Friday, June 20, 2014

Who do you think about when you're alone?

The view from my outdoor hotsprings water
"bathroom" this month in Pai, Northern Thailand
While my kids are away with their dad this month, I've rented a small house in the mountains north of Chiang Mai, near Pai - a lively and lovely small town that we've visited before. I am on my own with the intention to disconnect for a while. Since arriving 4 days ago, though, one lingering issue keeps disturbing my peace. 

Some dear friends of mine in Uganda are facing a serious crisis.  What remains of the Life in Africa I founded in 1999 is a tight-knit group of self-empowering war-affected women who live in Kampala's displaced Acholi Quarter. After years of working together to learn skills that would serve them whenever they managed to move back home to Northern Uganda, the land in the displaced camp/slum these women live on has now been sold for commercial development. They now need to move back to Northern Uganda urgently, which is causing quite a lot of unrest and fear. 

Some of them have nowhere to go with their families and not enough money saved to buy their own land. Some do have land to eventually resettle to but nothing to eat there in the countryside yet, and no shelter for their family to sleep under. Without an immediate place to go they will end up homeless - forcibly displaced again - which will greatly disrupt all the progress they've made over the years since the war, on getting their families lives back together. 

They are hoping to face this challenge together, through buying some land in the north jointly and establishing a Family Transition Center.  With 5 days left on the fundraising campaign that would enable them to begin, I find myself unable to sleep well - and fully disconnect - until I know that they've raised what they need to get started with. I have contributed what I can and helped them set up the campaign. I know they are also working on selling off some Life in Africa assets. But none of that will have been enough if they don't end up being able to buy the land - a measly $4000 seems so little, and yet for these ladies - most of them living on $2-3 per day - it's an impossible sum. 

Last year I visited Uganda to do some book research with the Life in Africa ladies about the organization they've built, their Acholi culture and their life stories. Over the past month I've been writing about some of them, to help promote their campaign.  These are real stories of people I know personally, and love. 

  • Jennifer Adoch: a small woman with giant shoulders - Jennifer's mom is looking after her kids while Jennifer works at a full time job, but her mom has leprosy and is being chased off of her land by neighbors. Jennifer now also needs to leave where she lives and is desperate to know where to go.

Right now there are 5 days left to raise just under $1500 more in pledges, so that the Life in Africa ladies can begin moving their families to safety together.  Try as I might to disconnect from the world for a while, their beautiful and kind faces are haunting my sleep. 

Surely this is doable - Can you help with even $10? Or maybe a tad more? 

Click here to pledge what you can to help build up some end of campaign momentum please. Even $10 counts, and you will be charged nothing unless their minimum goal of $4000 is met. 

Crazy how hard it is to disconnect from the world. Who do you think about when you're alone? 

Monday, June 16, 2014

Slowing down to see eye to eye

The Ci2i Global group never ceases to soothe and amaze. If we've done nothing else together in the past 3 years of regular working group calls, we have developed a beautiful culture of being together in community with each other, even if we are spread out on all continents of the globe. What we continue to learn from each other - about our work and about ourselves - is an important source of inspiration and energy for all of us as we make our respective marks in the world.  

I wrote about our most recent call at the Ci2i blog, where - among other things - we reminded each other how important it is to take each time for ourselves and slow down in order to maintain a sense of peace and presence.  See the post:

Enjoy the deep wisdom of these amazing social impact-driven women. 

Thursday, June 12, 2014

Milestones, eras, shiftings

It's just us 3 next year...

From my facebook:

So graduation festivities are over and much else has begun, or is in motion. My 3 boys are at this moment in the sky on their way to Holland and the US for the summer, marking the end of an era for our joy-hunting family - chances are high that we will never again all live under one roof as the 4 of us. Single mom of 3 boys is no longer part of my identity, as my first born leaves to live as a young man on his own, in another friggin' country, no less! I will see him again before he takes up residence in the Netherlands, but his stuff is with him in the air now - except his awesome sculpture class work, which just couldn't be packed

It feels milestone-like, happening in the midst of more shifts happening (and asking to happen) at different levels. Only hours after the boys were gone I was coming together back to back with the Evolutionize It Board and my beloved Ci2i Global working group in skype gatherings that felt productive in stabilizing ways. Feeling grateful especially to Alycia de Kraa and Christelle Van Ham and Jean Russell in the roles you played in helping those to go well. Milestones, eras, shiftings.

