“Life is a big playground in which to practice becoming a better human” Interview with Samantha Slade

Ideas + Innovators is an interview series by Amy Kirschner designed to get to know the thinkers and doers who are leading the way to a resilient and positive future. People from around the world connect their thoughts and projects to Vermont and locals use their practice and wisdom to imagine how what we are doing here could have widespread impact. We also get to know the people of our tribe a little better along the way.


beE03Tzv_400x400Samantha Slade is Co-founder of social enterprise percolab, based in Montreal and dedicated to developing our collective capacity to work in complexity, with diversity, for common good. percolab helps organizations and multi-stakeholder initiatives thrive in more participatory, adaptive and creative ways.

Samantha also co-founded the co-working co-operative Ecto, a next-generation “office as platform” for percolab and a community of professionals from a whole range of fields. Samantha is an active practitioner and steward for the international Art of Hosting community, engaged in hosting and harvesting conversations that matter. Samantha also has a geeky side, designing and developing online systems.

Her background is in anthropology and education – a former teacher, education consultant and research and development advisor, today she is committed to active and self-organizing learning practices. Samantha co-piloted Québec’s first social entrepreneurship training with a funky learning model. Find her on Twitter. logologo-percolab_sml

Which young person gives you hope for the future?

There are so many! All of the interns have been so inspiring for me and each helps me to learn. Lucas Juhel is a graduate from the radical pedagogy Team Academy program (imported from Finland into France) and his capacity of self-awareness, collaboration, creativity is a source of surprise and delight. At his young age, he is free from a a paradigm of disempowerment that is so embedded in so many ways in ourselves and our world.

How has your definition of work changed?

Work and life used to be separate and slowly with time, it all became one and the same. Life is a big playground in which to practice becoming a better human and work offers such fabulous opportunities to practice. It’s all about being in learning and inquiry.Trajectoire-2014-190-WEB_h-180x180

What are you currently learning?

I have been going deeper into inquiry about the commons and commoning. It’s such an ancient practice and so simple and yet not. It’s a new set of glasses that gives me new perspective on the world, and helps make sense of so much, but at the same time calls into question so many of my assumptions and so much of what I take for granted. The commons provokes me on my role and responsibilities in enabling and protecting commons and developing our capacity to work together inclusively (including the most hardened individualists).

Who are some of the greatest thinkers of your generation?

Two men whom inspire me for their wicked clarity, deep humility and tireless work : Toke Moeller co-founder of the Art of Hosting and Harvesting conversations that matter and Michel Bauwens of the Commons Strategy group (CSG) and P2P foundation. Both work in great complexity and connect current challenges of our world with ancient wisdom, historical patterns and sustainable practices – opening paths for a future that makes more sense.

Which project do you think deserves a lot more attention than it’s getting?

Next generation learning initiatives that are bold pedagogical models of learning and working collectively and in real action. Tiimiakatemia grew out of Finland 20 years ago and has fine tuned a radical model that works well beyond so many similar programs. It is showing the way for completely new approaches to learning. logo

What is the most important thing that most people don’t know?

Two things come to mind.

Planning (and overplanning) is not human nature – we are designed to function in a much more flowing and adaptable way. Functioning in a more organic fashion and prototype culture (ie. lighter, not anarchic) is not only more efficient (really) but it is also more enjoyable. We are the only ones stopping ourselves.

Curiosity is the wellspring of staying young, resolving conflict, good business and daily joy.

What is your Vermont connection?

Vermont is a hop and a skip away from Québec. This summer I put in a canoe at White River Junction and spent 3 days canoeing down the Connecticut river and then meandered around the state for a week.

I love that Vermont State Parks designed their own online system (daring to break from Reserve Amercia) and offer a model of what a better online park system could be.

Kudos to Vermont based company King Arthur Flour. I love how a bread baking campus can be so successful and a model of employee-owned business practice.

And that Vermont trust! Picking blueberries where you pick where you want, what you want and then you calculate the total cost and deposit the money (or check) in a little box. That’s the way it used to be.

Can ideas that work in the big city work in Vermont?

I believe in the pollination of ideas from urban to rural, rural to urban and across borders. If we can focus on the patterns that take a particular form in response to their context then we can be in powerful learning and lovely creativity around our shared problems.


Thank you, Samantha!

I met Samantha earlier this year at a Thrivable Investing workshop in Montreal. I was lucky enough to randomly have lunch with her and have a great conversation learning more about her work.  I was inspired by the portfolio of work she had created through percolab, ecto, and other projects that came up during the two days.  She also saved me 2 hours by navigating me around a big traffic jam on the Champlain Bridge on my way home from the workshop for which I still grateful!

Social Entrepreneurs and Vermonters: you can follow her on twitter.

**All photos and logos come from the respective project websites. Headshot from Samantha via twitter.
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