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How do we tell others about OD for Life?

Updated: Feb 19

As Din van Helden and I prepared for the first two open "Friends of OD for Life" Zoom calls recently, we wanted to offer people an overview of the emerging movement. We noticed that our description fell into 2 categories – in fact, now I might say they are 3: (1) actions that have happened (2) implications we've noticed for the field of OD (3) the experience of being part of this movement, this community.

Actions: Our first instinct was to tell the history of what we've done. First, there were Inquiry Circles. Then there was a full-day Zoom workshop. Then there was the retreat in the Netherlands. From there, we had Zoom calls to shape a "maniflexo" and to stay connected as a community, and we continued our reflections together on a private online platform. In all of it, we were clear: this is to be a neutral movement, not owned by any of us but instead, emerging from and stewarded by all of us. And so a governance circle was formed. A foundation was created, a board was gathered, a constitution was written. Outside of this group, there's a LinkedIn group. There's a website. And we have these Friends of OD for Life calls that we'll do every 6 weeks or so. There. That is OD for Life.

Implications: But then, there is also the part of the story where some of us have been noticing the first hints of what OD for Life – what a practice of organizational development in alignment with life – might look like. In particular, we shared our sense that:

  • enabling life to thrive must become the explicit commitment of every organization and every OD practitioner;

  • more clarity is required about what it means to enable life to thrive – to cultivate “life-giving forces,” as the world of Appreciative Inquiry might say;

  • integrating nature in our interventions is key to developing this commitment and clarity.

There is more to explore and articulate, but this seems like a good start. It felt true to our experiences together in the Netherlands and online.

And there was more. Experience: We also shared that OD for Life is a collective commitment to take a stand, to find the courage together to be able to say to our clients or our bosses: "I come with this maniflexo. If you work with me, I'm gonna challenge you." And we shared that this is a rare space where, as OD practitioners, we can take care of each other and of the whole field. We don't have to be in competition with each other. We don't have to be networking, trying to get clients. We can just be together in care.

In all of these ways, we said, this is not a Community of Practice, though there are certainly practices that we share. It's something else – something that holds, supports and unifies many practices. I shared these reflections on our dedicated online platform, asking: Do these ways of describing OD for Life feel true to you and your experience? What would you add or change, as we prepare to welcome new people in Italy this May? These are a few of the responses: "It feels deeply true for me, dear Michelle. OD for Life feels like 'home' for me. Culture of care, human family, nature as homeland, shared purpose …. all this strengthens me and gives me hope!" "Thank you Michelle, that resonates a lot with me. I can also sense the heart felt connection in your words that feels like the missing piece beside the traditional intellectual approach. That’s also the side I am very much longing for, especially in the field of OD." "O, I like that last part. Being together in care and exploration. Holding each other in our tensions, thriving and shadows. As a Community of Care? Ready to explore more."

How lovely. How needed.

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