A popular slogan says that if you’re not part of the solution, you’re part of the problem. But among veterans of social change, a deeper insight has emerged: If you’re not part of the problem, you can’t be part of the solution. Our problems are rarely fixed from the outside. We can look for silver bullets, try to force change, or roll out well-meaning strategic plans for solving “other people’s problems.” But somehow these approaches never quite work—or at least not for long.
In Nova Scotia we are all part of the problem. The good news? We each hold a piece of the solution.
That’s the inspiration behind How We THRIVE, a gathering of 200 Nova Scotians that will take place at the Mount in June. If you look behind the curtain for an established organization, you won’t find one. The event is literally being created out of nothing, with volunteers, partners and sponsors joining in as an “incubation team” continues to give it shape. I stepped in as “orchestrator” after retiring from Engage Nova Scotia.
During my time at Engage I encountered inspiring people and projects all across the province. I also heard a lot of questioning about what’s important and what could be. Many people were revisiting their own beliefs and the stories they’d inherited. They were ready for something bold. They wanted to be part of conversations that included more voices and wisdom from the margins. They wanted to heal colonial wounds. Within the Engage team we’d talked about the importance of “radical middle space”—the kind of welcoming, open space that can hold lots of difference and dissonance, and also generate breakthroughs.
So while I thought I was retiring into a quiet life of writing and long walks, instead a new idea landed. I imagined an event that would capture the moment and accelerate positive movements already underway. What if we had enough time and enough diversity of lenses and voices to start getting below the surface of the issues? What if we created a space where we could explore our real questions—together?
And so the idea for How We THRIVE was born. Drawing on an earlier career as director of the ALIA (Authentic Leadership in Action) Institute, I began to sketch out a four-day gathering that would combine big-picture thinking, hands-on learning streams, and lots of creative engagement.
Once I began testing the idea, others started joining in, adding their ideas and helping to make it happen. The mission that came into focus: to hold open a wide and welcoming door, to create opportunities for rich learning and connections, and to make sure that everyone leaves better prepared to accelerate positive change in their communities.
The event has an ambitious goal of uncovering shared themes about how we in Nova Scotia can thrive, now and into the future. According to the website, it is for anyone looking for immediate solutions while asking questions about root causes. It is for anyone willing to try something different to learn something new.
Engage continues to be a source of inspiration, as well as champion and partner, for How We THRIVE. Registration is now open, with an early-bird pricing in effect until April 27. For more information, visit howwethrive.org.