Emergent Strategy Illustration

Embracing Paradox

by Tanya Darisi & Lisa Villeneuve (Watson)

“It’s funny how the ugly duckling always has so many beautiful things to teach us.”

Curtis Tyrone Jones


Early February marks the midpoint between winter and spring, an excellent time to reflect with gratitude and to set intentions for new beginnings.


Blessings in Brokenness

Poor 2020, “best year ever” said no one. We called it names, berated it and felt its pain. But as it closed, we were challenged by Openly’s Creative Director, Randal Boutilier to stop the scorn and send it a loving farewell. And in that exercise, we came to realize that last year was a powerful, inspiring teacher. 

So thank you 2020 for being a beautiful, brutal year that broke us open and taught us that we needed to go further with our commitment to equity and justice. For pushing us further into discomfort and deeper into listening. For teaching us to lean into the paradoxes of complexity with greater curiosity and humility.


Embracing Paradox

Now with our feet planted firmly in a new year, we are bringing our learning with us and committing to shape 2021 by:


1. Slowing down to listen and moving faster to brave action

We will pay closer attention to the things that go unnoticed, unheard and unsaid, and graciously welcome the insight, growth and wisdom that can be gained from opening to the truths that scare us. We will centre equity and keep pushing ourselves to take braver action in our own business and to influence honest dialogue and deeper change in the spaces and systems in which we work.

As an example of this, we are currently partnering with the Centre for Connected Communities and their Developmental Evaluation Committee to decolonize the practice of evaluation. The exercise of applying C3’s 10 Keys to Unlock the Potential of Connected Communities had us all questioning convention and reimagining engagement in evaluation activities.


2. Holding the both/and (rather than the either/or) of inner and outer life

We cannot expect to sustain change in the world if we do not sustain the changemakers. We will use our business to fuel the impact and wellbeing of those making change, and do more to sustain their hearts and spirits. We will illuminate systemic issues causing stress and burnout and create opportunities for personal and professional development through connection, learning and sensemaking.

As part of this commitment, 2021 will see further prototyping of a cross-sector peer network/community of practice hosted by the Openly platform. The purpose of this network is to break down silos, build nurturing relationships, and harness the energy and passion for change each member brings to the table.


3. Balancing complex realities with openness to joyful optimism

Happiness is so often elusive in the face of chronic crises, yet our most resilient friends are those who discover light in the darkness. We will continue to be informed by the realities of our shared landscape, and in that landscape, we will commit to joy. We will cultivate joy amidst adversity, with fearless optimism. We will use our platform to shine a light on hope and goodness everywhere we find it.

As a way to keep space for changemakers to nourish their hearts and work through meaningful conversations that are grounded in relationships and good practices, we have launched a Connection Café. You can check out our past topics and see upcoming events here.  

So, that is where our hearts and minds are focused as we take on the year ahead. We’d love to hear from changemakers how these intentions land. Have we hit the mark? Or are we off base? Are you also learning to love and lean into paradox? Do you feel brave and bold? Or are you uncertain? Please share your thoughts and let us know how we can help.

Tanya Darisi & Lisa Villeneuve (Watson)

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What is Connection Café?

What is Connection Café?

Welcome to the Connection Café blog. We’ve heard that changemakers, particularly women, are feeling the weight and burden of sustaining their work and wellbeing amidst continuous uncertainty and change.

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