Posted by: ginalazenby | August 9, 2013

A Gathering of Social Change Leaders at Hollyhock

Wow … !  have I had the most amazing week … ?!

I had the wonderful opportunity to join the annual Summer Gathering at Hollyhock, Canada’s lifelong learning centre on the outstandingly beautiful island of Cortes (an hour north of Vancouver by seaplane). The Centre is now in its 31st year and I understand this place has been home/parent to the Gathering event for at least 25 years.

Not only was I in paradise for over a week but I got to hang out with 100 social change leaders for a 6 day invitational programme where we made connections, shared ideas and passions and played, sometimes quite late into the night. I tell you … I almost didn’t leave!

hollyhock signWhat a great community of people with heart, humility and hope. It’s going to take me ages to share everything with you … but at least let me give you a quick round up and then point you in the direction of some blog posts, links and videos … enjoy a bit of my experience vicariously and perhaps benefit too. (3 blog post & 2 videos here …. plus a part two of this newsletter in a few days with 3 more videos).

  • This was no ordinary conference: The 6 day programme was organised by Rick Ingrasci (from the Whidhey Institute) and co-facilitated by Eric Mulholland and Peggy Taylor who has co-authored a brilliant book (due out Jan 2014) that provides ways for groups to connect as community and use creativity for deeper impact. We had many story-telling exercises that helped us to engage and bond as a group – watch out for her book in January 2014 if you are a facilitator or community leader.
  • Women’s Gathering: oh what joy to be given an Open Space slot to host a women’s gathering with women from Canada, USA, Columbia, Sweden, India … and me from the UK. I have written a Blog Post about the insights gleaned.


    Women’s wisdom shared in a Circle gathering …. from many different cultures … read the blog post

  • Founding Families launched: Betsy Hall McKinney spoke of her passion for bringing women together (you can guess we got on well!) and launched Founding Families, a pro-democracy movement in the USA that calls upon men and women to partner as never before in human history. Her TEDx talk is inspiring. I love the Declaration of Interdependence that she has drafted.
  • a chance meeting in a Ugandan slum in 2004 and Millie’s paper bead necklaces sowed the seeds for a huge export & training organisation that has empowered thousands of women out of poverty. Read about the regular Hollyhock Gatherer Torkin Wakefield – her presentation on Beads for Life which she co-founded was electrifying. It seems many great initiatives are seeded or enlivened by Hollyhock energy.
  • Poverty powerhouse: little did I know that the quiet Indian woman next to me in the yoga class was a world-class pioneer author with over 25 years of experience working at the World Bank, the UN, and NGOs as an independent international poverty, gender and development advisor.  Even though Deepa Narayan was leading a women’s programme at Hollyhock after our gathering she still made time for me in her lunch-break for a truly inspiring chat on video. We talked about India post the Delhi rape case … watch out India is all I can say (to be posted).
  • Elder’s Wisdom: As is usual in countries where settlers live amongst the First Nations people, it is customary to include a welcome to country and an acknowledgement to the ancestors who have gone before. Chief Phil Lane Jr did the opening welcome address and led the closing ceremony for us all. He is a traditionally recognized Hereditary Chief and Elder of the Ihanktonwan Dakota and Chickasaw Nations. Chief Phil Lane Jr is an internationally recognized indigenous leader in human and community development, and is a frequent speaker on behalf of indigenous rights and wisdom. I asked for 5 minutes of his time for a video conversation about women in First Nation cultures and we ended up having a 30 minute chat! (To be posted).
  • Inspiring stories of healing: Diana shared her journey back to life from stage four lung cancer in a 5-minute Ignite talk. It was a wow to hear how she had done that after being given just a 1% chance of survival. What was also fascinating was what her husband shared in his own 5-minute talk. That was an eye-opener as you don’t often get to hear from the ‘reluctant’ husband. I did a brief video interview with both of them – this is definitely one to share with all those rational-minded partners who roll their eyes when we talk about the alternative healing modalities we are willing to try out. (To be posted).
  •  Screen Shot 2013-08-09 at 8.38.02 AMand finally .. but not least…. The nightmare awaiting students:  I thought I’d hang out with the younger folks one lunchtime but our conversation gave me indigestion. They told me about the student debt situation in the USA. The facts are unpalatable. Again, I grabbed my iphone camera so that Derek Hoshiko could explain what is happening … shame on those who make the laws that allow this huge burden of debt to fall on the shoulders of the next generation. Get this …  student debt surpassed credit card debt as the largest form of debt in the USA and in 2012 more history was made as the amount of unpaid student debt topped $1 trillion dollars. Derek & his pals were plotting ways to take action to help students. See my Blog Post: The Nightmare awaiting students.

And these are just a few highlights !
To be continued: More videos to come in a few days when I have finished editing ……

hollyhock viewI bet you’d like to go next year wouldn’t you?  It is not up to me to invite folks but if it has appeal then please email me and I will pass on your request. Check out the really interesting programme of events and courses that Hollyhock offers from March to November each year.

Anyway, for now enjoy these shorts videos .. which did you find most interesting?


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