My own summer intention now is to get a day each in on and, and connect with friends (yoohoo!) for whatever Chiang Mai fun we can find this weekend, before heading 3.5 hours into the mountains for a month on my own at Hester's little house near a meditation center in Pai (a town you can visit in my photo albums). I'll be taking with me some deep thinking and inner listening to do around what my next 2 years in Chiang Mai could look like and what life-magic I might wish for after that.

Then it's off to the US for a graduation trip to NYC with Thomas Haitsma and a reunion time with family in Santa Cruz.

My gratitude to the universe for todays range of experiences and anticipations is lightening my heart enough to bear the inevitable melancholy. But grateful I am, indeed today - at the end of an era - for this one and only life that is mine.

A nice moment in the CMIS graduation ceremony
for Thomas and his class to thank their parents

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

My belated birthday wish for a new Life in Africa

My birthday was yesterday, so today I am celebrating the successful launch of my 48th year on this planet, and the re-launch of a crowdfunding campaign for my dear sisters at Life in Africa.

These are some LiA Members who recently learned to grow mushrooms together. They're part of a group of 35 war-affected women who are now urgently seeking funds to help deal with  another forced family displacement.
Please know that your support to this campaign at any level will feel like an invaluable gift to me personally. If I could just give these ladies $15,000 myself, I would. I have known them for 15 years, and they are like sisters to me. They are soon to be homeless and really need the power of their networks to pull through for them now - not to mention that they are a wonderful group and their plan is a good on. This all means I'll be appealing more directly to everyone I know on this one than I normally do.  You're invited to a facebook event page where we can follow and nurture the campaign's progress together thru the campaign's 23 June deadline.

After a recently unsuccessful attempt at raising almost $9,000 toward the Family Transition Center last month, community leaders Grace Ayaa and Peter Ndelo have really rallied this past week to get the campaign back up and running with a lower tipping point of $4000. That lowered amount will at least enable them to buy land. Even if that's all they raise of their total $15,000 goal, they can start out camping together on the land - my Life in Africa sisters and their families will not be completely homeless when the bulldozers come.

If you think about it, $4,000 is such a ridiculously low amount of money, and yet a whole community of lives are at stake. Even the $15,000 total goal they are seeking is small compared to how they can leverage it to serve the enormous need for resources in starting over again after a devastating war. In truth, the LiA ladies always knew they would have to go home someday, and have been preparing for it for years in ways that will help them sustain life in the north once they get started. But now the stone quarry land that this war-displaced group has been living on for 20 years has been sold, and there is unrest among the affected Baganda (Kampala's local tribe) that's becoming increasingly targeted at the war-displaced Acholi families. The question to ask yourself about the Family Transition Center plan is not "is this a good idea?" but "can they hold on until they find the money?"

I am so pleased with and grateful to Peter and Grace, for pulling themselves up to relaunch this campaign right away; to Patty Simonton from for amazing support to the re-launch during her vacation; to my friends who have already contributed in the past 24 hours...

and to YOU for considering this belated but heartfelt birthday wish.

Make whatever pledge you can afford, large or small
(your pledge only becomes a contribution once the $4000 tipping point goal has been reached)

Help share stuff & cheer the campaign on thru June 23

Thursday, May 29, 2014

What if the Happy song and video memes came with more actual happiness in the world?

Pharrell Williams' 2014 hit Happy song and the 24 hours of Happy video have sparked a meme that's even more fun for high school kids than the Harlem Shake was in 2013. Graduating seniors at Chiang Mai International School have danced their goodbyes in a Happy montage, that keeps me grinning ear to ear (and not just at the moments my oldest son is in it!)

But Pharrell Williams isn't the only force moving us toward greater happiness these days.

Fascinating new research on happiness is now available, about what it actually is and how it actually comes to be in our lives. The "Happy" movie is well worth the $2.99 to rent it. Right after I watched it I made my kids sit down and watch it with me - the practical information in this little gem of a movie made an immediate impact on our lives.

Another inspiring must-see if you value happiness is the Economics of Happiness documentary released early this year.  I've been sensing for a long time that the economic models we're using don't actually fit the world experience we're living.  This film helped me understand some key things about how we measure "growth" today that really make ya go hmmmm... 

You can rent the full documentary for a $5 contribution to the filmmakers at vimeo on demand. There's also a free pre-release version on youtube, in case you can't come up with the 5 bucks. 

Of course, while it feels like such a universal value, not every society claims to value happiness - in Iran, young people were arrested last week after uploading their own Happy video.  But maybe some controversy around happiness isn't such a bad thing under repressive regimes. 

Will the 2014 happiness bounty leave us with more than just video memes to look back on?  Hard to say, but maybe the more we know about and think about happiness, the more open we'll be to recognizing increasing happiness when it comes.

