10 Thoughts and A Poem (For times of crisis and political despair)

  General thoughts if you didn’t vote for the people who are now in charge of the professional political power structures that govern you, when it is also pretty clear they don’t care about how many people get harmed or killed in their pursuit of the economic- or power-grabbing interests of the privileged few: 1. You may feel overwhelmed. You may feel like you can’t do anything, like it’s all gone to hell. If this is the case, you are losing sight of yourself, and of your place in the world. Sometimes people influence us to do that. Sometimes we do that ourselves. Either way, bring it all back home. You are sufficient, more than sufficient. Everything you need to be strong and courageous has always been available to you. Remember where you are. Who you’re with. What you love. Who you love. Where you love. The anthem of resilience is the beating of the human heart. 2. Trust the way things run against your grain. Resistance is first and foremost a physiological reaction. Anger is often a helpful response to extreme conditions. 3. Anger as a response to conditions doesn’t last. If you are staying angry, you’re generating that

Gentle Method: from actor training to culture-change leadership

Draft, please only cite the published version in the May 2015 edition of the International Practice Development Journal (www.fons.org)  when it comes out. Last September I presented a keynote on healthcare and culture change at a Practice Development conference in Toronto. On the day before I left I spent an entire day auditing a marathon six-hour session at Miriam Laurence’s Integrated Acting System studio. I was grateful to experience a working studio before setting up my own, which I did in January 2015. I established the Hummingbird Actors Studio in Bangor, Northern Ireland, because I love acting, theatre, and film. Another reason is because we need to start experimenting with new ways of thinking about leadership training for long-term culture change. As I’ll explain, actor training is for me one of the best places to start reimagining what helpful training might look like. What strikes me while watching actors in training is the emotional courage they bring to performance, their commitment to vulnerability in the cause of learning. I taught for 17 years at university level, and the height of expectation for students was always that such levels of courage and vulnerability might be a destination for them. Possibly. Occasionally. Hopefully. For

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.” 

8 ‘First Principles’ of Culture Change

At Hummingbird, there are eight First Principles of Culture Change which provide the dynamic bedrock upon which all else builds: 1. Hereness: To understand the dynamic patterns within a situation, it is important to acknowledge your own place within those dynamics. Grounding yourself in “being here” is a crucial starting point. 2. Withness: It is impossible to make true sense of the culture of a situation unless you acknowledge that “being here” is also “being with”, whether with people or in relationship to the context or environment in which you find yourself. Acknowledging the cultural context of interrelationship provides a strong basis for cultural change. 3. Subtle Power: This refers to “the ability to vary the experience of oneself or another”. This is the most effective understanding of power with which to enact culture change. Subtle Power allows anyone within the situation to occupy a “position of power”; power becomes ever-present – no-one can ever be thought to work from a position of powerlessness. 4. Nearness: Each person’s experience of the culture of a particular environment is always local, specific, and personal. Through what a person experiences as near-at-hand, subtle power combines with hereness and withness, as each person is invited to an acknowledgment of their own agency, or