Updated: Apr 30, 2021
Over the course of the April-May 2021 edition of the Now What?! gathering and gift economy, a number of people and groups will participate in one or more of the Six Conversations based on the method developed by Peter Block. These will happen in a variety of ways, including pre-scheduled and self-organized Zoom calls, the online platform Sutra, and even via in-person groups.
The heart of the conversation process happens in groups of three to five people. Each session is designed to offer value on its own. A collective harvesting process creates a wider field of learning and connection across all the various conversation groups. The Six Conversations are designed to work together, and completing the full cycle as a group is a way to unlock the transformational potential of community.
If you choose to engage in one or more of these conversations as an individual or as part of a group you belong to, you will experience of a culture of restoration and a sense that it is possible in community to bring forth a different and more desirable future. If the patterns in all six of these conversations become a part of the culture of a community you belong to, it will create the conditions for each of the individual possibilities that inspire its members to come alive and grow, nurtured by gifts and freely made commitments, held in a collective space where all who are present feel a sense of ownership and the freedom to offer dissent.
The Context and Method
At this moment in history, profound changes are happening all around us. In the midst of so much breakdown, communities are emerging everywhere to make this transformation more just, equitable, and regenerative, providing spaces where healing and thriving are possible. Many of these communities are place-based, while many others are gathered around possibilities that transcend a single location. As more and more such communities emerge, they are learning how to support one another, extending the patterns of a Just Transition across the planet. The Six Conversations are a powerful tool for growing such communities.
In 2008, consultant and organizer Peter Block wrote Community: The Structure of Belonging to lay out six conversations that give communities to capacity to bring forth "a future distinct from the past" by cultivating "a culture of restoration." The conversations use fertile patterns of language that evoke possibility, gifts, shared ownership, authentic dissent, chosen accountability, and invitation as a way of being. These replace the all-too-familiar language patterns of patriarchy, control, bargaining and negotiating, blame, lip service, and a focus on deficiencies and on what's broken.
Here's one way that Block describes the purpose of the Six Conversations:
The transformation we seek occurs when these two conditions are created: when we produce deeper relatedness across boundaries, and when we create new conversations that focus on the gifts and capacities of others.
This allows us to focus on our connectedness rather than on our differences. We no longer need to take our identity from being right about “them” or from continuing to see “them” as individuals with needs or as people somehow less than us. It puts an end to our need to declare victory. The differences, instead of being problems to solve, become a source of vitality, a gift. In the language of community transformation, this is what it means to be accountable. At these moments, we become owners, with the free will capable of creating the world we want to inhabit. We become citizens.
Community: The Structure of Belonging, pp. 57-8
How to Participate
The Six Conversations are offered as an "engagement steam" throughout the April-May 2021 edition of Now What?! in service to individuals, groups, organizations, networks, and communities. There are many ways to participate virtually or with an in-person group you gather:
One-hour Zoom calls every Tuesday at14:00 and 22:00 UTC
Find your local times and RSVP on the Now What?! calendar
Options for groups to self-organize for other days/times
Use this form to indicate your interest is self-organized groups. Here are the ways self-organized groups can gather and be guided through the conversation process:
Request live facilitation via Zoom -- a team of experienced Six Conversations hosts will consider requests for one or more sessions at dates and times of your choosing
Works for virtual or in-person groups
Email Ben Roberts with questions or if you wish to join the live facilitation team
Use the VoiceVoice platform to gather for a live video session at any time of your group's choosing, using -recorded facilitation prompts to guide you through the conversation process.
Works for virtual or in-person groups
VoiceVoice link coming soon
Use the Sutra platform to gather in small groups for a text-based ("asynchronous") version of these conversations, using recorded facilitation prompts that take you through the process. Click here to join the main circle for the Six Conversations, where people will gather each week before moving into smaller groups.
A shared harvest will be gathered across all the various instances of the conversations, so that we have a chance to learn from and be inspired by the things that emerge from each of them.
What Is Asked of You
In this method, something is always requested of those who say "yes" to the invitation and choose to show up. Rather than trying to sell people on the value of participating, we ask them to make a commitment. This means that the people who are in the room with us are there because they care about the outcome and are willing to share the responsibility for achieving it.
For these conversations during Now What?! we ask the following:
Show up with an open heart, mind, and will. While it is always fine to pass, expect to be asked questions that are personal, ambiguous, and evoke anxiety.
Show up on time and stay for the full conversation in any given session. If you must leave early, let the group know so that your departure can be acknowledged.
Agree not to offer advice to others or to try to be "helpful." Give people the space to work things out for themselves. You can read more about why this is important here.
Follow these Communication Agreements for multicultural interactions (h/t the San Francisco Zen Center)
The Order of the Conversations
We will focus on one conversation during each of the six weeks of Now What?!
Week 1 (April 19-25): Gifts
Week 2 (April 26- May 2): Possibility
Week 3 (May 3-9): Ownership
Week 4 (May 10-16): Dissent
Week 5 (May 17-23): Commitment
Week 6 (May 24-27): Invitation
Our goal will be to make space for a deep dive into each conversation, allowing time for the questions to work on us. You can also use the self-organizing options to have the conversations in a different pattern if desired.
Please email Ben Roberts if you have any questions or feedback. You can also connect with the Six Conversations Hosting Circle on the Now What?! Slack workspace via the #circles_six_conversations channel.