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Conveners, Not Leaders: A Note From Our Executive Director

Here at Pomegranate Center we are careful to distinguish between conveners and leaders. What’s the difference?

A leader is someone in charge, who has the authority to make decisions. Our current president, for example, is a leader.

A convener, on the other hand, is someone who has the ability to bring people together, capitalize on their diverse strengths, and move an issue toward collective action. Our current president, I would argue, is not a convener.

What the world needs right now is more conveners, not leaders. The pressing issues of our time are complex and systemic, and we will only solve them by harnessing the collective strength of our diverse expertise. This is convening work, and as we have learned over the course of 30 years, it is not easy. It requires an ability to hold open a conversational space and to create the conditions for constructive action–a collaborative intelligence that is developed only through practice.

Increasingly, training and mentoring conveners is becoming the focus of Pomegranate Center’s work. It turns out that after three decades of working with communities to design and build public spaces, we have learned a few things about how to bring people together to make decisions collaboratively. In retrospect, one of the most pivotal moments in our organizational history was codifying this experience into a teachable set of workshops, the “Pomegranate Method,” so that we could transfer this capacity to other people.

Our current initiative is to develop the next level of training and mentorship programming so that we can give rise to a new generation of capable conveners. We plan to create continuing education programs where participants can receive advanced training, tap into a network of practitioners to share best practices, and collectively elevate the caliber of practice for those engaged in this work.

Pomegranate Center will always build community-driven art-filled public spaces. But now these spaces will also serve to provide powerful hands-on experience for those learning the convening arts.

This is why we are so excited to share the good news that, thanks to a generous three-year grant from the M.J. Murdock Charitable Trust, we will have the capacity to put this vision into action. Their support will allow us to bring on board our first Education Director and help us develop new tools and programs.

We are grateful for the Murdock Trust’s assistance, but let’s be clear that Pomegranate is still in need of support. Unfortunately, capitalism does not directly value what we offer as an organization, and we are increasingly reliant on the generous contributions of those who share our values and vision. If you agree that we need more conveners and not leaders and want to help, please don’t hesitate to get in touch. I would love to hear from you.