A reflection from the Cynefin™ Retreat on the Aran Islands in Ireland

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The Aran Island Cynefin™ Retreat on narrative was a resounding success. It was a small and intimate group which suited the remote, but spectacular setting. Besides stimulating input from the faculty, we also visited the wild cliffs and ancient structures around the island, spent an evening with a traditional story-teller who entertained with stories about Fairies and other mythical creatures and watched the decades-old documentary: Man of Aran to embed ourselves even further into the rich stories of the island.

Yiannis Gabriel did an excellent job of framing the three days by introducing a generative metaphor: seeing narratives as part of Narrative Ecologies e.g. temperate zones with many narratives competing and interacting with each other; monocultures where a single narrative dominates; deserts with very few identifiable narratives. This soon led to conversations around culture and the metaphor of how a gardener tends and nurtures an ecology vs designing and engineering metaphors.

Mo Costandi followed with a session on the brain and how many of the stories we construct and tell ourselves are mostly false. In many ways our biases determine what we remember, and therefore the stories we construct. This obviously has big implications for not only research processes, but also legal processes that rely on eye witness accounts.

Mary Condren explored how particular narratives or discourses can have profound influence on all aspects of our lives, especially if the meaning of those narratives are determined by those in power: the narrative she chose to focus on was of sacrifice. She highlighted how it is used to legitimise atrocities like war and also underlie issues like gender inequality.  

The learnings from this retreat are too many and varied to convey in a few short paragraphs.  If you feel like you have missed out, make sure not to miss the next 2 opportunities:

***Please note that Tasmania Retreat has been cancelled, and the agenda has moved to the Cynefin Retreat in Snowdonia.


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