Through the Garden Gate

How “the unordered world” invites us to adjust our sight and our work

“On one side of the gate we can rely on things to behave the way we expect. If there is trouble, we use smarts and hard work to set things right again. Step through the gate, and see that the world is alive in teeming relationship, everything becoming the next version of itself. Harm and health come not from problems or solutions, but from patterns. And we see that we ourselves are part of the garden. Our own participation in relationships and patterns is our only tool. The garden’s thriving and our own are woven together.”

Marc Rettig

For everyone

Resources for leaders, groups and hosts: see below

Video episode
Through the Garden Gate

In 12 minutes, Marc Rettig speaks to our collective history of preferring to see the world as “ordered,” and how that has influenced the way we see and approach the work of social change. But the living world—ourselves, our organizations, and our communities included—is better seen through the wondrous and inspiring lens of emergence. Changing the way we see our challenges can change the way we live and work for a better world.

This short PDF offers invitations to reflect on the Garden Gate video—useful for your own thoughts, and useful to spark group conversation.

“Who am I if I am defined less by my knowledge and skills, my biography or role, but by the way in which I participate in my communities’ larger stories of patterns, emergence and becoming?”

Resource compilation
Notes on Emergence

Sometimes we understand better through example than through explanation. The videos and resources in this collection of informally curated resources can be your starting point for web-surfing sessions, a reference for students, and a catalog of wonder.

Facilitation kit
Systems Game facilitation kit 

In her book, Coming Back to Life Joanna Macy described a way for people to have “a direct experience of the dynamic nature of open systems.” We have found this short and simple activity to be a fabulous way to introduce students and colleagues to the essential ideas of complexity, sparking laughter and insight all at once.

Good resources for The Systems Game are not hard to find, but we thought it might help if we put our experience in hosting this activity into a clear and usable package. This includes:

  • A facilitator’s guide in an easy-to-edit format, with suggested timing and advice from our experience.
  • Notes on key concepts and terms, with examples, to help guide discussion after the activity.
  • A few PowerPoint slides, in case you find them useful in getting things started and summing up at the end.

Facilitation kit
Garden Gate group facilitation kit

Resources to support you in gathering people to learn and reflect together on a “living systems view” of communities, organizations, and the work of change.

  • Facilitator’s guides in an easy-to-edit format, with suggested timing and advice from our experience: watch the video together, take time for reflection and discussion, and use a simple template to consider how these ideas relate to your situations, community, and work.
  • Sample paragraphs in case you’d like help extending “an invitation that matters”
  • Print-ready template for the small group activity