Tuesday, June 28thmarked the first of Vancouver for Acumen’s newly launched Salon Conversation Series; an event designed around conversation and inspired by the values and principles of Acumen Fund.
The idea sprung from our chapter’s two-day moral leadership workshop in early May after posing the question “How can we share more conversations about the values and principles of Acumen Fund in a way that is unique and enriching for participants but at the same time scalable to other chapters?”
Spearheaded by chapter members Amanda Waye and Andrew Dalik, the idea for a dinner conversation series came to life. The events would be monthly dinner gatherings where attendees would pre-read/watch a selection of Acumen’s leadership content varying from short stories to historical speeches both local and global and meet over good food to share, discuss and inspire.
Deciding that a test-run would be a good way to collect feedback and tweak our format, the June 28th Salon invited chapter members and “friends” of Van4Acumen to help shape the concept through our pilot on the first theme of “Moral Imagination”.
Readings ranged from Amin Maalouf’s reflections on the multi-faceted composition of one’s identity, Chimamanda Adichie’s classic TED talk warning of “The Danger of a Single Story”, and Eisha-May Walker, a 12 year old girl living in Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside’s, short story of her life in a neighbourhood more commonly associated with poverty, substance abuse and mental illness.
The idea of the Salons is that “Part of the value is not knowing where the conversation will take you (or where you will take the conversation!).” With the Salon’s inspirational content and the acceptance that I was about to get comfortable with being uncomfortable (I’m not so good without structure), I jump head first into facilitating the conversation with the three other conversationalists at my table.
The evening was a smashing success. The food was delicious, the participants were engaged and reflective and I walked away feeling like I learned three new perspectives versus meeting three new acquaintances.
Upon later reflection, a few things that struck me about the experience:
1) That moral imagination means being grey: When it comes to complex issues of identity, perspective and experience, there are no right and wrong answers, just answers. Each person in our group highlighted different “take-aways” from the readings and as we dug deeper to understand each person’s story and opinion it became clear that these topics are not black and white and that moral imagination is less about having a defined answer and more about embracing the greyness of the multiple perspectives that shape each of us.
2) The uniqueness of our stories yet the commonality of our shared experience: Having posed the question “Has there been a situation where you have used a single story?” it was undeniable that each participant had created single stories (about anything) in our lives and although our stories were unique we were connected through our shared experience of the single story. Reflecting on this, and Acumen Fund’s core value of dignity, it served to remind me that despite our perceived differences we are all so alike in the most fundamental of ways.
3) The ease in which we connect with one another, once we give ourselves permission: For me, the Salon was a reminder of how rarely in my day-to-day interactions I give myself the opportunity to meaningfully connect with others. It was amazing to me that over the course of two hours our group of four (some of us strangers) were willing to share highly personal perspectives on contentious issues. I believe the uniqueness of this experience was not due (solely) to the people in our group, but to the permission we gave ourselves to have intimate dialogue about complex issues and create a space of trust and non-judgment.
I look forward to hearing the learning’s from the next Salon Series on July 26th and hope to see you there!
– Carla Culos, @carlaculos