The executive committee (President's Advisory Committee) had decided to hire consultants to see them through a pre-board meeting process to work through the issues of the organization and to explore possibilities for the future. Proposals were called for, interviews held, and a consulting team of Birgitt Bolton and Larry Peterson were hired. Both consultants are founders of the Open Space Institute of Canada and use Open Space Technology as their preferred means of process. (See their site http://www.tmn.com.openspace/index/html for further details.) As Catherine O'Bryan, president, said early into the process "we hired these consultants because they passed our shlick test." CCLOW members had had an unpleasant experience with consultants before which they did not want repeated, especially at this meeting. There was also some uncertainty that one member of this consulting team was male. The group waited to see what would happen.
Birgitt and Larry began their two-and-one half-day process by introducing their use of the medicine wheel of indigenous peoples from around the world as a diagnostic tool for organizations and as a means of building healthy organization. They explained that the medicine wheel enables collectives of people to function and is simple to use focusing on leadership in the north, vision in the east, community in the south, and management in the west. (When all four components are in balance, the organization is healthy. When an organization is unhealthy, it is easy to diagnose the root of the problem using the medicine wheel. In the centre of the medicine wheel is the purpose of the organization.) As they introduced the medicine wheel and use of it as a diagnostic and working means for CCLOW, they outlined the agenda which included speaking time assessing CCLOW from each of the four directions and thinking about whether there was a strong enough purpose for the organization to exist. The majority of the process would be conducted using Open Space Technology.
Prior to this exercise, however, it was important for the group to understand something about the cycle of organizations as well as to understand the impact of grief work on the organization. The first morning was spent looking at the past and at the present with the intention of letting it go, of honouring it. The consultants explained that all parts of the past and present, both good and bad must be acknowledged before looking at the future. Within this time, the group identified the assumptions they were able to operate from before, as well as looking at the assumptions in the changing context. It was clear to all that what was, was no longer. Time was given for a long lunch break so that individual members could do what they needed to do to let go of the past with CCLOW in the form of some kind of personal ritual, so that they could come back after the break with clearer heads and hearts to explore the future.
Following the break, Larry and Birgitt started work with the medicine wheel looking at leadership in the north. They explained that nothing could move forward in an organization unless there were people willing to take risks and willing to access their courage. Both risk and courage are essential ingredients for leadership. Following a number of exercises, the group identified that leadership was within all of them. This insight allowed the group and the process to move to the east to explore vision. The exercise was not about creating a vision statement but about really looking at vision for CCLOW. The group discovered a very common, very meaningful and deep vision for the future of CCLOW. There was both surprise and delight as the members realized this shared commitment. They had never had the chance to step back and think about it before.
With both leadership and vision acknowledged as present, the consultants then identified that the next place of work was in the south, the place of community and healing. To access community and healing and to search for the issues and opportunities for the future of CCLOW they "opened the space" for the balance of that day including the evening and all of the second day using Open Space Technology.