I met Dominic in 1997. Our most intensive collaborative engagement with each other was between 2003 and 2015. My own sense of it is that both his thinking and mine have been shaped by these conversations. As a result, Dominic has his footprint in much of the NGL framework. Much of it is impossible to pinpoint, because our conversations have touched on everything. And, still, I want to name some specific ways that what I learned from Dominic has shaped the work we are doing within NGL.
The single most important thing was the significance of what he calls “projects,” an aspect of the work that is sorely missing in the ways that NVC is mostly used in the global North. It took me years to fully take it in and integrate it, and when I did, it was a before and after realization. The simplest version of it is for any sharing of the work with others to come from actual application and experimentation rather than from what was learned in someone else’s workshops. Marshall’s inspiring stories came from his work in the field. If all we have to share are Marshall’s stories, we haven’t lived the work sufficiently to be able to live from it when we share about it. I hope that I have been able to make this quantum leap simple to understand. I explain it most clearly in the “Introduction to the Learning Packets” and within the “Principle-Based Teaching of NVC” packet.
A second deep influence is in the area of resource flow. Our early experimentation in the gift economy evolved, in large part, from our understanding of his collaboration and learning with marginalized communities in Brazil developing what he calls “Financial Coresponsibility,” including the collaborative distribution practice that he named “Money Pile.” A blog post from 2018 called “Matching Resources to Needs: Learning to Receive through Participating in ‘Money Piles’” speaks to my understanding of the principles of this practice. As we continued and deepened our own experimentation, we also developed our own forms which are explained elsewhere on this website, where we invite you to support us. Where we landed is different enough that we found more clarity and a better match for our approach through the image of gift hubs, of which the financial gift hub is only one.
It is also from Dominic that I learned about communities of shared risk. (Dominic speaks of shared risk and prosperity, and I have found that the word prosperity isn’t aligning easily with what we are doing and how we are approaching it.) Since 2019, we have been explicitly orienting to exploring shared risk, what it means to us, and what would make it possible for more of us to move closer to full shared risk as we now understand it. The learning packet that articulates what we have learned in these experiments is still in development. At present, what is available is a blog post: “Material Risk Sharing for a Livable Future,” and many preliminary updates from our experimentation within the pod which are currently in the archive of my newsletter, especially since 2021.
One more area I want to name is the focus on systems. Although Dominic’s and my approach to systems is different, my thinking in this area was significantly influenced, early on, by my exposure to Dominic’s approach – which he calls Dialogical System Design – when I participated in his early forays into bringing Restorative Circles to North America in 2007 and 2008 in Oakland. Even though much of what we focused on was a process that we practiced, Dominic repeated many times that this offered a taste of what it might feel like to sit in the heart of the work, not a pattern or a substitute for local groups building their own systems, including diverse local practices they design themselves. At a certain moment I got it, and this distinction is pivotal to my own thinking about systems. Our actual conflict engagement system has different processes within it from the ones I learned at that event, and its presence, as a system, is in part the result of that moment.