Collective Transitions with Luea Ritter & Nancy Zam

Lucky me, I get to  speak with Luea and Zam of Collective Transitions. They are joining the AR+ Gathering eCO Retreat in March 2021. I am especially interested in their work with Systemic Constellations and passion for what’s indigenous in each of us. Our conversation exemplifies the “not knowing” we each bring to the Gathering about what we might accomplish together. 

Hilary:
Shall we start with sharing intentions? I want to learn more of what Collective Transitions is up to in the world. 

Luea:
An intention of ours is to support a process that builds collective capacities to better navigate the unknown, to create the spaces where we can practice together and to fine tune our instruments as either practitioners or people who are leading organizations or communities or who are just passionate about strengthening these subtle and often implicit wayfinding muscles.

Hilary
Thank you! Me too. Would you share more about your ambitions with Collective Transitions and how you work.

Luea:

Collective Transitions is rooted in what we call “The Four Spheres.” Those are 1. Right relationship with land and place; 2. Collective trauma and healing history which includes getting wise to our culture inheritance; 3. Complexity: Developing collective capacities to better navigate the unknown and the “space in between.” 4. Co-creation and (coevolution) across differences and with life itself.

Hilary:

It feels to me that you go right to the heart of the matter of our becoming better agents and subjects of transformation, which we call ARTists. 

Luea:

The fourth sphere involves creating spaces for learning across different experiences, communities, sectors and cultural contexts, as well as a creating space for shared and embodied practices informed by our learnings. This builds on the three spheres.

We see co-creation as something that extends beyond collaboration and working with people to create or produce something, a practice we believe can lead to more coherence within organizations and across larger systems.

Hilary.

Lovely. I’m most curious now about how do you do this work?

Nancy:
I’ve noticed many of us may actually already know and tap into these subtle ways of knowing. In order to connect and co-create with different aspects of a system, we use systemic constellation as a core practice and system sensing approach. The practice of Systemic Constellations allows us to visualize the patterns of interaction and interdependent relationships of a system. In creating a constellation with a specific question, we learn to more fully use our bodies as instruments of perception. In this way, the practice offers a bridge between our capacity to sense and feel, our storytelling mind and the different perspectives of reality with which we can connect.

Similar concepts can be applied to societal transformation: Acknowledging and naming what we already know, especially as it relates to a specific experience can provide a sense of value and validation, i.e., “yes, we are doing that and it is working.” or “We know how to function as an organism and were able to move through these critical moments together.”


Hilary:
I’m sensing connection to the constellations work of Bert Hellinger that I have participated in. It totally intrigues me and I know that like most transformative methodologies it both loved and feared. So you’re bringing that to non family systems which raises a couple of points. Such as how we find the places to actually support one other in our wayfinding? Great metaphor by the way. I’m just wondering if you have thoughts about that?

Nancy:
A possibly related thought is how different methodologies can be used to create synergies in an ecosystem, as the individual “flavors” become better recognized or differentiated. For example, you can call someone an “editor.” Right now, I work with about five different editors and each for very different things. While they all fall under the title “editor,” each editor has really specific yet complementary skills thus gets work that is most suited for them.

Hilary

As I am, literally, an editor for Action Research Journal I get exactly what you mean. It’s part of the AR+ ecosystem. At ARJ we are about 20 associate editors each imagining and shaping the field of Action Research Transformations through our peer reviewed journal. We want Action Research to grow in influence in how we conduct social science. I want to see a more diverse and resilient ecosystem around us with more people doing more of what they are good at doing with action researching. I do feel there is an opportunity for people working in similar fields to connect through AR+ and then connect back across to more mainstream disciplines and educational institutions and think tanks. I think our times call for action researching together.

Luea:
Absolutely. And honestly I have struggled with exactly that point of overlap because I often feel I belong to different communities. For example, if facing similar issues, even if in different contexts, why wouldn’t someone work together across sectors? But we run into walls. I stopped working in the art sector as a curator because I could not find a way to bring different people together that faced the same core or root issues. I was inviting them to enter into a more in-depth process together. That’s when a light bulb went off! How can we strengthen the diverse capacities in individuals and teams to go beyond these silos or different fragmentations and work in a cross-sector approach?

Hilary
O yea! That’s the million dollar question. For me that’s where co-creation starts. When we build on each other’s contribution. I see that as being different from collaboration, a term that is quite hip these days. It feels important to distinguish that. Co-creation in my eyes is a next level of collaboration, when trust and acknowledgement of each other shifts to relating to each other and welcoming each other’s competences and unique gifts – welcoming the diversity and seeing what can emerge.

Nancy
This stretch between collaborating within one sector while also working across sectors is, if I’m honest, where I was struggling. I did not know how to weave my learnings and insights across and support the bridge building.

Hilary:
It’s hard. I’ve been thinking it requires a worldview of generosity and enoughness and connection. And that’s a lot! When we often feel O I’m so isolated with my concerns. We may fall into feeling  alone as change agents. I can really see using the term collective transitions is good because in some ways that names beautifully what we’re up to. That we are in a transition process and it has to be collective if we are to have a more life enhancing society. But we’ll have to transition from our identity as individual producers. That goes against our habits. It requires reflexivity, right.

