At Round Sky, participants in the Cooperative Leadership Certification Program learn about and explore practices for holding meaningfully collaborative meetings. What practices will help us to tap into the collective AND honor what each of us brings? We want to make space for what people need to discuss. This is not necessarily business as usual. One of these ways we expand the meeting space is to invite people to sense and identify agenda items as “tensions”. This framing is inspired by the Holacracy methodology. A tension is the gap between where you are and where you could or want to be. It’s felt.
One of our current participants, Jessica Miller, dug in a bit more to this word and shared this in the cohort forums. With permission, we get to share this with you!
I was wrestling with the word “tension” applied to agenda item, so I dug a little into the etymology of the word. Tension comes from Latin tendere, “to stretch,” which is closely related to tenere, “to hold” (tenent, tenant, contain). Tendere forms the root of the following words:
- tend (to incline, move toward; or hold forth, offer)
- tendency (leaning)
- tendon (rope-like tissue that connects muscle to bone, facilitating movement)
- intention/attention (direct attention to–in- and at- both mean toward + tend stretch)
- tender (delicate) and intense (strong)
In this context, “tension” feels less like something negative that needs to be resolved and more like something we consciously lean toward and tend to. Something that, when it’s not too loose or too tight, allows us to stretch and move.
Jessica Miller manages grants and finances for the Vermont Association of Conservation Districts. Vermont’s democratically-organized Natural Resources Conservation Districts were created in 1940 to lead local efforts to protect soil health, water quality, and other natural resources.