We live in a world where time is short, lists are long and a paradigm shift in how we show up is becoming more and more necessary if we are going to collectively thrive. How can we begin to thrive individually, in community or even globally, if collectively we are not compassionate to a perspective different than our own? With information from the other side of the world, much of it heartbreaking, only a click away, the responsibility we have to make positive change is perhaps greater now than it ever has been. That change starts with self.
Dana Bass Solomon is the CEO at Hollyhock, Canada’s Leadership Learning Centre on Cortes Island. She says that the mission of Hollyhock is “to inspire, nourish and support and inspire people who are making the world better,” and adds that the founders came from the environmental, social justice and human potential movements.
Hollyhock has been working at making the world a better place since before it was officially founded in 1982. The land carries history in being a summer gathering place for the Coast Salish people. Then came a homesteading family in the early 20th Century, followed by the Cold Mountain Centre in the early 1970’s. While making the world a better place can, at first, seem like a bold and overwhelming, seemingly impossible task, it becomes possible by following the philosophy that making the world better begins with making individuals better; making yourself better.
Dana has taken numerous programs at Hollyhock since first being invited to the Social Venture Institute on Cortes Island in 1998 and what she has learnt through those programs, she carries with her in everything she does. “My best advice,” she says, summing it all up on the phone. “Be real. Being conscious and being real are my best advice as a leader. If you say what’s real, even if it’s not perfect, the person you’re relating with can feel and respond in a more caring and authentic way.”
Dana has been instrumental in guiding Hollyhock and its programs and plays a pivotal role in attracting the more than 2000 people who visit Hollyhock each year. She currently leads the finance, fundraising and marketing and collaborative programming initiatives. She references some singing programs from the 2016 curriculum as an example of their unique approach to lifelong learning. She acknowledges that at first, singing doesn’t lend itself to changing the world in any measurable way. “If you can learn to quietly listen, which is necessary when singing with others, you will find that learning to sing isn’t just about singing,” Dana says. “It’s about listening.” These are skills that can be taken with you into a board room when you have to sit across the table to negotiate with someone who represents values in contrast with your own. For Hollyhock, an example would be logging. It’s actually happened. Dana recalls a few years ago, when opposing parties, after experiencing Hollyhock, learned to listen to each other’s views and progress was made in otherwise deadlocked strongholds in relation to the environment.
“Lifelong learning is about having difficult conversations and that’s important because that’s how change happens.” Dana says. “If I ask a good question and pause to listen, I will learn so much more and become a better leader. A part of that listening is not jumping to conclusions. I listen and if I have a reaction, I do what I can to be aware of that reaction before responding.”
To think that time is going to slow down, that change will happen in our personal lives or that shift will take place on global scale without our active participation is naive. Making the world a better place starts with making improvements to yourself.
Hollyhock is preparing for it’s 35th year of programming on Cortes Island. The 2016 season is over and the gardens have been put to bed. Work continues behind the scenes as the staff and board prepare to release the program for 2017, featuring more than one hundred sessions with world-class teachers, leaders and thought innovators. A sneak peek of the 2017 program now available here.