A year of living consciously…..

by Sandy Burgham, Founder, Play Colab


Today a year ago the Play Colab website went live. When I founded Play Contemporary Leadership Colab the idea was to be intentional about how and where I wanted to play but open to how it might play out. This is what happened:

Within 3 weeks we had 27 people signed up for one of the four pilots and we were away. It was about prototyping contemporary leadership approaches amongst different types of groups. It was important to ensure that Play Colab worked with men in leadership as much as women and this has not only been incredibly rewarding but valuable to my deep interest in gender dynamics in leadership and systems. Because of the four pilots taking off we were forced to delay the start of Jenny Devine’s short course on Conscious Leadership but the latter has now taken on a life of it’s own and is embedded in almost everything we do.

Along the way I have learnt a lot about collaboration and how it differs from the usual business models. The most critical revelation for me is that the thing that gets in the way of collaboration is competition. My co-facilitators, particularly Jenny Devine, Dr Peter Blyde and Dr Jane Horan and I started working together really intensely, peer reviewing each other as we go, confronting our own egos every step of the way. This had to be an unsettling development experience for us too! Hence the level of trust and deep respect of one another’s unique abilities has grown tenfold. We have made each other so much better at what we each do. Meanwhile the wider group of collaborators including Sue Hornblow, Nicky Benson and Brian Lawrence has formed our own consciousness-raising circle, which we’ve dubbed Play Dates where we discuss conscious leadership and whatever else needs to be discussed. What a gang.

I was lucky my old colleague Jess helped me set this up operationally but she is on her own path and Play outgrew the hours she could give. It was clear Play needed a particular type of Operations Support person to be available, like…now! In desperation I literally “put it out to the universe” pardon the new age sappiness, but what I needed couldn’t have been articulated in a job description. A few days later, in walked Laura-Jane Booker (LJ) freshly graduated with a first class honours degree in Health Science, and a thesis in workplace wellbeing. LJ defies any assumptions made about millennials and it’s a total privilege to work with her.

Our Play Colab space now hosts likeminded development experiences aligned to our intent of consciousness-raising. Hence we have welcomed Precious Clark’s Maori cultural competency course “Te Kaa” to use our Play space and Melissa Jenner’s fast action career change course called Start has started taking place up here too. Soon, Sue Hornblow will be hosting The Philosopher’s Cafe at Play, for those coaches certified in The Leadership Circle to share learnings.

I realized early on that the participants themselves soon become collaborators and hence many of them are now creating their own blog posts via our content hub – a practice not only of raising their visibility as leaders but ensuring they are adding to the conversation about contemporary leadership.

So what’s in store for year two?

Play Colab is not about churning out leadership training courses for the sake of them. ‘Impact’ sits alongside ‘collaboration’ and ‘consciousness’ as a core value. We would rather work really closely with a handful of people than a full stadium at a distance. While we will still offer a limited number of public programmes working with small groups of people by lifestage (adding to our body of research) increasingly we have been invited to work with the senior levels of some of NZ’s most well known companies to shake up their worldview. Working within systems and especially disrupting thinking about and approaches to diversity and inclusion is where I in particular love to play – right out there on the very edges of everyone’s comfort zone…

I like to declare my intentions into a white space as it helps kick start some momentum. (I said it now I gotta do it!). Hence know that in the year ahead we will get those monthly Salons back up and running where we can discuss and debate a topic presented by an expert or interesting party. This becomes a way for past group participant collaborators to reconnect and keep their development going. And I’d like to increase my speaking and writing pursuits.

I extend my deepest gratitude to everyone who has put their trust in me. Your support and belief in the Play Colab intent will never be undervalued nor forgotten and hence I dedicate the following evocation to you all.


Prophecy/Spiritual Calling from Elders of Hopi Tribe

You have been telling the people,
That this is the eleventh hour.
Now, you must go and tell the people,
That THIS is the hour,
And there are things to be considered.

Where are you living? What are you doing?
What are your relationships? Are you in the right relationship?
Where is your water? Know your garden …

It is time to speak your truth.
Create your community,
Be good to each other.
Do not look outside yourself for a leader.

There is a river flowing now very fast,
It is so great and swift.
That there are those who will be afraid,
They will try to hold onto the shore.
They will feel they are being pulled apart,
And will suffer greatly.

Understand that the river knows its destination,
The elders say we must let go of the shore.
Push off into the middle of the river,
Keep our eyes open and our heads above water.

And I say; see who is in there with you,
Hold fast to them and celebrate!

At this time in history,
We are to take nothing personally.
Least of all, ourselves!
For the moment we do,
Our spiritual growth and journey comes to an end.
The time of the Lone Wolf is over!

Gather yourselves!
Banish the word ‘struggle’ from your attitude and vocabulary.
All that we do now must be done, In a sacred manner and in celebration.

We are all about to go on a journey,

We are the ones we have been waiting for!

Hopi Elders – June 2000


(Thank you to Leadership@play participant collaborator Sarah Hodgetts for drawing my attention to this haunting evocation)


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