Conversation 2015

Wise Action in Community

March 26 - 28

Wise Action in Community was the frame for this Conversation. The following people (pictured below) comprised the 2015 cohort. Individually and collectively we were came together in search of new ways to open ourselves in service of a more fair, equitable, inclusive future for more people. A summary of our discussion will be posted here in the near future. Please check back.


Marv Baldwin, President and CEO
Foods Resource Bank

Jay Barber, Senior Fellow
M.J. Murdock Trust

Gwyn Barley, Dir. of Community Partnerships & Grants
The Colorado Trust

Patrick Bower, VP, Development
St. Luke's University Health Network

Matt Burton, CEO
Helping Men Heal

Rick Herman, President
Wheat Ridge Ministries

Ken Hubbell, Principal
Ken Hubbell & Associates

Natalia Lynn, Novelist

Kevin Matheny, EVP & Chief Development Officer
Concordia University

Craig McGarry, President
Baltray, LLC

Karen McLeod, CEO/President

Pat Modrzejewski, President and CDO
Providence Health & Services Foundations

Savannah Paz, Student/Board Member
Trillium Family Services

Shari Scales, Director of Development
Providence Cancer Center

Kim Scott, President and CEO
Trillium Family Services

John Swanholm, VP of Community Advancement and Executive Director
HealthEast Foundation

Gary Hubbell, President
Gary Hubbell Consulting



Conv 2015 group

First row (seated) left to right: Pat Modrzejewski; Gwyn Barley, Ken Hubbell, Jay Barber, Craig McGarry
Second row (seated) left to right: Kim Scott, Savannah Paz, John Swanholm
Third row (standing) left to right: Karen McLeod, Kevin Matheny, Patrick Bower, Shari Scales, Matt Burton, Natalia Lynn, Marv Baldwin, Rick Herman, Gary Hubbell

Together we are creating and nurturing something special-a time when busy individual leaders/professionals in the social sector voluntarily step off the treadmill to weave ourselves into a reflective community of practitioners, intent on sharing wisdom and finding new meaning for our important work and our collective contributions. In this spirit, we convened and gathered for Conversation 2015-our 7th iteration of the original idea; each building on the base of our last collective considerations. As always, we used the collective wisdom of this group to clarify, elevate, challenge, and amplify what we as individuals know about generosity and concerted action so that we might leverage this shared experience in our individual and collective work.

Our time together was rich and vibrant, the pace of our days different from most other days in our routines. We searched for instructive moments of silence and for what Peter Senge refers to as moments of "profound disorientation" as we learned to see with new eyes that which is our work and our world. In many ways, Conversation 2015 was about exploring a simpler way, a clearer path to right being and wise action, unfettered from the drama and distraction of our days.

"The more present and aware we are as individuals and as organizations, the more choices we create. As awareness increases, we can engage with more possibilities. We are no longer held prisoner by habits, unexamined thoughts, or information we refuse to look at….We collect information from measures that tell us how we are doing-whether we're up to standard, whether we're meeting our goals. But these measures lock us into learning only about a predetermined world….As we explore our organizations' opportunities, life is calling us to experiment and change. We might discover some bold, as-yet-undreamed-of solution, some unique quirk of design or expression. When we do, we can feel pleased. But not for long. The world moves on. The world does not stay attached to a particular way of being or to a particular invention. It seeks diversity. It wants to move on to more inventing, to more possibilities. The world's desire for diversity compels us to change."

[Wheatley, M. J. and Kellner-Rogers, M. (1999). A Simpler Way. Berrett-Koehler Publishers, Inc.: San Francisco, pp. 26-27]

Conversation 2015 was a space for holding open questions that matter, many of which we spend insufficient time thinking deeply about. The five questions that framed our three-day exploration are these:

  1. Pursuing "organizational excellence" may-unintentionally-pull organizations away from meaningful and sustained concerted action in community? If so, what needs to happen?
  2. What are the prevailing assumptions about the way the world works? As we watch the social sector address big, tough social challenges, what seems to be the sector's predominant "theory in use" about concerted action?
  3. What are the vital characteristics of effective collaboration and how can they become the norm rather than the exception? Why is concerted action a much more difficult path for organizations?
  4. If generosity is a catalyst for social change, will/how will it become truly grass roots in nature?
  5. In pursuit of wise action in community, how must leaders empower, learn, adjust, and improvise to create something meaningful and lasting for all people? Can/How can this lead to systemic change?

I am in service to the opening, in service to the dialogue, which the edited transcript/summary continues to hold open. We acknowledge that "wicked problems" persist. Why are we not able to move the needle to the extent that we aspire to and espouse? Perhaps it is because we're still largely working alone and we're not working in a concerted way, free from our organizational and individual leadership ego to truly act in a concerted way. Perhaps it has something to do with a reluctance to act from the heart, from love, and from the power of diverse perspectives.

The synopsis of this gathering is different from past summaries of Conversations; it's different from what I had initially intended. Conversation 2015was a rich and powerful exchange, made possible by the vulnerability and trust offered by participants. Our conversation-like most-was organic. Despite starting with a frame for each day, the conversation went in the direction we, together, felt it should go. To honor that I decided to simply transcribe the conversation. I developed sub-headings to help you navigate more quickly to topics of interest and/or to be reminded of what was said on those points.

Monograph Table of Contents


Day 1:
Organizational Excellence - Organizational Relevance
Organizational Excellence - a Distraction, a Symptom of Hyper-Control
Looking for the Simplest Solution
Root Causes Are Systemic/Confused About Ultimate Outcome
Prevailing Assumptions about What an Organization Is and Where the Focus Is
A Barrier to Concerted Action
Courageous Leadership for a New Type of Dialogue
Courageous Leadership Means Whole Community Conversation

Day 2:
Organizing (Community) for Real Conversations
Taking Wise Risk by Investing In/Hiring People of the Communities You Wish to Thrive
How Many Communities Are There?
Unpacking Racism
Risk, Fear of Loss, and Connection
Generosity and Social Media
Navigating a Narrative of Fear, Loss, and Difference
Where Are We Pointing our Organizations?
Standing in the Unbelievable Gap
How to "Be" in Concerted, Wise Action
Moving Deeper Into an Inquiry of the Process of Wiser Collective Action in Community

Day 3:
Standing at the Edge, Inside the Stretch
The Relationship of Generosity to Wise Concerted Action
Generosity and Reciprocity
Relationships and Motivation
Community as Beneficiary and Partner
Generosity of Self
Generous Relationships

Once again, I'm deeply grateful to the participants of Conversation 2015 and offer the summary transcript with my appreciation for you, for your generosity and leadership, and for your commitment to acting wisely, in concert with others, to improve the lives and opportunities for people in your community.

Gary Hubbell
August 2015

Conversation 2015 Monograph in PDF format, 87 pages, 3.2MB file. Free Download

Conversation 2015 Essays

The Pursuit of "Organizational Excellence" and Sustained Concerted Action in Community
The Prevailing Assumptions About the Way the World Works and the Sector's Predominant "Theory in Use" About Concerted Action
Vital Characteristics of Effective Collaboration and Why Concerted Action is a Much More Difficult Path For Organizations
Grassroots Generosity as a Catalyst for Social Change
Leadership Empowerment, Learning, Adjusting, and Improvising to Create Systemic Change