Creating conversational communities that drive change

Where Do I Even Begin? Understanding Myself and My SEED Work Using Phase Theory


Phase IV:

We meet every other Friday. There are three of us. We usually sit at the same table, order a late breakfast or early lunch, and we revel in the free refills for coffee. We start with a check-in. There’s our personal lives, our professional lives, and the moments where we exclaim, “Oh, and did you see/read/watch … ?” Then we share about what we’re working on both individually and collectively. Three hours later, we always take time to share our appreciation for one another before settling the tab and heading out. This is my home SEED group.

I have other SEED groups, too. I co-facilitate a graduate-level SEED course, officially titled "Cross-cultural Developmental Psychology," with one of my breakfast partners. Then there’s the SEED support group that the three of us co-facilitate monthly for recently trained New York City area SEED leaders. (If you’re interested in joining, please email me!) And every summer I head out with my other breakfast partner to train the new cohort of SEED facilitators. If you haven’t guessed by now, there’s a lot of SEED in my life.

As I look back on a decade of being involved with the National SEED Project, I’m amazed by how much SEED has filled my life. At the same time, I also feel that doing this work is as natural and critical to my being as breathing. This work sustains me. It moves me. And even though it is most certainly work, it’s me working on me as much as it is me working on creating the world I want to live in and pass on to the next generation.

Phase V:

There’s still more to come. My life is full. There just aren’t enough hours in the day. I get exhausted. A couple of months ago, I was with my grandmother-in-law. Filled with a lifetime’s worth of experiences and insights, she sees the wear and tear on my face. "Jondou, what’s the matter?"

"Oh, nothing, Nana, nothing."

"C’mon, Jondou, I’m old, but I’m not that old."

“I’m just tired, Nana, tired and thinking.”

She pauses. "Jondou, if God came down and asked you. If he asked you what your perfect job would be, what would it be? What would you tell him?"

It’s a simple enough question. I’m still caught off guard. I think for a while. And then I respond. "Actually, Nana, if you're asking what I’d want in my life, to fill my days with, I’ve got it."

And I’m being honest. I get to teach and advise amazing students from all walks of life with a million stories. I’m managing a research project that’s looking at what (plural!) motivates children. My life is filled with SEED circles and friendships that are fulfilling and challenging. We’re working for change, and we’re celebrating lives well-lived daily. My life is so good in so many dimensions. And that’s the hardest part of it. That’s my Phase Five. And there’s still more to come.

Phase Theory continues to provide a useful framework for me to understand my own story and then share it with others. Phase Theory is one of my favorite ways of introducing people to SEED in terms of the need for SEED and what SEED provides. Perhaps most important, Phase Theory is an excellent way for people to understand how all of our stories matter, and how combined, they call for systemic change.

Tags: Leader Essays Stories and Systems Phase Theory

— Cheryl Robinson, Supervisor, Office of Minority Achievement, Arlington Public Schools, Virginia

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