Confluence through the years
The Confluence is an innovative program that increases community capacity to tackle complex social issues by creating a setting (Gracious Space) and a structured format for bridging boundaries. Structured as a two or three-day retreat, The Confluence gathers 50-60 people from diverse sectors and perspectives (both individually and in teams) to participate in an in-depth learning process that uses dialogue, systems thinking, and collaborative action on a specific topic relevant to social and cultural change.
Each Confluence poses a compelling question that organizes the learning and aims the action toward breakthrough thinking. Confluence topics are chosen with this criteria in mind:
- Advances the common good
- Creates opportunity for personal, community and regional change
- Is amenable to a systems point of view
- Displays readiness for transformative action
- Is of interest across professional, geographic, racial, cultural, socio-economic sectors
- Has energy or “buzz” in the community
- Is not being addressed already at this systemic level
- Is an issue for which partners and conveners bring credibility
A range of design tools such as storytelling, dialogue and experiential activities are used to help participants challenge their own thinking, suspend judgment, enter discussions more deeply, and “learn in public” by being open to the wisdom and experience of others. Participants typically leave the Confluence feeling energized, hopeful and deeply connected, and with tools and relationships that make their change work significantly more effective. Other intended outcomes include:
- Shifts in understanding that can create new actions that advance the work of change;
- An understanding of innovative leadership techniques;
- An increase in each participant's capacity to tap their own sources of innovation;
- New connections and networks;
- A plan for action based on values and the gifts of the team;
CEL has hosted six successful Confluence events:
Fall 2006 - Inspired Action: The Power to Make a Difference. "How do we move past our own limits, outside opposition to ideas, and the power systems in place to create positive social change?"
Spring 2006 - The Sustainability Confluence. “How do we come together to accelerate the sustainability movement in the Puget Sound region?” Participants were invited to apply for seed funding to work on collaborative projects to advance sustainability in the region. The Center also published a white paper on Leadership for Sustainability.
Spring 2004 - Strengthening our Community: Building Authentic Relationships and Exploring Issues of Trust. "How can we strengthen our communities by moving to a new level of authentic relationship?"
Spring 2002 - Exploring the Common Good: Making Community that Works. "How can we deepen and build off the feelings of compassion, community and connectedness that we felt after September 11, 2001 to create a community that works for all people?" Click to view the Spiral Dynamics Flower model of community, and read the description of how to interpret the model.
Fall 2000 - Working for the Common Good: Uniting to End Poverty. “What are the patterns that perpetuate poverty and what are the points that if leveraged properly could break the cycle?” Click to view the Poverty Systems Map created by the participants from this Confluence. The systems map show both positive and negative feedback loops related to poverty from a variety of different areas.
Fall 1999 - Closing the Income Gap: A Focus on Equity and the Common Good. "What can we do to ensure equity for all our citizens?"
CEL published the Confluence Storybook to capture the impact the Confluence had in the lives of some of the participants and the issues they gathered around. Download a free copy of the Confluence Storybook.
The Center is seeking partners who wish to stage a Confluence around a specific topic in the Puget Sound Region.