This ride has left the station.
It’s said if you’re truly on your path, you can only see it behind you. Welcome to our retrospective review of 2018, a good look in the mirror and a snapshot of the joys, sorrows, triumphs and lessons learned.
This report is a personal sensemaking exercise for me and a way of sharing our adventures and lessons with a larger community. Our work can be very intimate and as such, we often don’t share details while it’s happening, especially on social media. I’d like to use this format to offer a look into our world and share the lessons as they emerge while maintaining a level of discretion for our clients and collaborators.
I think sharing the process and thinking behind global impact work among other changemakers is important. We’re better when we learn from and about each other. If you’re operating in this space and struggling with breaking your own trail, I hear you. You’re not alone. Thank you for all that you are and do, seen and unseen.
The Big Why? — It’s time. Humanity is experiencing the evolutionary equivalent of leaving the water and trading gills for lungs, fins for hands. We believe human creativity is the strongest medicine and most nourishing food available and when we connect with it, our capacity to do good work that benefits all beings goes off the charts. Quite literally.
So we did it. We created NEI for the purpose of Transforming Lives Through Creativity.
Nova is latin for new, this is what we’re all about at NEI, creating a beautiful new world that works for the entire ecosystem.
The Big Why is so we can all survive on this planet and because our hearts said so.
This year was a major shift for me professionally after 20 years, I moved from ME to WE.
My work in supporting transformation of people, organizations, projects and culture is now an offering of the Nova Earth Institute. (Happy dance!) This has been years in the making and I’m extremely pleased to have crossed this threshold.
(More on my work here when it’s posted. )
NEI was formed in Jan of 2017 by my wife and partner Alysia and I as a vehicle for our work. The Dream needed a boat and it is the good ship NEI. The larger vision is also for a larger group as aspects come to fruition. We might be the initial catalyst, but we want this to survive us and not be limited by the perspectives of only two.
In early January I mapped out a very workable schedule for the year including some significant gaps between events to digest and prepare for the next. Life had other plans though and became a torrent of travel, people, death, creation, magic and lessons.
More like riding a monster wave in a raging storm on a prototype surfboard.
Both Alysia and had the sense it would be a big year so we moved across the hall and doubled the size of our studio. Turns out this was a prophetic move. It feels small now. Especially with the additional superheroes.
Conferences and Gatherings
This year we invested heavily in research and our network of allies in the form of conferences/gatherings — by way of attending, supporting or presenting. Good relationships are a major investment in presence, time and travel costs and the foundation of transformational work. Who are our people? The ones we will be developing work, sharing meals, creating and traveling with for decades to come? Are they you? Reach out and say hello!
Relationships matter. We are people investing in our dreams together and that’s precious. Cherish and honor them. There’s no such thing as “just business”.
Organizing community is not for the faint of heart. The achilles heel for these initiatives seems to be personal bandwidth. Online forums seem to be the default container but few have the attention bandwidth to invest.
I also saw a great variability of alignment in these groups. In each case, most were devoted to mission, but a notable (and sometimes disabling) percentage was just there to feed on the implied contribution of their presence. Motivation matters.
Not Just consultants. Creative consulting in the social impact space today requires us to also be artists and healers as well as leaders. Leadership is also trauma work, change management is art. Get in there, roll up your sleeves, do your own work and be your best human.
Mystical Motovun — photographer unknown
We made two trips in this year to the tiny medieval Istrian town of Motovun in western Croatia. One to make sure our magical experience from the previous Fall was real and one to set up the business. Both of these trips were fruitful and we’re grateful for the welcome and support we have received there from city officials, business owners and neighbors. Beginning Fall of 2019 we are offering programs and consulting in Motovun as Nova Earth Institute, commissions as Elemental Studios and planning the move!
Why Croatia? (stay tuned. )
Sampling the Adventures
Let’s begin with the Gathering for Humanity in Galisteo, NM — 9 Indigenous grandmothers sharing wisdom and their mission to save the planet. Deep, timeless wisdom and great struggle to bring it to the world effectively.
I was invited to the Conscious Business Leaders Forum in June, an interesting curated event that was well produced and is a great entry point into the Impact world. I appreciate the conversations being so similar to the GfH in terms of social justice, racial equity etc. There was less depth, but easier participation. A great way for people discovering a deep personal motivation for social justice and impact in the business world to get their feet wet and meet others.
The Leadership Festival at a retreat center outside Warsaw, Poland took things to another level (which is saying quite a lot actually). Five bold women shepherding a group of business leaders though a transformational and embodied leadership experience in a country without a strong cultural support base for this kind of work. These are the kind of cauldrons that are birthing the new paradigm of leadership globally and a rich experience to draw from in my own work.
First Annual NEI TLS in Motovun— shortly before we ate ourselves silly.
A small group of stalwart allies from Berlin, Vienna and Budapest joined me in Motovun for our first annual NEI Transformational Leadership Symposium. A playfully grandiose title for some friends eating good food, sharing dreams and doing good work together.
Alsyia went to the Alliance of Artist Communities conference during one of my small breaks in travel to attend their Artist in Residency Program Incubator and learned a red hot ton about creating our own.
SOCAP 18, Rae Abileah and the Climate Ribbon booth — what do you love and hope to never lose to climate change?
