“What is possible when we craft organizations as a space for life?” This was the theme of last week’s four-day Thrivability Camp. Within that theme, we wanted to find out: “What happens when we mix together Living Systems Thinking, Applied Improv, the Art of Hosting, Non-Violent Communication and Indigenous Wisdom” - key ingredients of thrivability, and a pretty juicy recipe by any standard.
We were fifteen people spanning three generations and multiple cultures. In our work in the world, we were leaders of large and small organizations, consultants, sustainability activists, researchers, and a documentary filmmaker. All but one of us call Montreal home. We playfully imagined ourselves as a Mission Impossible team, each bringing super-cool talents, (each super sexy, of course), with an impossibly short time to reach an audacious goal that would save the world.
I co-hosted the Camp with Belina Raffy, the Empress of Applied Improv. The two of us designed and facilitated the event. And at the same time, the experience was completely co-created. Leading up to the event, there were dinners and calls to invite input into the design and to weave the group together. During the event itself, much of the content was provided by participants, as each person shared their super-cool talents. Belina and I adjusted the agenda along the way according to what was unfolding and often according to requests from the group. We all played together at every opportunity - always in ways that were directly connected to our purpose at that moment. As a group, we constantly checked in on what we were learning and whether it was aligned with our goals. We spent time together in nature each day. And in everything, we allowed ourselves to be deeply authentic and open with each other.
The effect was what Belina calls “aligning the how with the what.” We explored thrivability not only by talking about it but also by experiencing it.
So, what happens when you mix all those disciplines together? When you craft a collective work experience as a “space for life”? What happens is that people feel vibrantly alive. They feel connected, compassionate, curious, intelligent, capable and joyful. They lean into meaningful community. And that community generates a steady stream of insights that none of them could come to alone.
I’ll share some of those insights in future Postcards – we came up with important stuff that the world needs to know about. But the most important “take-aways” can’t easily be named or organized into bullet points. There were an infinite number of subtle shifts in the texture and depth of our relationships with each other and in how we perceive ourselves and the world. The larger point of our time together, it seems, was not so much to deconstruct thrivability so that we could identify “the seven simple secrets to thrivable leadership.” It was to construct it, to immerse ourselves in it and to know the full sensation of it not only with our minds, but also with our bodies and our hearts.
The most significant thing I’m taking away from those four days, then, is a visceral understanding of what thrivability looks and feels like, and a gentle craving for more. This seems incredibly important. I've been teaching the bullet point version of thrivability for years, but if people can't fully imagine the destination, then there isn't tremendous motivation to embark on the journey.
I'm also taking away excitement about the possibilities that the Camp opens up. What if many more people experienced this kind of immersion into thrivability, along with the requisite number of "simple secrets" that come with it? It might feed what fellow Montrealer Seb Paquet envisions as an “epidemic of aliveness.”
“What I would really love,” he says in a recent blog post, “would be for us to work together to ignite something beautiful that not only lives and grows, but also magnifies aliveness in the world. The living economy I want to partake in is one in which you, and I, and others are continually doing just that. I envision an epidemic of aliveness. Now how cool would that be?”