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Rosa Zubizarreta

Facilitating Creative Collaboration
Great Barrington, Massachusetts, USA



What is an underlying question that gives form to your work or interest in this field?

Along the lines of Deming's work… what elegant and simple structures allow us to invite people to "come as they are," and support and evoke an experience of generative dialogue without trying to "fix" participants first …i.e., without attempting to "teach" them a whole set of new behaviors?

What is your personal experience of collective wisdom in groups?

My experience is that something very special happens whenever a space is created where everyone's fullness can be offered as a contribution to the larger whole. I have experienced being a participant in such groups, and, my calling involves facilitating this kind of process. I have also interviewed other facilitators to learn about their experiences along these lines. One of the things I have learned is that these kinds of experiences create a different sense of what is possible: instead of being resigned to the 'inevitability of compromise', those of us who have experienced this kind of work KNOW that creativity is always present. We know, from our own experience, that accessing the fullness of diversity in a creative manner allows a group to discover previously undreamed-of possibilities and synergies that leave everyone feeling fully alive, inspired, and committed to what has emerged, in the process of shared discovery.

What is it about the work in this field that excites you and connects you to your own deepest self?

Most religions teach us to honor the spark of God in everyone. Similarly, most social justice movements are based on respecting the inherent worth and potential of each human being. The essence of engaged spirituality, then, seems to fully honor each individual, and allow each individual to offer their gift to the larger whole. To do so, we need to learn how find unity by engaging creatively with diversity. The practical applications of this are enormous. So many of the practical 'solutions' to the problems we face are already in existence! What is missing is not the 'technical answers', but the 'social technologies' that allow us to re-discover the 'solutions' together, and to creatively adapt and apply them in our local communities.

I feel that the essence of sin, of control and domination, is "divide and conquer": to divide us from ourselves, from one another, and from our sense of connection to the larger whole. Therefore, what we need to become truly holy, or "whole", as a social organism, is an abundance of situations where we can reconnect with the truth of our larger interconnectedness, while working together collaboratively to address our shared problems in a creative manner.

Please provide a brief storyline or snapshot of what brought you to this work. Feel free to mention important work experience, transformational experiences, theoretical frameworks, mentors, or schools of thought, etc.

My mother introduced me to the work of Paulo Freire when I was quite young. I completed my first master's in Multicultural Education while working at an educational reform organization that fostered the use of dialogue in the classroom as a way to develop both academic understanding as well as emotional intelligence. Concurrently, I was exploring a number of approaches to diversity work. When my friend Tom Atlee invited me to one of Jim Rough's seminars on Dynamic Facilitation, I had the opportunity to witness the power of this approach to generate understanding in highly polarized situations. Subsequently, I returned to school for a second master's in Organization Development, and wrote my thesis on the need to expand current frameworks for understanding dialogue. My subsequent encounter with Jeff Conklin's Dialogue Mapping process has deepened my sense that a new school of dialogue emerging, one with significant potential for helping groups meet practical challenges. Through the "culture as residue of learning" process so well-mapped by Edgar Schein, groups naturally acquire the assumptions embedded in these approaches, and experience the shift from 'primary mentality' to 'secondary mentality' described by Herbert Shephard.

How would you like to be available to others in this field?

Yes, I am available to talk with others! Since the work that I do is experiential, it can be helpful to have the opportunity to experience it first-hand. However, I have attempted to describe it, in a manual that I wrote with Jim Rough, to serve as a guide for people who want to learn more about this approach. My goal is to help as many people as possible learn how to hold space for a non-linear, creative, and practical group process. I am inspired by peer-based human development movements such as Re-Evaluation Counseling and Focusing. I am convinced that, just as people can learn how to effectively take turns 'holding space' for one another's growth, so too we can learn to take turns 'holding space' for a group, so that participants are free to "come as they are" and experience the power of a transformational process.

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Deepening Democracy: Awakening the Spirit of Our Shared Life Together

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