SOCAP 18 in San Francisco was an impact capitalist feeding frenzy lightly dressed as a conference. The big question this year, Can impact capitalism contribute enough to a better world in time? Opinions vary.
A quick breath at home then Alysia and I took the train up to Glenwood Springs, CO for our annual NEI Planning Retreat. We’re super efficient when we do these retreats and we were able to put some solid bones to a vast vision in a short time. In 2019 we intend to bring that kind of traction home with us! Now we just need to figure out how to get the hot springs home too.
And last was the Denver Art of Hosting training. It was a deeply enjoyable and personally healing way to wrap up my year of intensive participation in new leadership development work. The AoH tradition (and this wonderful group of Tenneson Woolf, Erin Gilmore and Chris Chopyak in particular) was good medicine for me with the trust, integrity and loving devotion they embody. More of that in life please.
The bleeding edge of human development can be an exacting ride, not all relationships are healthy, decisions good or intentions clear. When you find true allies that love, respect and honor you with their deeds and not just their words, these people are gold, do your best to love em up back and be grateful for their blessings.
Transformational work, as in catalyzing, hosting, guiding or supporting the transformation of others in any way is transformational work for the practitioner also. We must drink the medicine and remain sufficiently grounded to be able to facilitate others in the work. A tall order. I have a book to say on this subject.
Client wilderness retreat — 12,000' in the Colorado Rockies
2018 continued my focus on committed individuals and supporting their transformative process. I say committed because there are no 1/2 measures available in this kind of work. Either you live your truth to the fullest or not. This level of devotion is required to make a significant, lasting and positive impact in the world.
Historically, most of those drawn to my work are in professional therapeutic and transformational leadership roles such as psychotherapists, change makers, teachers, social artists, consultants, healers etc.
I’ve been using a fairly consistent format of video meetings and private retreats for several years, but the shift to NEI is catalyzing a reinvention of methodologies in an exciting way. Ping me if this is of interest to you and we can discuss.
I’m currently the primary consultant for NEI. Most of the work is highly sensitive if not outright confidential, but deeply rewarding and typically intimate. My experience with the twin threads of human development and large scale cultural projects lends itself well to supporting transformational events, projects and related teams. I delight in helping people bridge the inner and outer worlds in a way that brings effective change. We’re looking forward to expanding our consulting team and operations this year.
I thought personal artwork and commissions were at an ebb this year until I wrote a draft of this article (hence the sensemaking bit), but the photo record and calendar tell a different story.
The artistic side of my work is highly shamanic and explores the relationship of Allies. What this looks like in the physical is typically jewelry and small scale sculpture, but it’s the inner transformational process and experience of the journey that to me is the most profound aspect of the work by far. My own capacity to be with and support people has tremendously grown through this work.
Exploring the Allies at the L/L Research Homecoming conference
This year I finished a series of Allies that has been years in germination, hosted the first multi-day retreat in the work and presented at two conferences.
Alysia has been pouring her creative bandwidth into the EU move, refining her glass torch work, and especially the development of the AiR program for Croatia. And designing a few veterinary hospitals for good measure.
These were few and far between this year due to my travel schedule and our workload in general. We did manage a few of Alysia’s Women’s Art Nights and a couple holiday openings. One of these crammed 30 people into our studio with Alysia supervising people working at 3 torches while I hosted a Colorado Tea Society tasting event. It was super fun to cross pollinate these communities, something I enjoy a great deal.
After a decade and 25ish sessions, I’m finally shifting the Embodiment Intensive to the back burner. The work continues though as I bring much of that content and experience through into a new Embodied Creators program for 2019. There have also been requests for an immersive leadership development and transformational retreat.
There is no better time. The truth of our dreams, aspirations and opportunities exists now. Kind of like having kids.
Building your own dream is slower than building someone else’s. The outer journey is a reflection of the inner.
Breaking trail is hard work. We are inventing this as we go, much like redesigning and rebuilding an airplane while you fly it. Research and ingenuity is critical and relationships are precious.
Be in Love. If you don’t have that primal motivation that defies reason, the hurdles are simply too big. Pace yourself and Ask for help.
Mission Mission Mission. The Big Why is the navigational beacon for every decision.
Expect mistakes. These can lead to the richest opportunities. My efforts to establish a community of practitioners in my own work fizzled and led to some great lessons.
Have a sense of humor. Guard and exercise it well.
It’s a process. If you’re really on your path, it’s a lifelong journey, not a tourist destination.
Transformational work can be messy. Stepping outside of the known into the truth we feel is possible can be deeply challenging.
Kindness is key. To yourself and others.
A look ahead to 2019
In 2019 we’re toning down our travel schedule significantly and focusing on the emerging ecosystem of NEI and our people socially and geographically.
If you’d like to stay in the loop on our adventures, contact me and I’ll add you to the list.
Programs in the works are a 6 week online Embodied Creators program, a 10 week residency program, a 3 day Art of Hosting training and another small, curated Leadership Symposium, all in Motovun.
Motovun Project Development is a hot one for us and a primary focus for the year. Our goal is to move our US base of operations to its own building in Motovun and establish an NPO for program offerings.
A few people have been special champions of the cause and tremendous supporters for us. People like Dana Harrison Mike Lavigne Tanya Woods Cayla Moss-Were Christine Chrisman Tomislav Pahovic Lorena Sviličić
Lawrence Kampf email@example.com
Executive Director/Founding Partner NEI