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ALF Membership: Membranes and Participation (in process)

With ALF Summer just a couple weeks away, I am getting pretty stoked about all that lies ahead. We are preparing to see another a major layer of growth to our network with the addition of three more ALCs and a significant increase of practicing facilitators. With the continued growth of the ALC network comes new challenges and organizational needs. How can we make it so that expansion and inclusion is easy, and coherence and reputation remains strong?

Last year at ALF Summer, we created a process for self-assessment and peer reviews so that each of us could have a personalized check-in around how well we understood and embodied the ALC concepts, as well as how effectively we used and evolved our cultural tools and practices. This process was extremely useful in marking the value of the summer program and all that was learned and birthed there. It also supported individual facilitators in deeper self-reflection and healthy feedback from their peers.

This peer review process represented a helpful evaluation for anyone who came to ALF Summer to learn about ALC tools and practices — brand new or well-experienced, just trying it out or fully committed — the process did not, however, attempt to distinguish between those things. As we continue to expand our network and the number of people attempting the work of an ALF increases, we are seeing the need to establish a process that could produce these distinctions and make them visible.

During a few of our ALF weekend work sessions this year we began to broach this subject and explore these questions. We started discussing the need and purpose behind creating a process for ALF Membership. @drew proposed an idea to jumpstart the conversation this spring and we all mulled through it, trying to understand how it would play out. Through that process we got clear that A) we wanted the person seeking membership to be the only person who could initiate the membership process and B) the process should be one that can very quickly accept a person who everyone knows “has what it takes” (we don’t want a long litigious process that feels like a uninspiring formality) and can also keep out a person who is not ready to take on the responsibility that comes with the distinction of membership.

Throughout these conversations, @nancy has wisely held the understanding that the membership process may not be important to some people working in ALCs who are already doing powerful facilitation work. Thus, we need to recognize that A) membership does not create a hierarchy among facilitators within any individual ALC community and B) membership speaks to the community of facilitators across the ALC network and their commitment to our collective and interconnected work.

@bear and I were inspired to dive into this project together this spring, as ALF Summer/ALC network development is a huge passion and interest of ours. We hit a roadblock when we realized that whatever process we invented would be useless unless the next layer of ALC collaborators saw it as useful and important to begin implementing. We decided to get to a stopping point and share what we had come up with, while knowing it would need to be a discussion we all entered into during the latter half of ALF Summer.

The framework for our proposal is built around each individual seeking membership putting forth a written piece (other mediums could potentially be considered) that would be known as their Personal Intent for ALF Membership. The Personal Intent currently consists of six questions/sections that would be covered by the person seeking membership.

  • Why is ALF Membership important to you?
  • What skills and experience do you bring to this work?
  • Explain and articulate your understanding of the work of the ALF community, and how the ALF community works.
  • How do you see yourself fitting into and contributing to that.
  • Write a short reflection on how you embody each of the Agile Roots.
  • Write a declarative statement that describes your commitment to this work and the ALF community, as well as any specific results that you are personally committed to.

After completing the Personal Intent, they would select two members of the ALF community to be in their Membership Circle (MC) and the rest of the ALF community would collectively select two more members to join the MC. The person seeking membership would call their MC together to review their Personal Intent. From there, the MC would openly discuss it — make acknowledgements and discuss any tension points or gaps that may exist in the person’s readiness for membership.

The MC may discern that membership should be granted immediately and do so. Or, they may identify reasons for not granting membership. In this case, it should be determined in a path towards membership is clear and possible or not, and if so what actions/work/results would be needed to make that possible. Next steps in the process should be determined before concluding the circle.

If we decide to implement this general framework for ALF Membership, we will have to do so from scratch, with no formalized members from the beginning. To begin the process will require that we trust the foundation of relationships and the natural authority that has already been established over the last two years.

To put forth a starting point for the conversation this summer, I’ve decided to share the first part of my Personal Intent for ALF Membership. My response to the other five sections will come later (assuming we move forward with this process). We may choose to keep Person Intents private so that each new one is more likely to come from an individual’s authentic thoughts and feelings, rather than a recreation of Personal Intents that come before them.

 


 

The answers and explorations of the following questions will serve as my Personal Intent to begin and gain the designation of Agile Learning Facilitator (ALF) Membership.

ALF Membership is intended to create a coherent and recognizable designation for those who hold the mission and vision of Agile Learning Centers, as well as those who directly and indirectly work to start, support, and sustain these learning communities.

ALF Membership is not intended to dissuade participation from non-members, but instead, provide a clear and explicit distinction for those who are a part of the ALC network (parents, staff, students, supporters, resource people, etc.) and those interacting and interfacing with it in the world.

Primarily, the membership designation speaks to one’s commitment to advancing these ideas in the world, and to the collaboration and support they have within the ALF community in our collective effort to improve our craft, evolve our model, and expand our network.

Why is ALF Membership important to you?

In the year 2015 we are on a precipice of sorts. Collectively, we are trying to shed the bondage of the Industrial Age, but are not sure how to do it and what it looks like on the other side. To move into the next level of our spiraled evolution seems to require a remembrance of our past and an embracing of the future — a leap of faith into the unknown, rooted in trust and love.

The work we do in creating, sustaining, and evolving Agile Learning Centers is both simple and natural, as well as innovative and radical. We are pioneers and propagators of ideas that will soon explode into the forefront of human consciousness. As openness and readiness towards these ideas expand, we must take responsibility for our role as leaders in this movement and architects of these new systems.

ALF Membership is important to me for the following reasons. The first three outline a general context for the purpose and need for a membership process. The fourth reason is my personal answer to the question above.

