Many of us who have participated in u.lab are inspired to start a u.lab hub to more deeply explore our interests and to co-create the emerging future. By following the principles and practices of a ‘generative community’, hosting a hub can be a creative, rewarding, and fulfilling experience.

WHAT IS A GENERATIVE COMMUNITY?

generative community is a highly intentional community of practice with members that cultivate inspiring practices and aim for growth and change within their field. Community of practice is an effective, robust, and time-honored approach of participatory learning that creates the conditions to support holistic education and humanitarian development. Since the dawn of humanity, the community of practice has been the inherent model for how we come together in ethical space to learn from one another, from our environment, and from all of life. All is co-created within a community of practice — there is no single leader, only a single focus. Members exercise aligning their attention and intention by self-identifying their role and level of participation in the team, and all levels of participation are recognized as highly valuable. It is important to remember that your level of participation in a community of practice is unique to you: it is self-determined by you for your personal needs and fulfillment, as well as the participatory value you bring to the collective whole. This co-creative experience cultivates interdependence and supports the emergence of new social cohesion allowing the opportunity to disrupt cycles of ruin in a non-violent and evolutionary manner.

The Presencing Institute is a generative community exploring awareness-based systems change to inspire action, activate hope, and cultivate civilizational renewal. The offerings of the Presencing Institute explore how we might bridge the ecological divide, the social divide, and the spiritual divide, and step into the best of possible futures. Civilizational renewal comes from a shift in perspective, and we need to see through one another’s eyes, and perhaps even beyond human eyes, in order to accomplish this shift. We come together within this generative community to grow knowledge, validate personal and shared experiences, and also empower others with new insights and perspectives.

Hub Hosting

Nested within the larger community of the Presencing Institute are hubs. Like a fractal of the whole, hubs are self-organized groups exploring awareness-based practices to support positive cultural change. Members within a Presencing Institute hub gather to create meaningful connections, explore, and embody these practices for social regeneration. It is suggested that there is a core team of highly committed participants that are focused on the source of the practice or project as well as a smaller managing group, an extended team of supportive participants, and an outer ring of interested community members.

Hub gatherings are facilitated by hub hosts who encourage all participants to practice deep listening and dialogue for generative, creative conversation, as well as demonstrating how this forms synergy for the group and integrity in the individuals. A hub as a container is an ethical space valuing each unique expression, a practice of making space so that all voices can be welcomed and heard. Ethical space is founded on inquiry and active listening with discernment, and is maintained by group constructed aims and grounding guidelines that help in understanding why we come together and in understanding who benefits from participation. Hub hosts within the Presencing Institute community have developed these guidelines for cultivating community resonance to support facilitators in sharing a warm welcome and warm expectations from the heart. Read more about the Guidelines for Cultivating Community Resonance HERE.

As hub hosts, we ‘trust that who shows up is perfect’. This motto helps us to manage our social field dynamics with curiosity, compassion, and courage — recognizing the gift even in the challenges. There is a gift in connecting, sharing, and developing a project with one another. There is also a strengthening gift in recognizing when a person is not a good fit for your hub, and helping them to find another venue for participation.

Meetings and Session formats

Within the hub space, the flow of a meeting determines the ease of participation. This archetypal meeting format by Regen Collective member Kristin Mathis can help you as a hub host and as participants to better hold space for one another, craft your time well, and create a generative flow in each of your sessions and the overall hub activity. Read more about steps to cultivating a generative meeting or session HERE.

In the experience of a hub, there is a ‘breathing’ dynamic between process and product that is influenced by the u.lab cycle and supported by the logistics of scheduling. This breathing moves between sensing one’s inner condition and the outer context, between the deep sources of knowing within an individual and the emerging expressions of this in the collective group and collective society. Sensing practices and reflective practices help us to explore the three divides as well as grow our capacity for these dynamics.

SENSING PRACTICES

A generative community evolves their unique form and expressions through sensing practices that attune the participants through an experience of resonance, or a feeling of coming into harmony and alignment with each other. ‘Art as Inquiry’ is a series of methods which engage authentic expression through nonverbal languages of symbol, movement, or sound. The participants engage in felt, embodied, and intuitive capacities, for co-sensing and co-creating. The Presencing Institute utilizes arts-based inquiry through visual and generative scribingSocial Presencing Theater (SPT), 3D mapping, and reflective journaling. By offering art as an inquiry methodology in your hub, you are inviting participants to engage with a deep and intuitive language through which they can actively make sense and relational meaning.

Generative Scribing by Denise Sobrinho for Regen Collective session on ‘Deep Sensing’

If you are not trained in these practices, you can invite in a SPT practitioner to facilitate your hub members in embodiment practices and invite a visual scribe to generate creative imagery during your sessions for your team members to reflect on for deeper meaning. Creativity taps into deeper sources of knowing, helping the participants to get out of the ordinary, usual, and conditioned patterns of thinking and into unusual, novel, and extraordinary languages that may better express that which is emerging. A key part of this experience is the social mirroring phase in which each member is offered space to share and voice expressions as the collective responds with objectively positive feedback, such as “I see, I sense, I feel”. The ‘call and response’ of this playful engagement not only builds group coherence, it also stimulates healing and wellbeing.

