What do we DO when we don’t know what to do?

18 – 22 October 2017, Conference hotel de Baak Seaside, Noordwijk, Netherlands

We are living in rapidly and radically changing times, in many places of the world – times hard to make sense of, when it’s difficult to figure out what to do. So………. What do we DO when we don’t know what to do? Each one of us has some relevant experience and we, as humans, have all created some valid knowledge.

Seventy four people, curious and passionate about this topic, or with deep experience and wisdom in working with uncertainty, looking for fellow travellers to share, create and disseminate this type of wisdom joined us to a 4-day learning expedition. Twenty participants worked during an optional 5th day on projects for writing and creating products.

The title ‘What do you do when you don’t know what to do’ was inspired by the PhD dissertation by Shelly Gordon.

What we did: 

  • Explore, share and create our collective wisdom
  • Build capacity for navigating unmapped territories
  • Form guidelines for wise action in times of uncertainty
  • Weave a network of networks
  • Have lots of fun

Read all about it in COS Conference 2017 Experience Report

What we initiated and produced: 

  • Draft a story book with personal experiences on collective issues, with wisdom for what to do when you don’t know what to do; editors Tova Averbuch and Tonnie van der Zouwen
  • Initiate a special Issue of COS Journal on Wise Action and Uncertainty, with articles connecting practice to theory, and connecting organising to issues in society; to be published October 2018, editors Nancy Wallis and Andrea Schueller
  • Draft an experience report to share the design and flow of the conference and to present the harvest in the form of ‘golden nuggets’; design and coordination Jacqueline Janssen
  • A one day workshop for what to do when you don’t know what to do, allowing different content/task groups to explore and gather wisdom; contact Dana Liberman,
  • Translate experiences of the six students of Avans COS team to a learning community around the innovative HR program at Avans University of Applied Sciences in Breda, Netherlands; contact Justin Hensen
  • Initiate the transfer of experiences and wisdom to learning elements in programs for higher education; contact Cees Hoogendijk
  • Invitation for a follow up conference in Kenya; contact Lucy Wairimu Mukuria
  • Videos of ted-like talks of Sandra Janoff, Michel van Dartel, Doris Gottlieb, Peggy Holman, Monika Lindner; See all Videos of Talk

Who were there?

More than 70 participants/co-creators, with a wide diversity of experience and knowledge, of all ages, from 14 different countries. Leaders, scholars, students, artists, consultants, journalists, entrepreneurs, people who are deeply interested.

Design, program and facilitation

The design and preparation process of this conference were an emerging work. We used a structure with a wealth of ted-like talks, workshops, space for emerging contributions by all participants/co-creators who wanted to. See overview of talks and workshops and the program schedule. Every evening the design group met, to evaluate how we are doing and for adjusting the design for the next day, if needed. Participants were welcome in these meetings to contribute to the fine tuning of the program. We see the conference as part of a larger process. We started weaving our web of relations long before we met in October 2017, and we will continue with a network of networks to create wisdom for what to do when you don’t know what to do.

Five-Day Program, main Flow

Day 1, 1  – 9 pm

Getting to know each other, collecting stories and discovering the Hidden Patterns of “what we do when you don’t know what to do”. Listening to Ted-like talks in a World Café setting, an alternation of listening to plenary talks (ca. 15 min. each) and sharing questions and insights in small groups. Making “collective memory” on a large map on the wall. Eskimo spiritual leader Angaangaq Angakkorsuaq will provide a teaching and ceremony session. We will close the day with a welcome dinner accompanied with great music.

Sandra Janoff: Facilitating a system to transform itself

Sandra creates conditions that enable people to use the knowledge and experience they have to transform systems under conditions of non-stop change and increasing diversity. She brings 25 years of experience around the world in nearly all sectors. Sandra will share her views on nontraditional leadership and principles for whole systems change. These are set out in her best-selling books, Lead More -Control Less; Eight Advanced Leadership Skills that Overturn Convention and Future Search: Getting the Whole System in the Room for Vision, Commitment and Action. See www.futuresearch.net 

Michel van Dartel: Unravelling human situatedness through art

To advance society we need to unravel human situatedness. In his talk, Michel will propose art as a strategy to do so. Michel is a research professor at Avans University of Applied Sciences and senior curator at V2_, Institute for the Unstable Media. He holds an MSc in cognitive psychology and a PhD in artificial intelligence.

Angaangaq Angakkorsuaq: Coming home to yourself

Teaching and ceremony from the Eskimo-Kalaallit people, a peaceful culture thousands of years old that has never known war.  Angaangaq is a Great Shaman, healer, storyteller and carrier of the Qilaut (wind drum), and Eskimo-Kalaallit Elder, whose family belongs to the traditional healers of the Far North from Kalaallit Nunaat, Greenland. He bridges the boundaries of cultures and faiths in people young and old. His work has taken him to five continents and over 60 countries around the world. His teachings are deeply rooted in the wisdom of the oral healing traditions of his people. See www.icewisdom.com

Whenever you talk to your heart, she will always speak back. Now it is the time for you and me to learn to listen to our hearts.” – Angaangaq


Day 2 and 3, 8.30 am – 6.30 pm

Throughout day 2 and 3 there were Ted-like talks and workshops exploring what to do when you don’t know what to do. On Day 3 there we opened space for whoever wanted to share, explore, or create something with others. Insights and guidelines were harvested from every session and collectively shared in Plenary. Plenary sessions were hosted by Tova Averbuch, Tonnie van der Zouwen, Peggy Holman, Julia Maaru, Miriam Subirina, and Eva Wieprecht.

Day 4, 8.30 am – 4 pm

Workouts in voluntary small groups and collective sharing and harvesting. Exploring our shared reality and combining the building blocks of the first three days to co-create guidelines for making life in uncertain times. Setting the stage for Day 5 and for next steps in the journey of disseminating and……

Day 5 (optional)

Sharing the knowledge we created with the world through creative productions:  developing projects and writings. The planning for this day was made together, emerging from the first four days.

We are very excited to continue this journey with you!

Tonnie van der Zouwen and Tova Averbuch

Designers and large group facilitators

COS Conference 2017 is sponsored by :

Oganim, an international network and alliance of practitioners who share the intentention to create value for people as individuals, systems and the society at large, using participatory and “network” approach.

COS Conference 2017 was supported by: