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The Learning Circle: Humbly Traveling Alongside

by Terri Hall, with Susan Grove

The path we travel toward Just Transition is not well-worn. GWI is invested in playing our role to co-create this path with those whose efforts are making Just Transition possible. In humble recognition of the fact that we travel not ahead, but alongside the people, projects and organizations in our network, the Learning Circle dedicates time, space and resources internally to build the understanding and skill sets of GWI Workers so that we are in integrity and better equipped to facilitate, personally embody, and collectively model Just Transition.

~GWI’s Learning Circle

Being a mom has been the most demanding and one of the most transformative experiences of my life. Like many mothers, I really wanted to get this parenting thing “right”, and would find myself wandering in the parenting section of book stores, open to the possibility of discovering a book that would help me minimize the mistakes I made in my endeavour to raise happy and healthy kids who would be well-prepared for life. In my exploring, a couple of books ended up mattering to me, with one book becoming especially meaningful: The Conscious Parent by Dr. Shefali Tsabary.

In this book, Dr. Tsabary upends the hierarchical parenting model that presumes that a parent’s job is to lord over and teach children who they should be. Rather Tsabary posits that each child is “a spirit throbbing with its own signature”; that they are mirrors and, ultimately, a parent’s spiritual teachers. Parents can provide guidance, safety, care, and boundaries, but in order to have an authentic connection with our children, we need to be brave, authentic, and humble.

As GWI continues its work within the organizational framework of a Worker Self-Directed Nonprofit and the mission framework of the Just Transition, we are aware that we are not the authority on either of these models. To support ourselves in our ongoing journey as lifelong learners, we created the Learning Circle as part of our organization’s structure. The purpose of this Circle is to shepherd our own internal learning experiences so that we can grow our understandings, tool kit, and skills in order to be increasingly informed and capable Just Transition change agents, individually and collectively. 

The Learning Circle creates a curriculum for our team and schedules monthly offerings that we participate in together. From 3-hour long sessions focused on one of our 5 guiding Just Transition principles or Non-Violent Communication skills to 1-½ hour lunch discussions with regional social change dynamos, these trainings are not aimed at making us experts, but at helping us develop our capacities and supporting our integrity as we do our Good Work.   

Our initial Learning Circle is comprised of two members of our team. Every six months, we will have a Learning Circle worker rotate off of the circle, with a different worker rotating onto the Circle. Each person on the GWI team brings specific passions, experiences, understandings, strengths and weaknesses to the table, and this rotation provides a way that our full team can inform our evolution. 

In his book Let Your Life Speak: Listening for the Voice of Vocation, Parker Palmer says, “ We are here not only to transform the world, but also to be transformed.” The Hudson Valley is home to a tremendous community of passionate, insightful, and engaged love and peace warriors, fighting the good fight towards a Just Transition for the region. At GWI, we consider ourselves co-sojourners with those in our Network and broader community, experimenting and continuing our own awakening, as we participate in the arena, daring greatly.

We launched this series of posts in September 2019 to share our journey of moving from a traditional hierarchical nonprofit to a worker self-directed nonprofit. Over the weeks and months, we have posted regularly, detailing important milestones and sharing our experiences. We envision this series to be a companion to the formal policies we will share at the end of our transition. We are on a journey – as a team, as individuals, and as a part of this community. We are hoping that by opening up this transition it might help others take the first steps towards sharing power in their workplaces.

This series combines more formal articles from the team about the organizational transition to a worker self-directed nonprofit, describing the steps we have taken, and “Notes from the Field” journal entries sharing our personal experiences. We hope you find it useful and inspiring! Let us know what it sparks for you.

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