As I have travelled many miles in the last 2 months, I have had the pleasure and fun of learning from the many new friends and colleagues I have encountered. Many of those learnings will take months or years to unpack.

But here is a sampler of stories that intrigued me and that I want to learn more about.

  • Auroville, India was created from the vision of The Mother and Aurobindo. Auroville was conceived as a city of 50,000 people. (hmmmm about the size of a beehive 😊) Aurobindo visualized that in India there would be 20,000 (twenty thousand) cities like Auroville – with all its strong connections to nature and restorative green space, shared amenities, inspiring and comforting relationships, effective organizations and spiritual aliveness. I wonder what The Mother and Aurobindo would think of the megacities that have arisen today? I am curious to consider if it is possible to retrofit them with the Vision that Auroville started with and is growing into today (with a current population of four thousand)?

  • India has a strategy called Smart Cities which it is implementing in Chennai and other cities – the intentions seem to be holistic. But while advances are being made on the technological front, infrastructure is a huge challenge – but an even greater one is engaging the 4 Voices of the cities. This seems like both a cultural stretch (e.g. power influences can put obstacles in the way of truly engaging with the 4 Voices) and also a capacity building stretch. When I inquired about how many small group facilitators were involved with Smart City Chennai, the response was a combination of puzzlement and a confession of very few. This helped me to see the theme of Book 3 – Care, Contexting and Capacity Building – is critical to consider for cities in both the East and South as well as North and West. This is also an opportunity for capacity building cultural exchanges to grow small group facilitation strength.

  • In most of the places I visited, the lived experience of Time as a scarce resource was a theme in most people’s lives. People seem driven to keep up at a frenzied pace of life. The focus, pressure and concentration to keep up with strategies set out by the organizations they work for, the infrastructure they live with (roads, computers, telecommunications) and the families they love but are stretched to connect with. This experience of scarce Time creates extreme stress and prevents people from truly connecting with one another (let along nature) and enjoying life. I even had the experience of this phenomenon in the design of the conferences I attended. Hierarchical structures design to maximize content and throughput – but (as colleague Beth Sanders notes) they prevent exchanges and cross-connections that ought to be a key purpose of such gatherings (especially given their extreme expense of resources, efforts, and time to create.)  I am left wondering about the contrasting value of Unconferencing where we design our gathering to optimize connections, content and context??!! ( P.S. I was delighted to see that the ISABS gathering in Delhi used circle and small group structures to enable cross-exchanges.)