The He(art) of Care: Changing the Cultural Climate Equation (full text)

This is the text of a keynote address for the Enhancing Practice 14 conference for Practice Development in Toronto in 2014.         The audio recording of the talk is available here: http://soundcloud.com/dr-anthony-mccann/the-heart-of-care-changing-the-culture-change-equation. *** I’d like to thank Nadine and the organisers for the invitation to speak here today. If keynotes are anything like giving a speech at a wedding, I suppose I’m obliged to start with a joke. Two fish in a tank. One turns to the other and says, “How do you drive this thing?” My relationship with healthcare goes back a long way. I was born in a hospital. And I wouldn’t have been born at all if my Dad, a young seminarian training for the priesthood, hadn’t fallen in love with the good-looking nurse that tended to him while he was waiting for an operation. And on behalf of my family, thanks to all of you who work in hospitals as nurses and doctors. You’re awesome. My wife is chronically ill and lives with a myriad of complications that come with Ehlers Danlos Syndrome, a connective tissue disorder, and epilepsy, and we have two kids under two. Without the support of health workers our

A Politics of Gentleness: towards a critical vernacular ecology

The following talk was given at Peace House in Oxford on the 21st November, 2013, during a workshop on Gentleness, Trust, and Activism, as part of the Northumbria University project, “Effectiveness in Action: Exploring the role of the Durkheimian ‘sacred’ in motivating community action, using reflexive and gently disruptive co-research methodologies.” The talk covers a lot of the ground from which the cultural climate work of Hummingbird Culture Change emerges, and, in particular, the emphasis on a ‘politics of gentleness’ prefigures the later change of emphasis to focus on garaíocht and ‘ordinary ethics’. The use of the term ‘vernacular’ was a nod to its use as a common term among folklorists to refer to informal and uninstitutional registers of social life, and also to the work of Ivan Illich, for whom ‘vernacular’ refers to an uncommodifying register of relationship (see especially his collection Shadow Work (1981) and the earlier form of this work in Co-Evolution Quarterly: http://www.preservenet.com/theory/Illich/Vernacular.html). I have since turned away from the term vernacular, following the discovery that the etymology of the term is rooted in the Latin vernaculus meaning ‘domestic, native’, from verna ‘home-born slave’. In the words of Iñigo Montoya from The Princess Bride, “You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means.” 

The Elimination of Uncertainty: the engine of enclosure

Operating as if the elimination of uncertainty is possible, plausible, and desirable is what drives the cancer of “enclosure” at the heart of organisational or institutional practice. Enclosure is the accelerative and intensifying process in play when good situations go bad and when bad situations get worse. When left unchallenged, enclosure spreads, it deepens, and it corrodes the core cultural supports of your organisation, among them productivity, employee engagement, creativity, and trust. When this happens, it is “business as usual” that makes the unhelpful difference. The assertion of control, the quest for perfection, the correction of error, the drive for efficiency, the targeting of enemies, the defeat of competitors, the solving of problems, the silencing and eradication of opposition and resistance, the assertion of unquestionable truth, the desire for purity, an insistence on sameness, a lack of acceptance or respect for women in the workplace … all of these and more can be versions of the elimination of uncertainty in practice. Following the principles of Hummingbird’s Cultural Climate Framework, an enclosing cultural climate comes with what I call the Organisational Enclosure Triad – an environment saturated with the elimination of uncertainty ethos tends also to be characterized by chronic heightened intensity, and by chronic heightened directivity. While there are many more features of enclosing cultural climates, these

A Politics of Gentleness: towards a critical vernacular ecology

The following talk was given by Dr. Anthony McCann at Peace House in Oxford on the 21st November, 2013, during a workshop on Gentleness, Trust, and Activism, as part of the Northumbria University project, “Effectiveness in Action: Exploring the role of the Durkheimian ‘sacred’ in motivating community action, using reflexive and gently disruptive co-research methodologies.” The following link will direct you to the Soundcloud page where you can listen to the talk in its entirety: A Politics of Gentleness: towards a critical vernacular ecology The (slightly edited) transcription follows below: Just to throw the cat among the pigeons, I am an advocate of gentleness.  I am not an advocate of non-violence.  I’ll explain that later, maybe, if you ask me. Right, for many years I’ve been doing many things. I did a lot of ethnography among people who do Irish music and Irish singing for quite a while during the 1990s. During the mid-1990s I was very interested in social and ethical dynamics among Irish traditional musician, particularly the ways in which the social and ethical dynamics among Irish traditional musicians were under pressure from the encroachments of intellectual property thinking and copyright thinking. Around 1995 to the year 2000