What would the world look like if we all started learning to be a little bit better at being happy?

It's sure been fun in my family :-) Clap along if you feel that that's what you want to do!


Thursday, May 8, 2014

Co-creative learning from Piglets for Progress Phase 1

Last week a friend and I invited the Mae Sot trash dump community to share their experience and learnings with each other about raising pigs, in order to surface the practical gaps to be addressed in planning for a possible Phase 2 of the Piglets for Progress initiative.  

What they shared offers a super interesting read, with fascinating insights that I'm still chewing on. 

Read more at the Piglets Blog about the event and how we facilitated the conversations between 100+ people whose language we don't speak. 

Monday, March 24, 2014

Fire at the Mae Sot trash dump

There’s a crisis with the air quality at the Mae Sot trash dump that is affecting both the families and the pigs. The people are not able to work, which means there is now also a food crisis.

A number of pigletsforprogress supporters are working together on facebook to do something helpful. 

Gratitude to those who've contributed for a delivery or rice and cooking oil - details of the group effort are in the comments here:

Saturday, February 15, 2014

My Career Case Study - presented at the Learn/Share Lab for co-creative impact and innovation

Soon to be online at Ci2i Global, I've written about the work I've been doing for the past several years as a case study. Click the image above to see the presentation I gave about it. The text below appeared in a booklet of case study background information which participants at Ci2i Global's Learn/Share Lab for Co-creative Impact and Innovation also received earlier this month. 


Career case: designing frameworks for co-creative international development

Presenter: Christina Jordan


Ci2i Global Founder Christina Jordan’s career as a serial social entrepreneur in international development has spanned several continents, online spaces, container organizations and initiatives to impact globally marginalized local communities since 1999. She is also a passionate activist for collaborative professional development in the global changemaker space. More than looking at the background and impact of any of those individually, this case attempts to capture the evolution of an approach to professional career development that models, applies and supports co-creative approaches toward a desired shift in prevailing global development paradigms.

  • Key Outcomes Observed

New Life in Africa (Kampala, Uganda) is a community based organization of mostly war-affected displaced women who live/work at a stone quarry. The CBO devolved in 2008 out of the former Life in Africa Foundation, which Christina originally founded in 1999.
Evolutionize It, ASBL (Belgium) was established in 2010 as a non-profit container that applies collaborative / co-creative skills developed in Africa to professional event design and facilitation assignments, while also enabling continued co-creative pro-bono work with New LiA and other groups.
Ci2i Global was initiated as a support platform concept for social entrepreneurs in professional transition, and has evolved through the co-creative input of like-minded colleagues into a platform for the study/promotion/uplift of co-creative approaches, and support to professionals who design and employ them.
Pigletsforprogress (Mae Sot, Thailand)  is an application of lessons learned in co-creative impact to a context similar to Uganda (Burmese migrants/refugees who live and work at a trash dump in Thailand)
Hundreds of online supporters have participated in unique frameworks for micro-giving and engaging in making a meaningful impact that Christina has designed through the above.
Hundreds of families in marginalized communities have directly experienced the impact of evolutions in Christina’s career toward inclusive co-creative development models.
More than a thousand changemakers have participated in event experiences that Christina has designed.

  • Key Processes Used

Modeling for targeted local impact: Christina’s approach to working with marginalized local communities begins with co-creative dialogue and events designed to unearth  community needs and self-perceived potential, in order to develop plans that can be “packaged” into unique opportunities for global supporters to engage around. An initially curated process for emergent outcomes thus shifts to an open process that invites co-creative global input in achieving the desired outcomes determined by the local community. As much agency as possible is left with the local community to implement their plans using inputs crowdsourced through Christina’s global networks.

Nurturing replication/spread for global impact: Christina’s work in the global professional changemakers space uses art-of-hosting facilitation techniques and learning event/experience design to invite & nurture collaborative learning, co-creative planning and community building to support others who are actively engaged in shifting international development paradigms from top down to bottom up.

