Toward a Next Generation of Transformative Partnerships. Susanna Carman

This week it was my (Susanna Carman’s) turn to present at our monthly AR+ project-based coLAB-workshop on Transformative Learning Spaces. The focus of the workshop series is to bring collective inquiry among AR+ members into our efforts to respond to the social and ecological challenges of our time.  Each of us brings our challenges from our own transformative learning space. Typically each challenge is yet another shared facet that all of us action researchers who lead transformation processes recognize.

I presented a case study on transformational partnerships.

Specifically I wondered how such partnership might develop after being nurtured into being. It’s a challenge because it appears as a skill that sits outside my zone of genius. My gifts lie in the art of holding the field within which transformational learning can take place. So, there’s an internal tension for me between being the weaver of connectivity AND the facilitator of transformations ongoing.

All present seemed keenly aware of just how much BOTH of these roles   – initiator/nurturer and developer/facilitator demand in terms of being, thinking and doing as Action Researchers For Transformation/ARTIsts.  

AR+ Member Luea Ritter, practitioner extraordinaire of constellations and systems facilitator, facilitated the workshop for me. Luea therefore invited the other members who gathered to come into an intimate conversation about their impulse to serve such spaces whilst also honoring our individual limits.

My case study focused on Transition Learning Lab, a 9-week learning journey that I developed. It was born out of 3 years of master’s research I completed with the intention of making sanctuary for ARTists. The program was designed with input from research collaborators and advisors, and seeks to convene practitioners leading design and change processes who are ready to take on the challenge of leading wisely WITH others in an increasingly liminal and uncertain world. The lab is project-based with a focus on both inner and outer development. Participants are introduced to new models, frameworks and methods that help to facilitate large scale systems change, as well as practical tools that enhance their individual capacity to negotiate power, give and receive feedback and collaborate creatively with others.

Transition Leadership Lab is preparing for its 7th cohort starting in January, 2024. We’ve reached a tipping point of program alumni/ae, and are now exploring partnership opportunities beyond the Australasia region. However, mine is a familiar challenge that often emerges from success. There is the difficulty that comes with meeting the ever expanding demands of something that wants to grow beyond the limits of its founder. 

Our inquiry circles around three questions conjured during earlier conversations with Luea as part our shared preparation for the session:

  • How can I ‘plan’ for partnerships and succession that widens the TLL space so that it’s genuinely co-held?
  • How might I sense into where the synergies might be between myself and the people I can play with?
  • What support is available so that I can initiate intergenerational learning and exchange as part of succession planning?

Feedback from my fellow change agents was kind, compassionate and nourishing.

Most potent was the realisation that transformative partnerships are often anything but planned. Rather, they are cultivated through patience, openness to possibility, and trust in the emergence. To be clear, this is not about some loosey-goosey notion of organic unfolding, but rather intentional, active waiting with a kind of razor-sharp, timely state-of-readiness to meet the moment AND the next partner when it/they arise.

I was also reminded by others of the over-fifty cohort within this group just how important it is to honor my own limitations at this time of life. This attention to self-care prompted a new inquiry to inspire cross-generational knowledge sharing. Perhaps there is a mentee that can grow alongside of and into the roles of weaver and/or facilitator?

I feel compelled to share a final note that speaks to what arises when intention is set. Within a week of the session, I received a message from someone who described themselves as, ‘jumping out of their skin,’ with enthusiasm to meet me after watching a recent video interview about the Lab. Synergies abound. I wait with genuine curiosity to play with, rather than plan for, my timely encounter with fellow ARTists.