For more than 40 years, The Grove Consultants International has pioneered and supported a worldwide wave of interest in visual learning and facilitation. Now The Grove has launched The Global Learning & Exchange Network (GLEN), a network of process consultants, facilitators, team leaders, change practitioners, organizational leaders and more. Its mission is to increase people’s ability to collaborate across organizations and cultures by providing a learning community dedicated to inquiry, insight, and collective action.
Exploring Unknown Territories
At the heart of The GLEN is a synergistic learning community. It develops through Exchanges (face-to-face and online gatherings) and Collaborations (small-group projects) on topics such as design thinking, neuroscience, visual facilitation, collective wisdom, sustainable food systems, and leading change.
Members are finding that sharing their field experiences, questions and approaches is invaluable in sustaining engaged practices in the midst of challenging work. In fact this was a key motivator for developing The GLEN—to feel connected and supported as we tackle the central challenges of our time.
GLEN member Karen Wilhelm Buckley (principal at Communicore in Northern California, USA) says, “We are asking the hard questions. We are not letting ourselves or each other off the hook. We are going further into the conversation than we might on our own. By having the conversations that we are having, I’m finding that I’m stepping forward in some of what I am doing, rather than operating within the frame of what I already know.”
GLEN member Karolina Iwa (a facilitator and social entrepreneur from Germany) adds, “The GLEN is a space for collective sensemaking. We are taking sensemaking into the larger culture. Where are we, and what do we sense is trying to happen, both in us and in the larger collective? What is the reality that we and others are currently not seeing, are not witnessing to its fullest extent?”
GLEN Co-Directors Gisela Wendling, Ph.D. (Grove VP of Global Learning) and David Sibbet (Grove founder) are refocusing their consulting work to prioritize cultivating The GLEN member network. They are joined by GLEN Program and Member Coordinator Danielle Hansen. An evolving group of core members who are active leaders of Exchanges, Collaborations, and Learning Journeys is helping guide the community and its inquiries, and is planning events, such as the upcoming members’ gathering in July on the theme, “Standing Up in Turbulent Times.”
“We live in a time when people have become trapped in their silos of disciplines and specializations,” Gisela says, “while so many of our most pressing issues cross boundaries, disciplines and cultures.” David adds, “Our dream is that The GLEN becomes known as a fountain of hopeful ideas around how you collaborate across boundaries, and a seedbed for collective action on projects that aren’t getting enough attention.”
A Space for Collective Sensemaking
GLEN Exchanges are sourced and led by GLEN members to intentionally pool the experience of participants around significant questions at the edges of their practices. These Exchanges are held both on remote-meeting platforms, such as Zoom, and in-person. Recently completed Exchanges include: Activating Collective Wisdom Series; Visual Consulting Series; Collaborating with Tribal People; FORGIVEable: Race, Rage & Religion; Crafting a Customer-Centered Value Proposition Series; and Exploring Neuroscience & Design Thinking Series.
GLEN member Phil Bakelaar (minister and OD professor at Montclair University in New Jersey, USA) describes his experience of participating in several Exchanges: “The exploratory nature of the conversations has been fascinating. Just being in those settings sparks all kinds of ideas, a cross-fertilization of perspectives. A lot of it is coming from the place of unknowing, of saying, ‘What don’t I know?’ and letting the knowing well up.”
Collaborating in New Ways
One Exchange that just concluded, Safe & Brave: The Neuropsychology of Collaboration Series, took a deep dive in how to be an instrument of change. Exchange leader and GLEN member Mary Gelinas (co-director of the Cascadia Leadership Academy in Northern California, USA), speaks hopefully of “creating social fields that engender deeper connection and new ways of collaborating—perhaps in ways we have never imagined—as a response to solving the difficult challenges we face, such as polarization and hyper-reactivity.”
Mary describes an early impact of her GLEN involvement: “In a recent Exchange on Value Propositions, host Rob Eskridge and the Exchange group gave me just what I needed to plan and facilitate a planning retreat with The Global Covenant of Mayors for Climate and Energy. It was inspiring and rewarding to be able to apply insights gained from a conversation with a small group of practitioners, about a question at the edge of my practice, to a global initiative to make a real difference.”
Coming Attractions: Learning Journeys and More
GLEN Exchanges and Collaborations are generating a rich body of videos, graphics, insights and best practices. The GLEN is beginning to organize these into self-paced Learning Journeys that members will be able to access at their own pace. Over the next months this part of The GLEN will be expanding.
The content of David & Gisela’s forthcoming book, Visual Consulting: Designing & Leading Change evolved collaboratively through Exchanges with members; supplemental information from these Exchanges will be available to GLEN members. Alan Briskin and Amy Lenzo’s Activating Collective Wisdom Fieldbook is being posted. Also upcoming are excerpts from Rachel Smith’s forthcoming book, Beyond Virtual Meetings.
We invite you to join a truly generative GLEN learning community. This is an exciting and important time to collaborate, grow personally and professionally, share with others what we are learning, push the edges of the field of collaboration, and support needed change.