The name of this blog, Rainbow Juice, is intentional.
The rainbow signifies unity from diversity. It is holistic. The arch suggests the idea of looking at the over-arching concepts: the big picture. To create a rainbow requires air, fire (the sun) and water (raindrops) and us to see it from the earth.
Juice suggests an extract; hence rainbow juice is extracting the elements from the rainbow, translating them and making them accessible to us. Juice also refreshes us and here it symbolises our nutritional quest for understanding, compassion and enlightenment.

Tuesday 25 March 2014

Perilous Procrastination

Source: Cheerfulmonk, Creative Commons
Why procrastinate today when we can put it off until tomorrow?  Procrastination jokes and cartoons abound, yet in some things we procrastinate at our collective peril.  Why?

Two weeks ago the (US) National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) announced that the concentration of Carbon Dioxide (CO2) in the atmosphere surpassed 400 parts per million (ppm).

In 1997 in the Japanese city of Kyoto an international Protocol was signed by 169 of the World’s nations.  This Protocol required the World’s industrial nations to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 5.2% compared to 1990 by the year 2012.

Signing is a largely symbolic act.  The more significant act is to ratify an Agreement.  Significantly, two of the World’s leading emitters, the US and Australia, refused to sign the Protocol until the end of 2007.

Since 1997 global emissions have increased well beyond what our international leaders intended to happen.

The World Meteorological Organization reports that the level of radiative forcing1 in 2012 was 32% greater than in 1990, with CO2 emissions accounting for 80% of this increase.

In 1990 (the base year for the Kyoto Protocol) atmospheric CO2 was around 350 ppm.  By 2012 (Kyoto’s target year) it had surpassed 390 ppm and was climbing quickly towards 400 ppm.

Why?  What happened to the intentions of 1997?

Future Intentions versus Present Actions

Some research a few years ago strongly suggests that our values better predict our future intentions than they do our present behavioural actions.2  So, when it comes to how we act now, we often ignore our values and act according to much lower standards.

We do so at our peril.  Delaying action in some areas of our lives still gives us the option in the future to act according to our values and desires.  However, with greenhouse gas emissions and global warming we do not have that luxury.  What we do today has a significant effect on what happens in the future.  Atmospheric concentrations of CO2 are cumulative.  It is not a case of 400 ppm this year and then on 1 January next year we start over again.  The concentration on 1 January begins at whatever the concentration was on 31 December.

It’s like having a bathtub without a plughole.  If in the first minute of running the bath you have a litre of water in the bath then in the second minute the bath will have a total of 2 litres and so on.  You never drain any of the water.  Keeping on at that rate the bath will eventually overflow – at our peril.

So it is with greenhouse gas emissions.  We keep adding to the atmospheric concentration until the atmosphere cannot cope – at our peril.

1. Radiative forcing is the difference in radiant energy received by the Earth and that radiated into space.  A positive forcing warms the system (the Earth).
2. Eyal et al. When values matter, Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, January 2009, Vol 45(1), pp 35-43.

Wednesday 19 March 2014

Knots: An Icebreaker Game

Community workers need a bagful of games that can be delved into at various times in the life of a group. They can be used as icebreakers, to warm-up, to ease tensions or just for fun.  Here’s one that is an oldie, but a goodie.  It doesn’t even need any props.

This game works best with a group of around 12 – 20 members.

Have the group stand up in a circle.  As all group members to hold their arms out in front of them and then to close their eyes. 

Ask the group members to then move forward slowly, keeping their eyes closed.  When each of their hands meets another hand to take hold of the other person’s hand (not their own).  Keep their eyes close until you (the facilitator) asks them to open them.

Ask if every person has a hold of another person’s hand in each of their own hands.  If anyone says that they haven’t yet got another hand then help them to locate another person’s hand to hold.

Once every person has both of their hands holding onto the hands of other people, ask them to open their eyes, but to keep holding hands.

The group will find that they have formed a knot.  Now ask them to see if they can “untie” the knot, without letting go of anyone’s hand at any stage.

Ask for feedback.

Wednesday 12 March 2014

5 Things a Facilitator Needs to Remember

Facilitation has been a bit of a buzzword since the late 1960s and early 1970s.  First picked up within the learning/encounter groups of that era and then by social change movements (particularly within nonviolent action circles).  Community development workers quickly picked up the ideas and it even attained a place within corporate circles late last century (albeit often used in a manner inconsistent with the original concept).

