Dear SEAMEO INNOTECH, Manila and the Philippines,

On November 2, I arrived here excited, yet also anxious. I could not easily dismiss the difficult US electoral process that had consumed our national psyche nor could I totally ignore the tense dialogue between our two countries.

Regardless of what transpired, I trusted that my time here would be special. Without knowing what awaited, I just knew. That said, never could I have guessed the depth and significance of what would happen during my 2-week stay.

A “Back to the Future” awakening that feels like a coming home to who we truly are.

In a world grappling with uncertainty and fear, the Filipinos have taught me, through their genuine acts of leadership and kindness, that it is possible to navigate conflict and chaos and to do good in the world. In the visible and invisible of their daily lives, in the way they treat each other and how they welcome strangers coming to their shores, I saw a people teaching us what the future can be if we remember what it is like to live in community and remain connected as family.

The Philippines are a proud country. They have been oppressed by many in their history; violent storms have buffeted their land and in the midst of it all, there is a quality of resilience, humility, respect, dignity and grace that seems to go to the core of what it means to be authentically human.

To weather these storms and conflicts without losing sight of what matters most is something that I will carry inside me as I go home. It will guide my actions in the months and year to come. Thank you to all who I have met in the Philippines! The smiles in your eyes have found their way into my heart. 

Yes I have fallen in love with this country and its people because I saw what so many of us in the world seem to have forgotten: the power of life at its best when ordinary people engage in simple acts of extraordinary kindness in their every day life. Whether a smile, a connection or a helping hand, one cannot help but be in awe of the sincerity that lies behind each encounter.  I have felt such kinship with so many these past weeks. Our conversations have been deep and profound, serious and joyous, rife with possibilities anchored in the reality of what is. A future of small steps that allow us to take the bigger leaps…together and not alone. 

Our Beloved WOSonOS Gatherings

The main purpose of my visit was to engage, support and attend the World Open Space on Open Space 2016. I had made similar Open Space treks to faraway places in the past: Taiwan in 2009, Berlin 2010, Chile in 2011, London in 2012. In 2013, it was Florida’s turn to host this global gathering welcoming seasoned open space facilitators and many new to this practice of Open Space.

The invitation theme for the 2016 WOSonOS was as prescient as it was expansive.

THEME: “The World is Shifting; Come Back to the Circle, Open More Space.”

Now, I return to America. I feel blessed to have had the opportunity to teach a bit of what I am totally passionate about: the basics of  Open Space in tandem with Agile beyond Software which invites execution in ways that give power to people and teams.

But what is truly seared in my soul and emblazoned in my heart is the learning I received from so many encounters, those who are building cathedrals in the magnitude of their trailblazing projects (many in education) and others who simply do the ordinary work behind the scenes that allows the extraordinary to happen.

One such person who is oft behind the camera and invisible in that way is Mark John, the SEAMEO INNOTECH master photographer and videographer, whose images speak louder than words  the story that I have just told here. Thank you Mark. Your photos were magical!

If you visit the #wosonos2016  Facebook page and the uploaded session documentation site, you will fill your eyes and spirit with the energy of what happened.

Experimenting with a bit of virtual. Not always easy connecting over the time zones. But we didn’t give up. Thank You Michael Herman for making this happen.

In Open Space, passion and responsibility show up. We can see it in the body language, in the losing track of time, so immersed are we in whatever we are doing.

Inside or outside, we get in touch with our body, we let ourselves be transported to being totally in the moment with new and old friends.  Laughter mixed with serious. It’s all delicious.

Mark’s photos invites us to be voyeurs of some very special moments.



Huddled together wishing it would never end. The Philippines will be forever changed because of WOSonOS. Spaces are primed to open in so many places. All we can say is “Be Prepared to Be Surprised” but don’t be surprised to see open space multiply here.

I close with buckets of hugs and appreciation to the WOSonOS Hosts and to all who attended in person and virtually. Through these images, hoping you felt transported into our world if only for a few minutes or longer. The spirit of our dear Open Space colleagues from around the world were often in our thoughts and hearts. Until next year, perhaps in Taiwan!