Nancy
And like in the airplane when there’s no oxygen, you have to put your own oxygen mask on first. You have to feel strong to go into relationship with other people and be a contribution rather than a burden.

Hilary
At the risk of being accused of being a supremacist-feminist, which I truly am not, I do think women move more easily into co-creation. Of course it’s not men vs. women. I should be more careful and say it’s about how we integrate masculine and feminine and our efforts are hampered by overly masculine approaches to collaboration. I see those failing because there is little commitment to co-creativity, accomplishing more together.

I’m curious, Luea, what has been your personal journey to this current learning edge?

Luea:
While it’s not always easy to claim, as I am Swiss European, I do have an indigenous background. Hence the photo of the Bergenli. My grandparents and my parents still practiced without talking about it or without having a language for it, a very earth-based and earth-informed practice way of working the land and with the animals. If a cow got ill, for example, they looked for the deeper root or place of interference that created the condition for illness. Typical antibiotics were not used as they are today. There were sets of practices, including herbal medicine and reestablishing underlying conditions that create health. As I grew up, I later realized that it is not common to live very close to land and even the subtle. Representatives of the 3rd and 5th generations of cephalosporin antibiotics are considered to have a wide range of effects. The destructive bactericidal effect is observed against gram-negative (Enterobacteria, Hemophilus coli, gono – and meningococcus, Klebsiella, protea), anaerobic (peptococci, peptostreptococci, bacteroids, Clostridium) and gram-positive microbes.

Hilary
I am so interested to hear this. I sympathize with the way in which as white Europeans (I grew up in Irieland) we cannot easily claim our own indigenous worlds. There’s a lovely book my colleagues in Australia suggested – Sand Talk by Tyson Yunkaporta, who writes: “the assistance people need is not in learning about Aboriginal knowledge but in remembering their own.” That may ring true for you too?

Luea:

As a young child, I talked to trees. I never forgot it, and actually I have never stopped doing it. That inter-connection between humans and nature has never been disconnected in my system.

My father is an Alpine mountain guide. As a guide, you know that on one hand, you’re very tiny compared to the power of nature. You are moving through a specific territory always as a group, and while the terrain may be known, it’s never completely known, as the wild is constantly shifting circumstances due to weather and conditions, for example, how the ice is melting or not and so on and so on. So my way of seeing and experiencing the world, is that everything is interrelated, interconnected and in constant dialogue with each other. It’s very basic and normal. That’s the ground I’m standing on.


Hilary:
Luea what you shared really touches me. This is ultimately a shift in world view. Nancy would you like to speak to how this work with collective transitions keeps you on your developmental learning edge?


Nancy:
Luea gave me a language for somatic experiences I had been experiencing for the past 10 years while working in the social innovation sector but didn’t have a reference or group to talk about these experiences.

I worked on a global marketplace for farmers and also with other conservation projects. During this time, I often would experience painful sensations in my body that would come and go. I went to all kinds of doctors and therapists at that time, where I found little relief. I was not sure how to talk about what I was experiencing and found few reference groups that could relate. That was strange as these experiences were so center stage in my life at the time.

Hilary

The work with Luea suggested to you a different way to understand your experience?

Nancy
I noticed that the pain and feelings would dissipate if I was able to interpret what the feeling was trying to “say.” In this way, I started to interpret the sensations as metaphors that related to dynamics in my life. I learned that the sensations might be related to energetics and often in relationship to someone or something else.

Hilary

Engaging a more intuitive way of knowing. Around AR+ we’re grappling with this and our great need to move beyond overtly rationalistic approaches and to complement them with creative, artful, approaches.

Nancy

I have an analytical brain, I’ve worked in very practical fields and I’m a product of two scientists. Yet life gave me these weird energetic experiences. Luea helped me put these experiences and patterns into precise words in the form of practices, such as systemic constellations and frameworks that could name the implicit dynamics. I’m finding this work to be very healing for me because the simple act of actually being present, naming and acknowledging what’s happening, allows energy to dissipate. So there’s a literal physical life benefit that I receive through this work. I also now know more people with shared experiences who could benefit from spaces to process, learn and practice together.


Hilary:
So many connections. I am glad you are coming to our Gathering. We may sense some deeper overlap in intention and what we might accomplish together.

Luea

We’re in an era of a shift. Moving forward and creating healthier futures together may also require processes for honoring the past, including working with collective trauma and collective grief.

Hilary
I’m really wanting to help gather and help mobilize those of us who have the privilege to have conversations about what is happening. We bring different things to the party. AR+ has its special sauce and we support organizing, writing, mobilizing resources for knowledge in action toward a more life enhancing world. It’s not just to save humanity, it’s also about all the other species. And at AR+ with our emphasis on reflexivity we stretch to work with the emotions, the truth telling, not least because we’re all a bit traumatized under the surface. Some of us a lot traumatized. A deep inquiry is as feeling bodies how do we learn? And we get to come into these kinds of beautiful conversations and meet beautiful people. If we are lucky we help each other.

Nancy
Yes, what a privilege and a joy it is to be part of these conversations. Seeds of inspiration and potential explorations have been planted. Thank you again for the invitation to speak with us today and we look forward to the AR+ Gathering in March and seeing what we can cultivate and grow together.

Luea Ritter

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