 

  1. This work is not easy, not thoughtless. This work is not done with part of a person, but with and through a whole person. This work requires a certain level of maturity, self-awareness and self-confidence, a deep understanding of its root ideas and assumptions, and a commitment to personal development as the medium for which one engages with each other and creates change in the world. ALF Membership is a clear marking of who carries with them these essential capacities, as well as a commitment to continually expand them.

  2. As we seek to build communities that celebrate children and support them in leading, we are committing ourselves to the medium of trust. To build ALCs that are rooted in trust, we must be simultaneously creating a larger container that can hold and feed us in the same way. An effective ALF Membership process will allow us to create an underlying social fabric that transcends politics and process through deeply connected relationships that swim in the peaceful waters of love and trust. ALF Membership creates a relationship currency that allows us to hold each other in love and act swiftly and assuredly together.

  3. As we expand our learning communities and our network of facilitators, it is essential that we have a membrane that can keep toxic elements from entering our social organism. We need a process that engages us in deeply considering the abilities, motivations, capacities, and understanding of each individual who will represent our collective efforts. By energetically emphasizing reason #2 (creating a medium of trust) this becomes a positive side-effect of our membership process. ALF Membership creates a relationship currency that allows us to hold each other in love and act swiftly and assuredly together.

  4. I am but one man who has just a sliver of the skills and abilities needed to advance the mission and vision of Agile Learning Centers. I cannot be effective in isolation and my independence is only as strong as my ability to create powerfully with and for others. I cannot create the possibility of a better world for children unless I am actively creating it for myself, right now. To do this, I must be in community with others who share the same values, convictions, motivations, and dreams. ALF Membership is an act of calling forth an intentional community of individuals who have declared a new world is possible, creating a coherent container in which we can act with power and joy.   

 

3 comments

  1. NancyT says:

    I am reflecting further on some of your statements and want to ask a few more questions for us all to consider over ALF Summer:

    “the membership process may not be important to some people working in ALCs who are already doing powerful facilitation work. Thus, we need to recognize that A) membership does not create a hierarchy among facilitators within any individual ALC community and B) membership speaks to the community of facilitators across the ALC network and their commitment to our collective and interconnected work.”

    Question: How can the membership designation allow room for the unique different roles that a person can do as a part of the ALF community? Just because someone is given the designation “ALF” does that mean they are ready to work with children? Or can you ALF behind the scenes or part-time? Can the MC with the person with intent also make declarative statement (with repeated check-ins to change these statements over time) about what this person feels is a “right fit” for themselves in the ALF Community at this time. For example, someone might say they are an ALF who wants to offer a specific passion or skill to children, but not full time facilitate? Or that they feel that working with children directly isn’t their best placement based on their strengths – that they are passionate about spreading this work through documentation, blogging, building on-line resources?

    I’d like us to embrace and support many different people with many different strengths to build a dynamic community. And I want us to be honest with each other, and not just place “ALFs” haphazardly in schools with children because they have this designation, to be thoughtful about right placement.

    That goes to the next point that you said Bear brought up: “…whatever process we invented would be useless unless the next layer of ALC collaborators saw it as useful and important to begin implementing.”

    I believe that the next layer of ALC collaborators also includes parents. What does this mean when they come across an ALF? What assumptions will they make when they meet someone who says they are an ALF? What assumptions will the kids made when they meet an ALF?

    I am just pondering thoughts about how different we all are and wanting the membership to have meaning.

  2. Charlotte says:

    @nancy, I hear you in the question”how can the membership designation allow room for the unique different roles that a person can do as a part of the ALF community? Just because someone is given the designation “ALF” does that mean they are ready to work with children? Or can you ALF behind the scenes or part-time? Can the MC with the person with intent also make declarative statement (with repeated check-ins to change these statements over time) about what this person feels is a “right fit” for themselves in the ALF Community at this time.

    I have been trying to tease out my response for over an hour! My basic thoughts are

    1. I see power in individuals stating their roles and naming responsibilities through a PI. I understand the value of naming my strenghts and commitments to myself and a larger community. This has been extremely challenging for me at times when I have been unclear on what those are which leads me to…..
    2. @bear‘s point “whatever process we invented would be useless unless the next layer of ALC collaborators saw it as useful and important to begin implementing.”

    …I see power in both the community and individual ALF being clear about what roles and responsibilities are needed and how those roles are going to be valued, honored and fulfilled. I see power in the fact that each ALC is/will develop unique processes and in doing so create a rich diversity of systems within the ALC network.

    3. I see power in .

  3. Tomis says:

    Thanks for reading and commenting — yours seemed to have been cutoff, @charlotte

    I am seeing the ALF Membership designation as a more general/broad label that marks the following things:

    a) a capacity (current ability) to do the work of an ALF

    b) a deep understanding of the mission and vision of the ALC project and it’s root assumptions/values

    c) an awareness and acknowledgement of one’s personal strengths and value add to the ALF community

    d) a commitment to supporting/contributing directly to the ALC project through the ALF community

    A and C are interesting in regard to what you’re both raising in your comments. I think any ALF member should be one that can easily be trusted to get plopped into a facilitation situation and be able to navigate it well. It doesn’t mean that every ALF member’s sweet spot will be full-time facilitation with kids (count me out!) but that each member at least has the capacity to do that work and to be trusted direct relationship to kids.

    Part of the process (one of the questions in the PI) is about articulating your personal value add and teasing out the role(s) you would best fulfill in this work. I don’t see FT employment at an ALC as a pre-requisite for ALF membership, nor do I expect all FT ALC employees to be ALF members. Again, I think the distinctions here are people who want to be active members of a supportive and collaborative community that is specifically and intentionally focused on advancing the mission and vision of ALC. How each member does that should be unique, with common themes/ties obviously, but I see a lot of variation.

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