Enabling change in our Society, Environment and Economy (SEE)

Creating rich conversations

May meeting 2013

by Mark Spain

About a dozen people engaged in a rich conversation about how we talk with others who disagree with us, and how we work usefully with really difficult situations without either giving up, avoiding the issue or resorting to naive optimism?

We experimented with a technique of using a talking piece to bring listening and reflection to our dialogue as an attempt to go more deeply into the powerful dynamics beneath these questions.

The talking piece was a smoothly worn stone from the edge of Australia where it interacts with the Pacific Ocean.

As each person who was moved to speak held it, everyone else listened to what they had to say until they had finished and passed the stone back into the centre.

One of our speakers observed that most people attending were over 40yrs old, although one of us was under 40 and recently arrived from India.

Our diversity added much richness to our conversation.

We each have different strategies, responses and questions to our current circumstances and the choices we need to make for our future.

What a pleasure it is to listen respectfully to each other sharing our dilemmas about the future of humanity played out in our local community. Where else can you have these conversations?

Although the topic was initiated about the challenges of communication much of our conversation was about discussing possibles future scenarios and how we respond to these scenarios now and in our imagination.

The insights for me are that there is much value in hosting compassionate and caring conversations about people’s fears and hopes for how the future will unfold. It was more engaging and informative than any TV show.

What we were doing was preparing ourselves for how to be more resilient into the future. Here’s a 9min video that touched on some of the themes in our conversation about how to get ready for the surfing ahead: www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=Mdv_iAa5rnk

SEE Change has a key role in hosting these conversations with the quality required to bring new insights and possibilities.

With thanks to our


  • ACT Government Environment and Planning
  • The Association of Independent Schools of the ACT (AISACT)
  • Catholic Education Office (Archdiocese of Canberra and Goulburn)
  • Education and Training Directorate
  • ACT Government