Posted by & filed under Open Letters.

Hi Gavin and William.

I’m writing to you together this time, because of the way you have both been helping me to explore ideas around my holacracy experiment. In this open letter I’ll try to bring the two conversations together.

Naming the thing

William and I have been referring to the experiment in terms of my learning journey, and Gavin has given it the working title “FASST” (see Pam’s FASST Experiment! ).  “FASST” stands for “Freedom Accountability and Structure for Systemic Transformation”

This open letter pulls together the latest ideas and insights about FASST based on:

  • Your questions
  • My attempts to answer them
  • Ideas that we’ve tossed around
  • Things that you’ve said
  • Half-formed ideas and connections that you’ve patiently allowed me to explore out loud with you
  • Additional connections and insights that will emerge as I pull all the above together to write this to you

So what is FASST?

FASST is an action-learning environment which will run as a holacracy.

Our various U.Lab and Teal for Startups (T4S) friends might expect me to describe FASST in terms of its emerging purpose, but William challenged me to be more prosaic.

He suggested I start by asking myself “Why do I need it?” and then “Would anyone else need it?” He pointed out that its initial purpose is to serve those needs. Subsequently it will take on a life and purpose of its own (or not) depending on who it attracts and the organisational structures that have been set up.

Gavin challenged me with some other questions, getting me to imagine that FASST had begun. He encouraged me to picture its first event, a meeting with eight people in all. He threw question after question at me starting with “Who is there with you?” and “How will you open the session?”

Gradually it’s becoming clearer, and I like what I see. I hope others will like it too so that it will become attractive to them (including both of you perhaps, I hope so). As it attracts others it will become a reality. Perhaps in some ways it is a reality already.

Why I need it

I’ll start with William’s question about why I need it.  I don’t know the answer yet and I’ll be stumbling towards that answer as I write.

I need FASST because it fits what feels right to be doing at this point in my life. It is a way of bringing things together. I have years of projects and ideas and connections scattered all over the place, many of them ongoing. FASST will bring them together.

You both know that I’m a compulsive pattern hunter. A pattern that jumps out at me now is that FASST is the digital equivalent of what I’m doing in my flat at the moment. I’m re-arranging the furniture and decluttering. I’m acting our a need to decide what is central in my life and what I need to let go of so there is less distraction, and more space for what matters. Where I find things of value I’m trying to find the best home for them. To a certain extent I am “putting my house in order” now that I am entering a new phase in my life. I’m doing it in a literal, material way in my flat, and in a “non-material” way in FASST.

How does FASST fit the new phase?

How does FASST fit my new phase? Well, you’re both discovering that I’m a compulsive self-directed learner, in a learning-by-doing, learning-with-others, learning-from-the-internet, reflecting and making-sense-of-it-all kind of way.

FASST is my sparkling, new, unclutterd focal point for all that is best in opportunities to learn together online and face-to-face. It’s for life-learning – not fact-learning.

My learning experience in FASST will be like my Open University (OU) studies in some ways, with all the things I liked best about the OU, but no set courses. In FASST the focus is on moving from where we are now into the future, in a supportive, practical way, through learning-by-doing and sharing what we learn. Life is changing so fast. We need to learn how to learn (and live) together, working in communities of discovery, flipping continually between the role of teacher and learner, asking well-informed questions from different perspectives and exploring possible answers based on the wisdom in the group and beyond. FASST will help us to do that. It’s a practical, connected-world version of Socratic learning.

Socratic learning – definition of Socratic learning by The Free Dictionary

Socratic method. n. A pedagogical technique in which a teacher does not give information directly but instead asks a series of questions, with the result that the student comes either to the desired knowledge by answering the questions or to a deeper awareness of the limits of knowledge.

Relevance of the OU to FASST

I delighted in the OU because of its cross-disciplinary freedom. I was an adult student in full-time work, and with family responsibilities, so I had  a demanding life beyond my studies. The OU had a set structure, and within that structure I was free to select any courses that I wanted.  I was free to put myself, my life experience and my developing interests at the centre of my studies, and to build my degree around that central point. FASST has that same wonderful mixture of Freedom and Structure, but instead of Assessment if has Accountability. The accountabilty is to ourselves and each other.

The OU was genuinely “Open” when I was an undergraduate.  We could join any course If we thought we brought enough previous knowledge to be able to do it. The pre-requisites were clearly stated. Courses providing the necessary previous knowledge were available if we needed to do them, but we didn’t have to take them, nor did we have to prove our previous knowledge before enrolling on a course.

As part-time students, working to a high standard, it took us many years to graduate. We built on what we knew from “the university of life”  making our own individual pathway through the richness of study opportunities in the OU, deciding the next step in our study path year by year as our lives and interests developed.

FASST will be like that. I will learn there, bringing all of my past, present and future life to my studies, and I will ask others to join me. If others do want to join me, because they see how FASST could serve their learning/development needs then FASST will grow and develop an ongoing energy, integrity of purpose, and life of its own that I hope will last longer than I do.

FASST as an accelerator of learning and discovery

I think FASST is a formalisation and natural next stage of what I’ve been doing as a “learning nomad” or “free-range learner” for the last fifteen years or so (as well as being a compulsive teacher/knowledge-sharer and explorer of ideas). You probably know all you need to about that.

It’s a happy co-incidence that it’s called FASST because it will accelerate my learning, and the learning of others who choose to join me there.

In FASST, I’ll connect with other curious minds who similarly bring their past, present and future life to their ongoing “studies” i.e. the reflective part of their practical learning-by-doing lives.

So – who will be there, and why?

Gavin’s questions on “Who will be there?” complemented William’s question about “”Would anyone else need it?”. Those questions helped me to picture the version of FASST that I’ve been describing above.

FASST will bring together people who respond to its “calling question” – a question that Gavin is encouraging me to define.

In my dreams there is much coming and going in FASST, with opportunities for connections with many of the people I appreciate as my informal mentors, teachers, and “influencers in other ways” (some of them know it and some of them don’t).

This open letter is another step towards discovering what FASST is (other than a experiment in using holacracy) and in imagining who might be there and why.

Thank you both for bringing me this far in my thinking and in the emergence of FASST.