m really looking forward to running these programmes again; hope you can join me in London or Edinburgh.

Evaluations for learning

September 23, 2013 § Leave a comment

I was delighted to discover that USAID has included in its online Learning Lab a paper I wrote back in 2008, Evaluations for Learning.

Aimed at managers, commissioners and funders within the UK statutory and voluntary sectors, the paper explores the potential of evaluation as a tool for organisational learning and development. I compare conventional evaluations and evaluations for learning, offer notes for commissioners of evaluations, and conclude with some questions for development.

Thanks to my former Framework colleague Bruce Britton for bringing the link to my notice.

Supervision skills training for mediator supervisors

June 26, 2013 § Leave a comment

Bookings are coming in nicely for Manchester 11 July and Wandsworth 19 July.

And thank you Katherine Stoessel for this testimonial from when the programme ran previously:

“This course was invaluable in terms of building my confidence and increasing and developing the particular qualities and skills I needed in order to fulfil my new role.  I was particularly impressed with the sensitivity and knowledge that John brought to his role as facilitator and the way he supported each participant to find their own voice.”

Training dates announced

June 17, 2013 § Leave a comment

After a break of several years, my Supervision Skills course for supervisors of mediators is now running again as an open programme.

The dates are:

11 July, Manchester

19 July, London

This one-day programme – the training course I most enjoy delivering! – is accredited by the College of Mediators (6 CPD points).

The programme is for those new to supervision or who are anticipating a move into a supervisory role – staff or  Board members, and volunteer mediators who are taking on an additional role within their service.

The programme is aimed at practitioners across the mediation sector, including family, neighbour, inter-generational, restorative justice, schools and workplace mediation.

Course fee: £110. Discounts available for multiple bookings from the same service.

For more information and details of how to reserve your place, see the following brochures:

Manchester 11 July

Wandsworth 19 July

Your goals: for performance or learning? Concrete, or more abstract?

May 29, 2013 § 2 Comments

Do you prefer your goals to be about learning or about performance? And phrased in concrete terms, or more abstract?

Setting goals is inherent in our culture and in our practice – whether  they’re an organisation’s mission aims and objectives, or how we manage ourselves through the to-do list each day.

From my own experience, I know that both short- and long-term goals can inspire me into effective action; but they don’t always work.

So I enjoyed very much a recent lecture for the Quakers and Business network, David Megginson, Emeritus Professor of Human Resource Development, Sheffield Hallam University. He shared some interesting emerging evidence, that goals in themselves may be unhelpful in certain situations; and that different kinds of goals may suit different temperaments [1].

For example, goals may be unnecessarily limiting if they are too specific, carry too heavy a penalty for failure (in organisational terms, or for my own self-esteem), or if I don’t have a say in defining them, such as a goal given to me by my manager, or if it is an organisation-wide goal inappropriately translated for my own work priorities) [2]. I meet goals like this sometimes in my coaching practice, if someone has been ‘told’ to come to coaching to remedy apparent defects in performance.

So to the questions in the title of this piece. If you think about a goal or a hope you set yourself recently, how does it fit these categories:

  • Was it a goal which could be reached in time or achievement (proximal) or further ahead in the future (distant)?
  • Was it a concrete, specific goal; or was it phrased in more abstract terms?
  • Do you see yourself as approaching your goal (“The ideal livelihood I want is…”); or is the goal phrased as avoidance (“I want to overcome feeling underconfident when I’m meeting the Board”)
  • Are your goals about performance (How do I…); or are they about learning[3]

You may find that goals of a specific type work for you more times than not – for example, goals that are distant, concrete, which approach an desired outcome and which are about performance.

Or you may find that different types work for you in different situations – between personal or professional goals; or goals for daily achievements alongside a longer-term hoped-for change.

One other factor also to take a moment to think about.

If you have consciously used goals in the past, what has been your experience? Did they work; or not? (remember that goals that work may lead to effective action and valued outcomes, even if they were not the intended outcomes).

And in addition to whether goals have worked for you in the past, Professor Megginson has identified some other factors which influence our progress towards our own goals:

  • How strong is my motivation – how important to me is achieving this goal?
  • How good is my contextual awareness: how accurate is my picture of external factors that may help or hinder achievement?
  • Is this goal mine? Who shares it with me or has a stake in its outcome?
  • Do I believe that I can see, feel or touch the outcome?
  • Will I be able to measure or assess the outcome?
  • Is the goal aligned with my personal values: does it have inner “sense of rightness”?

