Last week, the annual SIX Summer School was held in North America for the first time, bringing together leading social innovation thinkers, practitioners, grassroots activists, and policy makers from over 20 countries to explore: How can we increase our impact? Shifting cultures, changing systems and preparing for surprise.
SIX Vancouver 2014 was a three-day journey into culture shift and the spirit and humanity of social innovation. Day 1 and 2 were curated to dive deep into our spirit and our sector experiences, while Day 3 prepared us to surface with fresh perspectives and consider: how can we ‘grow change’ in society and nurture the conditions for social innovation?
To capture the depth and collective wisdom of this journey, six Witnesses were chosen to reflect on and give testimony to the powerful undercurrents of SIX Vancouver: power & love, empathy, generations, courage, beauty, and empowerment. Honouring the oral tradition of the Musqueam People, our hosts on Day 2, each Witness — or Listener — was responsible for listening for and witnessing the truth of his or her theme.
In two poignant blog posts this week, a seventh witness surfaced: Donna Thomson — an author, activist, and mother — witnessed and listened for care during the Summer School and testifies to care in her writings on SIX:
“The place of care in social change was a theme that ran through every discussion and workshop and we were nudged to think about care through the cultural lens of Canada’s First Nations…” In her first post, Donna reflects on the paradox of ‘real life’ versus ‘real work’ that emerged on Day 2: care is often seen as part of ‘real life,’ but not ‘real work’ — and as a result, can be edged out of our ‘real lives.’ Driven by the fear of our own vulnerability, we might dismiss the vulnerability of others, devalue care, and forget that love and care are both the impetus and guides for social innovation. Read on.
They cannot scare me with their empty spaces
Between stars – on stars where no human race is.
I have it in me so much nearer home
To scare myself with my own desert places.
— Robert Frost
(cited by Frances Westley, Opening Address, May 28, SIX Vancouver)
June 4: Powerful Lessons Learned
“I learned that we must forge a movement to place power in the language of caregiving…” In her second post, Donna draws on the experiences of leading change lab and solutions lab practitioners, who led a session on “Experimenting with Enemies and Strangers.” The session leaders focused on the immeasurable potential and value of collectively co-creating new social realities and solutions — a process that requires balancing love with power, or as Donna shares, empowering the language of care with strength against silence or dismissal. In her reflection, Donna calls on caregivers to use the fire of love to light a powerful torch for collective creation, nurtured through care. Read on.