  • Sector/field: war-affected/displaced families + the global changemakers space
  • Initial geography (where the co-creation initiative started): Uganda
  • Application geography (where the co-creation process has been applied): Uganda, Europe, Thailand, online communities (global)
  • Is it a one shot initiative ? an ongoing initiative ?: on-going
  • Issues to be solved/addressed: 1) flipping the prevailing top-down design paradigm in how global resources can be channeled to support development in marginalized communities, 2) increasing the collective impact of the global changemaking space.
  • Early objectives (at the start of the initiative): experiment with improved micro-finance opportunities, create opportunities for mainstream engagement in making a difference in the lives of the poor.
  • Later objectives (developed/evolved through co-creative process):  income generating skills/opportunity development, job creation, local community uplift, global community engagement, professional support to changemakers with similar approaches/objectives.
  • Key words used to define the co-creative process: local community empowerment, income generation, skills development, crowdsourcing, online community
  • Key words used to define the context in which the co-creative process took place: war-affected communities, IDPs, refugees, changemakers, online community platforms
  • Briefly describe the passion behind why this initiative was undertaken: The first 10 years of Christina’s career included experience working with (and witnessing the failure of) global development agencies including the UN, the EU, USAID and NGOs. She set out on her own to establish a social enterprise (Life in Africa Foundation) through which she could experiment with developing better models and approaches.
  • What inspired the use of co-creative approaches in this work?: Impact of the Sept 11 attacks on Life in Africa’s online activities (initially NOT so co-creative in nature) prompted a complete shift in perspective on how to conceptualize local development that would be more resilient to external shocks. Nomination to the Ashoka Fellowship that same year opened a world of possibility and ideas with regard to what might be achieved through collaboration with other changemakers.
  • Which established methods were drawn from in inviting co-creativity?  Trial and error (including LOTS of mistakes & reinventions), deep listening, Open Space Technology, Art of hosting facilitation techniques..
  • Why was a co-creative approach deemed better in this case than a more traditional approach? Initially, it was really about sharing the risk and workload involved in managing a local development initiative, underpinned by an evolving sense that sustainability would be enhanced when the beneficiary community had a direct stake in the initiatives success or failure.  Over time it became clear that beneficiary engagement generated impact in it’s own right. More lasting empowerment came through the discovery of voice, agency and talent in the co-creative community building process than through the income generating opportunities that the community was receiving and managing.
  • What was the role of serendipity in guiding how this initiative unfolded? All of Christina’s work with marginalized communities has been born from serendipity - connecting with people in countries where she’s lived and listening to their stories has opened pathways of co-creative exploration around what might be done to nurture meaningful change. Her work with changemaker communities has been much more intentional and strategic, while still building on serendipitous relationships.