I am finding it helpful to critique my own goals in the light of my own learning about what kinds of goals work best for me; and finding – as I believe it does for my coaching clients – greater commitment to the right kind of goals in both professional and personal contexts.


[1] See Susan David, David Clutterbuck & David Megginson, Beyond goals, 2013, Aldershot, Gower (forthcoming).

[2] Ordóñez, L.D., Schweitzer, M.E., Galinsky, A.E., Bazerman, M.H. (2009). Goals gone wild: The systemic side- effects of overprescribing goal setting, Academy of Management Perspectives, February,6-16

[3] Grant, A.M. (2007). When own goals are a winner. Coaching at Work, 2(2), 32-35.

Awakening Social Practice

March 26, 2012 § Leave a comment

This new programme is now open for bookings.

Together with co-facilitator and Oasis associate Chris Taylor, we will be addressing the key challenges that commercial and not-for-profit organisations are facing today: how to ensure future sustainability, growth and reputation, at the same time as becoming more globally responsible.

Key questions that participants can bring to this three-day programme:

  • To what extent is it necessary to think about my organisation in terms of more than just simple (economic) survival?
  • What are relevant ways in which my organisation can engage with and be effective on environmental, social and ethical issues?
  • Which models and frameworks would enable my organisation to:
    • Address the triple bottom line (economic sustainability, social good and the environment)
    • Measure impact
    • Establish effective processes for cultural and behavioural change by individuals and the organisation as a whole?
  • How do I stimulate change in my organisation to engender a purpose relevant to the 21st century?

Course prospectus: Awakening social purpose; for more information contact me, or contact Oasis  01937 541700 to reserve your place.

Labyrinths

September 14, 2011 § Leave a comment

It’s been a summer of labyrinths. Of discovering them – at Canterbury, at our campsite in Scotland, and in the North Yorkshire Wolds; and of watching my family making them – patterns in the sand by the seaside, and using grass-cuttings on a lawn.

Whereas a maze offers you many routes, with choices and dead-ends, a labyrinth has only one way to the middle. You follow it, and then there is nothing for it but to turn and follow the path to the exit. All you need to do is to keep going in the same direction. In a maze, your aim is to find the middle. In a labyrinth, the invitation is to find more of yourself.

Earliest labyrinth designs appeared over 3,500 years ago, and it has been found in many different cultures, and in both secular and religious contexts.

There’s something deceptively simple about the process of walking a labyrinth. If you’re able to walk or wheel-chair round it, it offers no physical challenges.

At its best, though, it is an exercise in focussing and reflection. When I am most focussed, I find that meaning arrives for me, whether I’m holding a specific issue in mind or holding myself open to whatever may emerge. The first few steps follow broad sweeps around the outer rings of the labyrinth: it feels as though I am gathering information, discovering the broad context of my concern, building up ideas and potential. The latter paths twist and turn towards the middle – the end of the path is visible, but still no straight way will take you there. New insights, possibilities, actions become more tangible.

A pause in the middle – is this where I want to be? Often I feel a temptation to walk straight out of the labyrinth, across the paths, as if I’ve achieved all I need to. But the way out is the way in, and the middle is only half-way. There is more to learn, and though I am still the person who entered the labyrinth only a few minutes ago, I may not be the same person who will leave. The change is within the process of attention to the path and to the present moment.

There is a growing interest in the therapeutic, creative and personal development aspects of labyrinths. They are quick and easy to draw, and I’m guessing they could be used in all sorts of ways with individuals, teams and organisations. Clearly there is much more for me to learn and experiment with.

Assessing the impact of community mediation

June 14, 2011 § 1 Comment

As a result of work which Mediation Yorkshire and I did together last year, we have produced a paper describing how the impact of mediation – both within the dispute and the wider effects – can be captured.

Challenges and Opportunities in assessing the impact of neighbour dispute mediation, 2011 John Gray

There is something of a gap within the UK community mediation sector in the theory and practice of impact. After a phase of comparatively generous public and financial support for the sector during the 90’s and early 2000’s, services need to be even clearer what benefits they are bringing to their stakeholders. Their stakeholders include not just the communities in which they work, but the service’s funders who are often local actors and influencers within the same communities.

Community mediation in the UK is approaching its fourth decade, and I hope this paper gives ideas and support to the sector as the challenges and opportunities of the current operating environment begin to make themselves felt.

If you have comments on the paper or contributions to the impact assessment debate, do be in touch.

Update: Mediation Digest has picked up on my Impact Assessment research, including an article from Mediation Yorkshire about how they have used the research with funders, referrers and other stakeholders.

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