What happens when catastrophe fundamentally shifts the world we know? On March 11, 2011, the triple disasters of earthquake, tsunami, and radiation leak devastated northeastern Japan. In the aftermath of the tragedy, people from throughout the country began to gather not just to share their grief but to consider how they might create a new future together. Numerous initiatives have been launched to experiment with the structures, processes, and practices that create conditions for creativity and collective action.
We are in a time when all around the world we are confronted with collapsing systems and numerous disasters. The people of Japan – and especially of the Tohoku region – are showing how to build healthy and resilient communities. People in the disaster area and throughout Japan have been learning how to stand up while standing together. This combination of individuation and collectivity is the energy that calls communities to life.
Bob Stilger, one of New Stories’ Co-Presidents, has been shaped in many ways by Japan. He first went as a college student in 1970. Japan is is spiritual home. He and his spouse, Susan Virnig, and daughter, Anne Lucy Stilger Virnig, have been in deep and close relationship with the Nakatsugawa family of Kyoto for 44 years.
In 2010, Bob was invited to introduce Art of Hosting approaches to participatory leadership in Japan and, when the disasters came in 2011, he began extensive work in the disaster area. His work has been to invite people into dialog to grieve, to dream, to find a way forward and to begin to develop new collaborative partnerships. Bob shared a bit of his story in his April, 2014 keynote of the Systems Thinking In Action (STIA+) conference in Seattle:
Eiji Press in Tokyo published Bob’s book 未来が見えなくなったとき、僕たちは何を語ればいいのだろうin June of 2015. An English Edition will be available by March, 2016 and the working title is a translation of the Japanese: When We Cannot See the Future, Where Do We Begin?
Bob’s extensive blogs from Japan are here: Resilient Japan Blogs
Two articles that may be of particular interest are:
- Disaster As A Springboard, published in December, 2013 in the Reflections Journal of the Society of Organizational Learning
- Fukushima’s Future, published in February, 2014 on the Open Democracy: Transformation website.
Also this book chapter:
- Enspirited Leadership in Japan, published as part of K. G. Schuyler (Ed.), Leading with Spirit, Presence and Authenticity. Hoboken, NJ: Jossey-Bass. 2014