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  • michellesholliday

Manifesto or Maniflexo?

Part of our intention with OD for Life has been to craft a manifesto — a bold statement of our commitments... an urgent call to action... a compelling invitation to join us. In this way and more, we hope to "connect practitioners from across organisational and leadership development to help shape a new narrative of progress, characterised by care for all people and life on our planet." An important step was to gather in a beautiful 2-day retreat last week, bringing together 28 people from a dozen countries. Early on the first day, Dorothe Liebig introduced the word "maniflexo" in response to our sense that it will need to be a living document — not a proclamation of eternal truth and universal representation, but something that continues to evolve as more voices are integrated and as more is learned along the way. The word maniflexo may take some getting used to, but we all felt the wisdom in its sentiment. In a first follow-up to the retreat, six of us gathered on a call yesterday to begin to explore what might be the content of such a document. Certainly, it should name the things we had gathered to take a stand for, boldly and without apology. At the same time, we felt that it should not only proclaim: it should also reflect our collective inquiry. There is much that is still unknown, and our curiosity guides us as much as our commitment. And so it was clear: there should also be questions in this document of ours. I was reminded of something I wrote a few years ago proposing Mission Questions rather than Mission Statements:

"[A] mission question seems more likely to be able to hold diversity even as it builds unity, to demonstrate humility alongside audacity, and to invite a broad community to see themselves in it — to recognize that it is also their question. The thing that makes people feel really alive and connected is being in the questions together."

Finally, we noticed that there was something in between our proclamations and our questions. And that was the beliefs that nudge us forward in our inquiry — the belief that organizations can be shaped differently, for example. These must also be named if our document is to be a useful guide and an effective invitation.

I share all this here because we are committed to transparency and because it's an exciting process, filled with potential to contribute to meaningful change in the world.

But also, my sense is that what we are experiencing, what we are doing, is somehow at the heart of an organizational development that is in alignment with life. If people anywhere are to organize themselves in shared purpose (in "organization"), and if that organizing is to be developed "for life," with life, on behalf of life, then it may be that they will need to identify the things that they stand for and boldly proclaim, as well as the beliefs that underpin those proclamations. And then they will need to sense the questions that they intend to live into together. As I wrote those years ago, this may be "the living process of crafting a story together — of being in shared service of its unfolding."

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