“Healing Communication” webinar considers global and interpersonal possibilities for transformation through CMM

“Healing Communication” webinar considers global and interpersonal possibilities for transformation through CMM


From its beginnings as a collaborative effort between Vern Cronen and Barnett Pearce at the University of Massachusetts-Amherst, the Coordinated Management of Meaning (CMM) has inexorably “colonized” other academic spaces, especially in places where creating capacity for social change is of primary importance. Fielding Graduate University, where Barnett served as a faculty member for many years, acknowledged this influence with a collaborative webinar on September 12, 2019, in partnership with the CMM Institute.  The webinar, titled “healing communication” was introduced by Fielding President, Katrina Rogers, who commented on the enduring legacy of Barnett Pearce at Fielding, and the way he touched the lives of both faculty and students. This was evidenced by the 46 people on the call, including a number of alumni.

Fielding’s Provost, Monique Snowden gave an overview of CMM, which she characterized as having quietly transformed the way communication is taught, resulting in the underlying ideas of social construction of reality becoming part of mainstream thought.  Snowden, who earned her doctorate in organizational communication, pointed to CMM as being particularly well-suited for difficult situations with a high degree of complexity, which she referred to as “social worlds in crisis.” We are faced daily with many social worlds in crisis, including education, politics, and mental health, and in each of these contexts, the making of meaning is a central consideration. Snowden further used episodes of gun violence in schools and communities as a particular area in which CMM could offer much-needed forces of healing. “How can we find ways to move forward without moving on?” she asked, referring to the possibility of staying with the results of crisis and making meaning from remembrance, in order to learn and heal.

The latter part of the webinar showcased the work of Theresa Southam, the first Fielding CMM Scholarship recipient, and Lukas Hermann, a 2018 Fellow of the CMM Institute. Together, the two presentations illustrated the way that CMM reveals and enables the healing power of communication at interpersonal and intergenerational interfaces, and at the level of significant world events.

Lukas described “global social witnessing” as an emergent phenomenon of “being with” or “attending to” questions as a form of awareness, not necessarily trying to answer the questions. He described this further as a form of practice, not just a theory, and suggested that competence for uniting “local and global citizenship” can be further developed, and this may be necessary for our survival. Another way to describe this is a group practice that helps to enhance awareness of larger systems, and opens us to greater compassion through an “open mind, open heart, and open will.” Lukas is drawing on Barnett’s work pertaining to “Cosmopolitan Communication” as a way to create forms of communication that transcend current barriers of culture and social systems that divide and separate us. Those interested in learning more, including ways to practice this, are welcome to participate in a “conference lab” on Global social witnessing to be held in Witten, Germany in March 30-April 2 as a collaboration between the CMM Institute and the Institute for Global Integral Competence.

Learn more and sign up for the conference at: https://www.globalsocialwitnessing.org/

Theresa’s study was a “micro” look at nine individuals in three communities, using CMM heuristics as a way of looking at what dyads from different generational backgrounds are “making together” in communication.  In particular, she used the CMM “Daisy” model to help mentoring pairs to analyze and focus on the ways that they mutually influence each other, and the LUUUUT (“storytelling”) model to bring out aspects of the relationships between the pairs that would otherwise be unexamined.  She found the awareness created by the visible use of CMM tools to be transformative, and looks forward to using it more.

To help all participants engage directly with the session, Bart Buechner then led a “breakout” discussion focused on the ways that participants might consider CMM as a way to engage difficult questions with which they may be faced. He described the role of CMM as a part of the new Fielding “Somatics, Phenomenology, and Communicative Leadership” (SPCL) concentration, and related the example in Barnett’s book, “Making Social Worlds” describing how the use of CMM perspectives might have offered some different conversations after the September 11, 2001 attack on the United States that might have led to more transformative and less destructive outcomes. Several participants described their work in teaching CMM at graduate and undergraduate levels in various schools, and as a part of the “From Strangers to Collaborators” project between Fielding, the University of the Virgin Islands, and the University of Lodz, Poland.

In closing, Kim Pearce added a personal perspective to the discussion in remembering Barnett, and extended a personal invitation for all to engage further by joining the CMM Institute and participating in various events and online opportunities to connect. Provost Snowden reinforced the commitment for Fielding and the CMM Institute to continue to collaborate to create space for more conversations to move this work further, and to “keep Barnett in the space with us.”

Watch the full session here:

Barton Buechner, PhD
Webinar facilitator and CMM board member

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