  • Stakeholders/stakeholder groups involved: 1) initial community building efforts in Uganda engaged artists, craftmakers and unemployed youth from across Kampala. This evolved to focus with more effectiveness on (mostly war-affected) leaders and residents of a particular physical community, which is also replicated in Thailand.  2) Online followers / supporters; 3) offline volunteers (often Christina’s friends and family); 4) collaborative partners & partner initiatives; 5) participants at changemaker events (these groups can overlap)
  • Roles of stakeholders: community residents participate and contribute to exploration of local wishes, talents and capacity; online supporters participate as financial contributors, advisors, promoters, consultants; offline volunteers participate in household surveys, digital storytelling, information analysis and relationship building; partners & partner initiatives have participated in the delivery of opportunities (examples:  a partnership with Invisible children employed 100+ Ugandan community members in producing solidarity bracelets for their US campaign; partnership with another Ashoka Fellow provided a savings program for LiA children; partnerships with Uganda Microfinance Union and later with Kiva provided micro-loan capital against a Life in Africa community guarantee)
  • Role of a leader, or a leading team, if any: Dialogue event & survey design, deep listening, digital storytelling, “packaging” of community objectives into micro-giving/crowdsourcing initiatives, training for the local use of online tools, strategic organizational development, connector/champion role.
  • Were any funders involved in supporting the initiative? (When did they become involved?) Most initiatives have been funded through dispersed online global engagement strategies (including crowdfunding and community-crafted product sales). In 2006 and 2007 Life in Africa was a Community Favorite award recipient at, resulting in $40,000 in external funding. also provided $15,000 toward the costs of hosting an Open Space gathering of Onet and Life in Africa members in Northern Uganda.  Evolutionize It channels fees earned on professional facilitation jobs toward defraying the costs of her co-creative experiments with Ci2i Global and On many occasions she has also self-financed the expenses involved in undertaking work she believes in.
  • “Materialisation” of co-creation :
    - events: Open Space Gulu ( Uganda), Cosi10 (multiple locations),  #we_b, #we_b2 (Brussels), Ashoka Changemaker’s week (Paris), Learn/Share Lab for co-creative innovation (Thailand)
    - meetings: Community planning meetings in Uganda and Thailand. In Uganda there were national planning meetings involving members at 2 locations.  
    - facilitation sessions: many that have engaged changemakers in collaborative learning under the Evolutionize It umbrella - both probono (Oxford Jam, Shine UK, several events at HUB Brussels) and paid (Womanity Foundation, The Women’s Forum, EU Innovation week…)
    - co-developed content: hundreds of pages created by Ugandan community members at; co-creative story telling by volunteers at
    - joint actions: Uganda - community selected and guaranteed microloans, sale of community crafted jewelry, community mushroom project, tailoring skills development project, community created daycare center, co-created book under development; Thailand - fundraising, purchase and delivery of 50 piglets to migrant trash dump families; Global - and related events
  • Technology involved (mobile phones….):PCs including solar powered computers used by the Life in Africa community in Northern Uganda, mobile phones used to communicate with the community in Thailand;
  • Social networks used: (Uganda), Startsomegood (Thailand), Twitter & facebook (network outreach and professional development). Also used some early writers networks to share stories about Ugandan efforts (The Vines network & themestream).
  • Knowledge sharing processes used during the co-creation process: heavy use of skype, googledocs and email in collaborative work with other changemakers and volunteers; digital storytelling used heavily in communicating with online networks
  • Methodology : how did co-creation materialize.. the information gathering process: group inquiry/dialogue planning, deep listening, interactive events, mosaic mapping of thoughts/capacities, household surveys, case study procurement the analysis process: integrative thinking & dialogue (plus all of the above) the diagnosis process: deep listening the recommendation design process: “yes, and” approach to idea-storming with communities and online networks, remaining open to the capacity contributions of others, consensus building the implementation plan: crowdsourcing, inviting/making space for self-directed inputs, small working groups, story-telling as a form of transparent reporting, leaving the communities themselves in control of how to manage/distribute resources the measurement plan: household surveys, direct questions, group processes
  • Content created: | | | Hundreds of pages created at, hundreds of stories published at and other now defunct sites
  • Impact measurement: While there have been a number of attempts to quantify the impact, the most meaningful impact has been the immeasurable kind of empowerment and confidence that changemakers and community members report anecdotally. Individuals in marginalized communities where Christina has worked report feeling respected and valued by being included in the development process; changemakers often report increased clarity on their personal/professional value and direction.
  • Significant difficulties met: articulating an answer to the question “What do you do?”  Financial uncertainty while exploring new models. Conflict with family members who did not understand. Repeatedly: conflict with project partners who did not agree with the principles of co-creative community control. Also, identifying the difference between corruption and lack of capacity within communities to achieve transparency, and adequately communicating with other stakeholders around that.
  • Conflict between stakeholder groups that arose:
    - In Uganda there was a serious conflict between Life in Africa and a local partner, who perceived that the project had more money flow than it did, and fought viciously for a greater piece of that perceived pie. They argued that the community should not be responsible for managing it’s own finances and became quite deliberately destructive. Eventually, they wrote a project proposal that co-opted Life in Africa’s ideas as their own, received funding from an international agency and pushed the managing members of the Life in Africa community out of the project (which was at a rented location controlled by the partner in question).
    - Life in Africa Gulu eventually failed to be revived when the women elected the men to hold CBO management positions because of their perceived capacity to manage community affairs (numeracy and literacy), and the men then cheated the women out of resources.
    - After working with the community for over a year on co-creating a Life in africa Foundation transition plan (which included setting up a local CBO and a 501c3 structure in the US), conflict arose when the individuals who had committed to managing Life in Africa USA tossed out the community co-created plan and tried to implement their own ideas from the top down (which eventually failed).
    - Working with Ashoka on the Changemakers Week event there was a conflict between co-creative event design approaches and what Ashoka believed their corporate (sponsoring) participants would expect. Unfortunately, Fellows were not allowed to bring their own issues to the event as had been hoped. In the end, however, the most positive feedback received on the event was with regard to the co-creative facilitation approach of the sessions that Ashoka centrally decided to include in the program.
  • Steps taken ahead of co-creation which made co-creation possible or enrich the co-creation process
    Important in pursuing this career development path has been coming to peaceful terms with the flow of money in and out of the enabling equation, adopting a faith in the universe’s desire for this work to happen and it’s possibility to provide care and support in unexpected forms; Evolutionize It was created as an incorporated “container” for raising funds that can channel into co-creative endeavors. Curating the Ci2i Global group required formulating a vision around which to invite a co-creative conversation, and established networks of like-minded people to call to; PigletsforProgress was undertaken as a deliberately part-time/extra endeavor, which meant defining a container around the objectives and time available for it in advance - this would not have been possible without the many years of experience brought to the task.
  • Timeframe : how long did it take between the idea and its implementation - co-creativity has played a major role in Christina’s approaches since 2002; working toward a shift in prevailing global development paradigms will remain a lifelong endeavor.