Participating in this open social field also requires developing a capacity for ‘not knowing’; seeing into the liminal with curious eyes, sensing into those hidden potentials that have yet to arise. In Arwana Hayashi’s SPT work, the concept of Ma: pregnant, empty space, reminds us that there is also value in the ‘negative capacity’ of seeing what is NOT there. We uncover this through inquiry: What is missing? Who is missing? What unseen elements came together to emerge as what we are now experiencing? Who is benefiting?

Sometimes what is hidden is that a hub is prototyping new forms of leadership, teaming, and co-creative capacities — and that a product is not even relevant. The results of co-creation are often in the long cycle: we are creating the path by walking it, we are planting trees that we may never sit under.

STEPS TO CULTIVATING A GENERATIVE COMMUNITY

There are many expressions of community of practice and generative communities: a guild, a school, a business. A hub is a small version with a small life cycle, but may evolve into a larger organization if the vision and practice is allowed to evolve. Through this micro-exploration, you can begin to cultivate a generative community for your hub. These steps are based on the stages of Theory U.

Co-initiating:

Step 1 — Identify your field and focus and main audience. What inspires you? How is this a part of a larger context? Who is listening?

Step 2 — Gather a core team and clarify commitment. Who is in this with you? Who is your guidance and support?

Step 3 — Generate basic materials that clarify your focus or project. Identify how the team communicates and stays connected. Is this a business, an organization, a long-term project?

Step 4 and 5 — Identify an extended team and possible supportive community members and generate invitations to participate. Who are your participants?

Co-sensing:

Step 6 — Ask questions! The core team explores: What does the community need from your project? What is most needed in your field of practice?

Step 7 — The core team visits places and other projects that are relevant to your focus or project. What can you learn about how to better the field of practice and hone your focus? Try to find what you have NOT been seeing. How are you creating disruption and how could this be cultivated as positive change?

Step 8 — Take time to listen to the more-than-human. What is the larger context asking for? How will they benefit from your focus or project?

Presencing:

Step 9 — With all the input you have gathered, sit quietly, and allow a new perspective to emerge. Sense into what inner shift is occurring within you. How is this also reflected in the world around you? Allow your project to be inspired by wisdom arising from source.

Step 10 — Clarify your role and work. Make needed changes. How can you support this project to emerge as it desires?

Co-Creating:

Step 11 — Craft materials and prototype your ideas. ‘Fail fast to learn better’ — get feedback from your extended team and community members in order to make rapid changes and improvements, let go of old forms/ideas that don’t serve the purpose, and polish your concept.

Step 12 — Scale-up what works well. Go public!

Co-Evolving:

Step 13 — How can this project continue to grow? How can the community continue to grow and change and evolve beyond your original vision?

Our Example

Regen Collective is a community of practice for the regeneration of education and learning. We began as a small u.lab 2x team and evolved into the u.lab hub ‘Presencing Practices for Educators’ to explore our prototype. Through our generative practices and explorations, we have evolved from u.lab sessions to hosting Regen Circles — open community gatherings for generative conversation on the first Friday of each month. Continuing this cultivation, we are now developing an accredited course on participatory learning. You are invited to explore more about our regenerative practices at the Regen Collective site HERE and read more about Regen Circles HERE.

THE IMPORTANCE OF PRACTICE

Before you begin a hub of your own within the Presencing Institute or other community, participate in several open-membership hubs and learn through participation. This will give you a synergy of experiences as a template for your own leadership and design rather than a static list of ideas to accomplish. You can find the Presencing Institute community of hubs HERE.

Also, explore a wide variety of reflective practices to find which will best support the cultivation of your unique group or community. The practices of mindfulness, journaling, and aesthetics help us to see our individual growth as well as the advance of collective capacities. Weaving these into your group practice assists in greater synergy and capacity for growth. Just as important is to continue with (or develop) your personal practices such as mediation, movement and embodiment, and reflection. Whether or not these are relevant to your hub, they enhance your presence and wellbeing which brings overall wellbeing to others. All practices help us to see how we are creating the path by walking it and benefiting from the support of, or struggling with, our collective context.

CO-CREATION

If you are inspired to start a u.lab hub, these generative practices of sensing, embodiment, and reflection will support you to co-create a rewarding and fulfilling experience. Applying these principles and practices of a generative community will support you to deeply explore your interests and to co-create the emerging future. These are co-creative dynamics and relations that value personal needs and fulfillment, as well as the participatory value that each member brings to the collective whole. This allows us to shift any gathering into a highly-intentional and transformative experience, shift any organization into a generative community. Cultivating this alignment of attention and intention, we can support the emergence of civilizational renewal and disrupt cycles of ruin in a nonviolent and evolutionary manner.

Thanks to Priya Mahtani