• Fyodor Ovchinnikov

Group Reflections on the Work and Teachings of Nora Bateson: a Collective Narrative

Updated: Apr 2

Produced by Fyodor Ovchinnikov

On Wednesday, March 23, 2022, a group of 23 participants from Brazil, Canada, Chile, Indonesia, Kenya, Morocco, the Netherlands, Russia, Sweden, the Unighted Kingdom, and the United States gathered for the third peer learning session of the Thought Leadership for Systems Transformation program to discuss their reflections on the work and teachings of Nora Bateson.

Participants’ reflections were recorded and processed according to the Collective Narrative Methodology to create a balanced summary of key ideas that showed up in group discussions using participants' own words and giving every participant an opportunity to ensure that their ideas are included.

Aline Iglesias, Anton Titov, Ben Roberts, Cass Charrette, Claudia Tramon, Dounia Saeme, Heather Nelson, John Kamau Ng'ang'a, Jyo Maan, Ken Homer, Laura Grassi, Les Moore, Lynn Chittick, Maria Talero, Michael Sillion, Natalia Harzu, Prashant Amara, Rafael Calcada, Ray Guyot, Robert E. Fishkin, Robert Lindstrom, Sam Lutz, and Sophia Bazile participated in the session and contributed to this collective narrative.

Here is the recording of the group call with Nora Bateson based on this collective narrative:


What is our being and where is our grounding?

Reflecting on Nora’s work, we talked a lot about internal aspects, about who we are as beings. What does it mean for systems to be spiritual, living, and conscious? And based on that, who are we in these systems? Where are we and who are we becoming? What are the practices that can connect us to a role of living expression of the earth? What are the practices that make us realize that we are a part of a living ecosystem, that we are not separate from it? What practices connect us to each other when we are afraid of each other? How do we move past the barriers of fear? What patterns are we part of? What are the patterns that make up a human?

We would like to hear Nora’s thoughts on the challenge of switching to an absolutely new way of thinking. If we are allowing the system to evolve and we should not have a vision of the endpoint, which feels like a paradox to some of us given our current way of thinking, what is the grounding that we can stand on during this process of blind evolvement? What are the “gods” besides the “god of technology” and the “god of mind” that should be invited to the “pantheon” of the evolvement?

Should we measure systemic shifts and what story can help us get away from measuring everything with money?

In terms of the evolutionary process, how can we measure new or current systems or systemic shifts? Should we measure that? What does it look like when we become unstuck? When we are unstuck, what does it look like? How can we get the feedback in terms of measurement, feeling, etc?

And what is the story, a narrative that moves us away from measuring everything in one transferable money unit that we use to measure all kinds of things? Even though this might have been very progressive for human society, now it is very dangerous to just have a price for everything when it is really not transferable to anything that is connected with life, with the biosphere, or with warm data.

How can we navigate both warm data and scientific measurement?

What does warm data navigation look like when it is done in parallel with scientific measurement? How do we navigate both the warm data world and the scientific, measurable world at the same time, while recognizing the difference? Some of us think that if we want to change patterns for metaphors or underlying metaphors, we should see them and their ways. What are some tools to do that? What are the enabling metaphors that can be used and how can we bring those metaphors to our common lives?

How can we see the partners so that we could change them? When creating a project for good that is going to change the world, to change humanity, how can we see insidious issues? What are some techniques that entrepreneurs or any group of people can use to deal with insidious issues when they work on such projects? How do we discern between insidious flows and flows of vitality?

How can we transform polarity into plurality?

How do we dance with the system in a way that transforms polarity into plurality? What is the common thread that unites us the most and what is the thing that tears us apart the most? How do we open more space for plural conversation and how can we connect polarities and radical points of view?

We also focused on expression: when we perceive something, how do we understand it and how do we speak about it? How do we become literate in that? What are Nora’s reflections on the territory in human pursuits to map the territory and what are some of the discernments in her practice?

How can we find the balance of different voices?

We talked about language and unseen new perceptions. How can we tell a story that can be heard by people from our community across different languages? For those of us with the “confident English American thing”, what can we do to invite global voices that are not often heard and just be really attuned and soft to hear and perceive other things that we have not seen or talked about before, things that we might have not even known are there?

How can we find the balance to allow new stories to emerge? What do we bring to the table? How to talk about it? What defines whether we are right to tell a certain story? How do we know that there is no cultural, political, or other influence coming to this story from our community? How to invite others to see me? Or should I invite others to see me? What does Nora think about imagination? Where does imagination come from? Are we having our own imagination or are we being influenced by all the things that happened throughout our lives? How do we become literate in an unknown thing (even though it was always there), so we can all be invited to the table?

How can we transcend the limitations of language?

Is language a barrier to storytelling or not? How do we tell stories if our language is limiting? Are we always limited by telling our stories through language or can we tell these stories in a different way so that people can understand them more?

When we talked about language, some of us brought up the point that sign language is a conceptual language that even precedes linear language. One of us who knew sign language used it to communicate such concepts as “equal partnership”, “spirituality”, and “connection to the Earth”, “you and I can connect”, “we all can connect”, “we connect to everything”, etc.

Are there methods other than conceptual language, such as visuals? How could we have a language for new perceptions in a way, visual or other, that allows everybody to be invited and have access on an equal basis? How do we enhance our capacity of creating metaphors or artifacts that can act as warm data? What other tools besides language and stories does Nora see as an expansive capacity? As some of us talked about the spiritual nature, some synchronistic awesomeness happened: as we talked about very complex things, we all seemed to understand them.

How do we work with challenges, struggles, and friction to enable learning without traumatic consequences?

Some of us also reflected on how we can curate challenges, struggles, and friction that we rub up against in order to learn. What does that look like? What do curated challenge, struggle, and friction look like to enable our learning because if we have leisure, a friction-free life, there is no learning in that?

But at the same time, how do we move away from the trauma and demons that are not good for us? How do we not make this struggle and challenge lethal for us or for the biosphere in that relationship but also have a realization that there must be something to make us stronger and grow as humans and as a society? How do we orient toward aphanipoisis given power struggles, trauma, trust violations, and interpersonal conflict in our change-making systems?

How can we bring Warm Data as a practical technology to our own contexts?

Finally, we are curious to know what the minimum requirements for enacting Warm Data flows are. How do we facilitate communities of Warm Data process? In our different contexts, how do we create a practical technology of Warm Data?

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