Joyful, Emergent and Collaborative: SDGI’s Pre-Residency Weekend A Huge Success!

August 11- 12, 2018 witnessed a historic event at SDGI. This weekend served as a reunion, collaborative visioning and planning session, and a celebration for the entire SelfDesign Foundation Community. It was the perfect embodiment of SelfDesign’s commitment to powerful, co-created learning. The gathering, on the campus of Western Washington University in Bellingham, included representatives of all stakeholder groups: learners, alumni, faculty, staff, Board Members, Advisory Council, and friends.

Saturday’s events included a Board Meeting, small group facilitated dialogues, a “State of SDGI Report” from Founding President, David Marshak, and a warm welcome from new President, Paul Freedman. Dean Designate, Laurel Tien led a discussion of current programs and processes. The weekend’s organizing Committee (Renee Beth Poindexter, Anne Adams, Elan Bailley, and Mitra Martin) led active group discussions. These covered a wide range of topics from diversity at SDGI, to marketing and branding, and opportunities for building partnerships between SDGI and other organizations. In the evening, the community celebrated the huge accomplishments of outgoing Founding President Dr. David Marshak. Stories, memories, and original songs were shared as tears of laughter and sadness were shed. New President, Paul Freedman was also honored and welcomed by all with much tongue-in-cheek pomp.

Sunday’s sessions included two inspiring presentations for the assembly. The first of these by SDGI Faculty Pille Bunnell, Milt Markowitz, and Fleurette Sweeney who introduced all to the conceptualization of learning as a living system. The presenters highlighted organic versus mechanical worldviews, and beautifully articulated core values and beliefs of SDGI. The second presentation by SDGI Advisory Council Member, Robet Gillman, offered an optimistic and ecological perspective on learning, and introduced us to his exciting project: Bright Future Now. Later, the eight learners of the new cohort of MA students arrived and added their voices and energy to the gathering.

Monday morning included a lovely graduation event and the conferring of MA degrees by the President. These included the conferring of an honorary MA to faculty member, Chris Mercagliano honoring his outstanding work and scholarship in the area of K-12 educational alternatives. The alumni offered a shared presentation and a playful welcome to the new cohort. This kicked off the start of SD 500, the first foundation course for this new group. Darrell Letourneau, Renee Beth Poindexter and Laurel Tien deeply engaged the new learners towards an understanding of SelfDesign principles and tools. This group spent the next week building community and applying learning to their own growth and development along the Life Spiral.

The events of this first-ever event were a perfect embodiment of the values and processes of the SelfDesign Foundation. All elements were held in careful balance as the community formed and strengthened through growing relationships, authentic shared inquiry, deepening trust and love. There was a palpable sense that we’re engaged in important work, at a critical moment, AND we can still do this work with openness, reciprocity and gratitude. The first stated objective of the weekend was that attendees be both seen and heard. Deep listening was a common theme. All in attendance left with a renewed sense of real community and shared purpose. Planning’s already underway for Summer 2019’s Joyful Co-created Weekend event. Stay tuned for details!!

Paul Freedman
SelfDesign Graduate Institute

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