Interview with Helen Rawlinson by Edith Friesen for Enlivening Edge Magazine
I recently connected with Helen Rawlinson, who pulled back the curtain on how the Teal Organizations Track at this year’s upcoming Integral European Conference was designed. While Helen is new to the Reinventing Organizations or Teal Movement, she is a consultant who has been marinating in systems thinking, Integral Theory, and Spiral Dynamics for many years. Listen in on our conversation.
EF: What drew you in to help with the design of the Teal Organization Track?
HR: I had been sitting in on EE’s community conversations, which meant getting up at 3 AM because I live in Australia. I had also watched Alia Aurami and George Por on the We-Space Summit EE panel. So when Alia said, “We are happy to have anyone contact us,” I e-mailed her and asked if there was any way I could get involved in any EE project remotely from Australia. And she said, “Well, we have this conference coming up…”
Then, I had a Zoom call with George. He asked me if I’d be willing to develop a set of capabilities for working with systems from the Teal level, and then go to Budapest and run a workshop on these capabilities. George deftly stretched me a little beyond my comfort zone (laughs). By the end of it, I had a role and was on a team with him and Anna Betz. As soon as we started talking, I knew I was actually going to Budapest, and that I would move heaven and earth to get there.
EF: (laughs) Yes, George has a gift for reeling people in like that. Tell me how your team worked together.
I worked closely with George and Anna. Our job was to decide on the presenters and schedule the Teal Organization Track. Together, we looked at all the submissions, about 50 of them, and selected around 30.
It worked out to be a really good team. George is a visionary, very focused on how we build the energies for a movement. I am good at that, too, especially working with the energies of very large system. I also have skills in Excel spreadsheets, which we needed for this task. Anna is able to operate at both levels. I remember a few times she kept us on track by asking: How do we do this practical job in a Teal way? A couple of times, George pulled out of the process so that Anna and I could get on with the job at hand. This was brilliant.
EF: How did you choose the presentations? What were your criteria?
HR: Our major focus for this conference is to energise the Teal Movement. So, the three of us wanted workshops that would create momentum and build movement within the Movement. We put the submissions on a spreadsheet and scored them out of 5. We included the 5s and 4s. We debated the 3s. And we gave 2s and 1s to submissions that weren’t relevant, didn’t focus on the future, or didn’t create movement. For me, there was a vibrant energy around the ones we selected.
EF: I’m intrigued by your reference to creating movement within the movement. Can you say more?
HR: Looking back, I think we were looking for three types of movement to support Movement building.
There’s evolutionary movement, what is waiting to emerge. We wanted leading thinkers to present from the edge, about what might be coming just over the horizon.
Then there’s horizontal movement, expanding people’s knowledge and skills. We selected a few presentations that would bring something new and help people refine their thinking. For example, how has Teal been used in organizations? Which approaches and processes have worked, and what did not work? We wanted presentations that would help people identify their own next step, and get the courage and confidence to take it.
There is also vertical movement. We wanted presentations with experiential exercises designed to expose people to new ways of making sense of themselves and their environments. Presentations that could create an impact on their deeper inner journeys. This expands consciousness, which, I believe, is a significant component of what moves us from one stage of the developmental spiral up to the next.
EF: Circling back to Anna’s question about coming at this in a Teal way, how else did you do that?
HR: When we scheduled the presentations, we considered the whole space, and we thought about how things connected. This is different from the structured, practical way that the main conference sessions are being arranged.
Also our emphasis was on creating an experience for the attendees. We want the Teal Organizations Track to be experiential; we want people to go away changed. Each of us has been liaising with selected presenters to ensure alignment with this intention, and sometimes working with them to make their sessions highly interactive.
EF: What are you finding as you liaise with the presenters?
HR: Most of the presenters have been working on their own, driven by an internal passion, by their values and their compassion, by their concern about creating a better world. So there is a real need for a community. And there is a lot of potential to build on connections after the conference.
We have the technology to keep these conversations going long after the conference is over. So, I’m working with Kristen Del Simone of Enlivening Edge to form an EE Community of Practice. We want to invite people to that community before they leave the conference, and while they are still energized.
EF: Thanks for your time, Helen, and for this fascinating and instructive behind-the-scenes view.
As a lifelong writer, Edith has worked in diverse organizations and coached writers. She enjoys helping people write in Teal-inspired ways that touch the body, heart, soul, and mind. Send email to arcadiawilds