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Deborah Frieze

Deborah Frieze

Deborah Frieze is an author, entrepreneur and social activist. As former co-president of The Berkana Institute, Deborah joined Berkana in 2002 to help bring its vision into the world and grow the Institute. She currently serves as a board member and is leading several initiatives that support the creation of healthy and resilient communities. The pioneering leaders in these communities are the subject of Walk Out Walk On: A Learning Journey Through Communities Daring to Live the Future Now.
America broke the rules of living systems

Posted on February 20, 2012

“Without ethics, politics has no limits. America broke the rules of living systems, and lost its balance. All the oxygen flowed to a smaller and smaller section of the body politic. The history is brief and unquestionable: close to toppling, the society momentarily pulled itself upright, and then became even less ethical, less balanced, more endangered than ever as a lawless financial system came back from death, and like a foolish patient after a heart bypass operation, continued in its old ways.”

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Social media seems to be heating up our pot

Posted on January 19, 2012

Last night, ten faces peered back at me from the glow of my computer screen—including my own. This was my first Google+ Hangout experience, and now nine strangers were gazing into my living room (and I into theirs) as we began a dialogue about educators experimenting with walking out and walking on. And who knows how many others peeked in, as lurkers were invited to watch the one-hour dialogue via live stream.

Ten years ago, I would not have invited nine people I had never met into my home at 9 PM on a Wednesday night. A year ago, I would not have “friended” someone I had never met in person. Day by day, my relationship to privacy, intimacy and social boundaries is slowly eroding. Much like the frog in boiling water, I am gradually adapting to the persistent incursions of social media into my daily life—and potentially destroying my brain in the process.

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Playing to Change the World: The Time of the Jester

Posted on December 9, 2011

Just after midnight last night, I found myself in Boston’s financial district, following in the footsteps of a New Orleans-style brass band that marched along Atlantic Avenue. More than a thousand Occupiers and supporters were dancing in the streets as the city prepared to evict the Dewey Square encampment. The Mayor’s midnight deadline had passed, and the square and surrounding streets were overflowing with people singing and chanting and dancing.

A few hours earlier at the evening’s General Assembly, a proposal was made to meet the City of Boston’s eviction demand with a dance party. The proposal’s champion called for protesters to “clean up our mess entirely” and “be the first Occupy to just ‘poof!’ and be gone like a gypsy squad.”

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Restoring Citizenship: Is Occupy Our Opportunity?

Posted on November 9, 2011

Last night, I attended a forum at MIT to reflect on the significance of the Occupy movement. Pete, one of the Boston Occupiers who coordinates the medical team, was sharing stories about the challenges of daily life in Dewey Square, which alongside activists and protesters, has attracted drug dealers, sex workers and the homeless. According to Pete, the Boston police have essentially handed Dewey Square over to the Occupiers, requiring that they police themselves.

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Occupying Boston and the Hood, Together

Posted on October 23, 2011

Last week, Meg Wheatley and I hosted a conversation in Washington, DC, about the relationship between Walk Out Walk On and the Occupy movement. The event took place at Busboys and Poets, a restaurant, bookstore and community gathering place named for American poet Langston Hughes. It is also a place where activists, artists and dreamers challenge one another to think differently about race, culture, politics and social change—and for that reason, it felt particularly apt for us to be there. Because right now, I’m deep inside questions about what constitutes a movement, who belongs and who doesn’t, what happens when people of privilege rise up and whether it matters who gets left out. Read More »

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Criminalization of friendship: Have we gone so far?

Posted on September 23, 2011

I’m sitting in a café in Copenhagen thinking about friendship. I’m here because a dear friend of mine asked me to show up, and I said yes. It has been three years since my last visit, and during that time, her father passed away. So I’m here now despite being in the middle of a book tour that has me away from home through to Thanksgiving. Even so, this was a good decision.

I’ve been learning quite a bit about friendship lately. In the last few Walk Out Walk On workshops, the Intervention to Friendship distinction has been the most provocative and revelatory, and it’s got me wondering what it is that makes friendship—the dearest nourishment to our hearts and souls—so threatening to our professional lives.

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What moves you? A collective poem

Posted on September 13, 2011

The following post was offered via Facebook by Nathan Daniel.

A collective poem by the participants of the South Africa to Zimbabwe Learning Journey hosted by Greenhouse Project, Johannesburg and Kufunda Village, Harare on 10-20 August 2011. After a day attending sustainability projects in Jhb CBD, we spent two days learning together at Kufunda Village, followed by two days in a rural community. Seventeen South African youth from Cape Town and Johannesburg collaborated with over 20 Kufunda youth to lead an Oasis Game in the small village of Tandi in the Rusape town district of Manicaland, approximately 160 kilometers southeast of Harare, Zimbabwe. This journey was facilitated by the South African and Zimbabwean Warriors Without Weapons who had trained in 2009 and 2011 with Instituto Elos in Santos, Brazil. It was an extraordinary, espectacular gathering of youth, mobilizing 200+ community members who together built four wonderful playgrounds and completed a beautiful pre-school / community centre all in the space of two days. This is a harvest of the final words of our closing circle, which I was blessed to host with Lorraine from Kufunda. Photos and updates on facebook.com/AfricaOasis. Read More »

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Fitting a Square Peg into a Round Hole

Posted on September 1, 2011

Recently, my friend Manish Jain asked me to write some reflections about the relationship between resilience and jugaad, a Hindi term for ingenuity, an invitation to the imagination to play and invent new solutions using whatever is right in front of you.

It brought to mind for me a scene in the movie Apollo 13, when the NASA engineers realize that they have to construct a carbon dioxide filter using only materials available on the spacecraft—and that they’ve got a mismatch between, literally, a square peg and a round hole. They dump a mass of random material on the table, and the lead engineer says, “The people upstairs handed us this one and we gotta come through. We gotta find a way to make this [square cartridge] fit into the hole for this [round cartridge] using nothing but that [materials on the table].”

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We are everywhere and we are one another

Posted on August 2, 2011

This morning I woke up to this email from Sarah Whiteley, one of the stewards of Axladtisa-Avatakia, the learning community in Greece that I wrote about in Walk Out Walk On.

You might have heard… but two nights ago, Syntagma Square was stormed by the riot police—and now the tent village is not there. People were evicted and some arrested.

Yet, the People’s Council still gathered last night—and continued to rock the cradle of democracy.

Hundreds of thousands of Greek citizens have occupied Syntagma Square in Athens for 60 days in protest of their government’s austerity measures. Now the Square has been cleared—as has Tahrir Square in Egypt, where armored tanks and riot police rolled in last night.

Are we witnessing the repression and subsequent dissolution of yet another people’s movement? Or is something else being born?

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Something is wrong with our money system. Duh.

Posted on July 14, 2011

“Something is wrong with the global financial system. International financial crises or near-crises have become regular events… The question is not whether there will be another crisis, but where it will be.”

—Nobel Laureate Joseph Stiglitz, 2003

It couldn’t be better timing. I’m reading New Money for a New World, a forthcoming book by economist Bernard Lietaer and co-author Stefan Belgin that examines the systemic failures of our current money system. Meantime, U.S. politicians are offering up drama, paradox, contradiction and befuddlement as we tumble toward the prospect of defaulting on our nation’s debt.

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