Many of the values, principles and methods of facilitation have been with us for aeons, and held in traditional societies for centuries.  The basic idea of facilitation is inherent in the very word itself.  Facilitation derives from a French word, faciliter, meaning to render easy.  The idea of making easy is in contrast to the notion of chairing and Robert’s Rules of Order which suggest a rigidness and procedural ways of doing things.

In order to make things easy, to facilitate, what does a facilitator need to remember?  After almost forty years of learning about and applying the craft of facilitation I have narrowed it down to just five concepts.

1.  It’s Not About Me

The facilitator is there to make it easy for a group to form their agenda, discuss and converse about that agenda and to make consensual decisions.  The focus is not on the facilitator, it is on the maintenance of group processes and the task at hand.

Lao Tzu said it best, centuries ago (6th Century BCE) when he noted that when the best leaders have finished their work the people will say “we did it ourselves.”

2. Trust the Process

The process always arrives at a solution, even if its not what the facilitator thought it would be.  Often that may mean that the group gets stuck and cannot see it’s way forward.  It can be tempting for the facilitator to want to jump in and rescue or suggest a solution.  That can rob the group of some important learning and may also stifle the possibility of a totally new and creative solution emerging.

3.  The Knowledge and Wisdom is Present in the Group

When a group comes together the individuals that make it up bring a range of experiences, understandings, ideas and skills.  Facilitation enables that wisdom and knowledge to be tapped and used by the entire group.  A wise facilitator knows that all that is necessary for a creative decision or solution to emerge is already present in the group.

If there is anything further needed by the group, then the group has within it the knowledge to enable it to know where and how to get what it needs.

4. The Less I Say the Better

Related to the first idea, it is better for the facilitator to err on the side of “less is more” and to use silence as a powerful ally.  Good facilitation enables all members of the group to contribute and participate in the decision-making process.

A useful metaphor for a facilitator to remember is that the facilitator has two eyes, two ears and one mouth.  Hence, a facilitator should be watching and listening to twice as much as they are saying.  Silence opens up a space into which people can step.

5. Create the Space for Conversation

A cup, mug or bowl are nothing without their space.   It is the space inside the cup that holds the purpose for which the cup was designed.  So too with facilitation.  A facilitator creates the space within which the purpose of the group coming together takes place.  And that purpose?  Conversation.  In order for groups to make decisions or solve problems they must converse.  The more that a facilitator can encourage conversation and dialogue between participants the better.

Five concepts, all inter-related.  Any one of these concepts implies the other four and all five together suggest any one of them.  What do you think? 

Wednesday 5 March 2014

3 New Beliefs

Last weeks blogpost suggested that if we were to achieve a just and sustainable world then those of us in the rich, Western nations had to dispense with four beliefs: economic growth, techno-fixes, consumerism, and representative democracy.  What beliefs should we replace these with?  Just three.

1. Sufficiency

We have all we need, already.  We know, from countless studies and research, that once we reach a certain level of material comfort then our happiness levels tend to plateau.  We don’t get happier from having or gaining more.

We passed that level of material comfort decades ago.

Indeed, gaining more and more is likely to lead to acts of violence (war and terrorism) and/or degradation of the very biosphere within which we live and interact.

A belief in sufficiency would enable us to slow down, have more time for each other, put less stress on the environment, and, quite possibly, generate greater individual and social well-being.

2. Demosphia

This is a recently coined word (possibly not used before the 1970s) made up of two Greek words: demos meaning the common people, and sophia meaning wisdom.  Thus, it can be translated as the wisdom of the common people.

Today, our world is a complex and chaotic place.  Decision-making in such an environment requires inputs from throughout the system.  We require the inputs that diversity offers.

Experiments and examples of using the wisdom of common people are many within the world.  Google any of these terms and you will find many references: sortition, world cafe, wisdom council, people’s jury, demarchy.

A belief in demosphia can take democracy on its next and important step; a step that takes us from un-representativeness to something more inclusive and is more likely to result in wise public decisions being made.

3. We Can

Perhaps the most important belief that we need to encourage, tend and work with is a belief that we can: that we can change our beliefs, that we can change our institutions, that we can build a just and sustainable world.

In believing that we can comes an acceptance of our place in the world, an understanding that we are part of a bigger picture, that everyone and everything is connected.

We can recognise and acknowledge our individual skills, experience and intelligence, but more importantly, we can work with our collective wisdom.