Change is only effective when an organization accepts and incorporates new thinking into everyday practices.
A team is more effective when members trust and care for one another as a community, expanding their focus beyond simply the immediate tasks before them. I coach groups of existing and emerging leaders to introduce change in small and large organizations through consultation, mediation, reconciliation and training.
It is a given that systems are resistant to change. I recognize every person and institution in their uniqueness, need and capacity for transformation.
I believe the workplace is a uniquely constructed environment that can serve as a learning laboratory, a nexus between people of diverse backgrounds, with unique and special opportunities to learn how to respect difference. I help those organizational leaders eager to engage in dialogue that moves beyond current social understanding and practices.
Every engagement is custom-designed, but may include an introductory discussion, individual assessments, development of a team mission statement, group reporting on goals and milestones, and facilitating smaller group work on specific issues.
I am an experienced facilitator for your meetings. Often managing many emotionally laden issues, I bring to my work decades of experience in employee relations, training and development, recruitment and performance management to offer counseling, mentoring, training and dispute resolution services.
Examples of my group consultation work where teams became communities and tasks were more easily accomplished because people cared about and were accountable to one another:
- Facilitated teambuilding for “Taking Charge of Change” process during major corporate merger of American Express and Thomas Cook in San Diego
- Co-facilitated working group on multinational business codes of conduct within International Business Task Force of Institute for Civil Markets at United Nations
- Consulted with teams involved in “Project Global 2000” for the International Education Council, offered through Global Education Associates in New York
- Founded Principal’s Advisory Committee to enable high school students from more than 30 cultures (including former child soldiers and immigrants from war zones) to discuss their needs and fears and learn conflict resolution skills
- Coordinated and co-trained 100 student peer mediators and initiated teacher-student reconciliations in a Peer Mediation Program over five years
- Co-developed and co-presented seminars on re-visioning the relationship between man and woman
- Conducted consultations in severely conflicted churches in Diocese of Massachusetts, teaching conflict skills to deeply divided parishioners, de-escalating emotions and training in interpersonal and systemic conflict management
Equipping Groups for New Directions
America’s Soul Café
Knitting together the hearts and minds of Americans, one soul at a time.
America’s Soul Cafe is built on sacred space and is an online free community building environment.
America’s Soul Cafe and the World Café embodies discovery tools that helps a large group understand a set of issues at their own pace. It’s great for helping people reach a state of common understanding and alignment. Non-participating observers are always welcome!
The Cafe draws on a dream while in New York City on 9/11/01 where a Phoenix (see below) rose out of the ashes of 9/11 inviting Americans to a spiritual renaissance. Looking back at that experience, I realized the Phoenix was America’s Soul giving me a new way to look at 9/11. Phoenix, as I call my new book, My Soul’s Journey to Redefine Leadership: A New Phoenix Rises from the Ashes of 9/11. As described in the green area below, I believe a spiritual renaissance happens one soul at a time. America’s Soul Cafe is one way to begin.
World Café Hosting and Facilitation
The World Café is a powerful online social technology for engaging people in conversations that matter–offering an effective antidote to the fast-paced fragmentation and lack of connection in today’s world. Based on the understanding that conversation is the core process that drives personal, business, and organizational life, the World Café is more than a method, a process, or technique – it’s a way of thinking and being together sourced in a philosophy of conversational leadership.
The Peacebuilding Process of Reconciliation to Develop Political Will
The peacebuilding process of reconciliation to develop political will is a decades-old, carefully facilitated framework where dozens of challenges have been resolved because the people most affected by the challenge have decided what is best for them. Used in local, national and international settings, it serves as a way to end the cycle of violence using soul force not armed force. People are part of the planning team to find their own solution. In every situation, coalitions for the common good resulted in our definition of political action, drawing on Rousseau, the will of the people. The framework became the Global Mediation and Reconciliation Service (GMRS) for the global problematique, challenges of the world beyond national state capacity to resolve. The GMRS was introduced in 1999 at the Hague Appeal for Peace and the State of the World Forums in 1999 and 2000. Learn more…
Introducing Change in Resistant Systems
I believe it’s a given that systems are resistant to change. Recognizing every person and institution in their uniqueness, need and capacity for transformation, learn important principles, an intervention process and a case study to apply to resistant systems. Learn more…
What people are saying about working with me:
“Virginia gets bottom-line results resolving conflicts in organizations. She gets at the roots of turnover and other symptoms of dissatisfaction by finding out what is preventing the organization from achieving its mission smoothly and cost effectively. As a result people become more committed and organizations more productive.” —Gifford Pinchot III, Chairman, Pinchot & Company, Seattle, WA
“Virginia has valuable insights to the way people interact. This grasp of our inner nature allows her to quickly bring hidden problem areas to light. This was a great asset in achieving a smoother operation of a people-oriented business.” —Conrad Seifert, Attorney-at-Law, Old Lyme, CT
“Virginia has helped us identify the root of our conflicts. She has helped us to develop conflict resolution skills so that in the future we can better affirm each other and deal with issues as they arise. Her methodology has been very effective. She has been available to all and her non-judgmental approach to listening is extraordinary. Her teaching skills help develop new behavior. I strongly recommend her.” —Charles Corr, Associate Director of Operations, Office of the University Publisher, Harvard University
“Virginia’s style of warmth, enthusiasm and acceptance draws people out while maintaining the focus.” —Barbara Wheeler, Co-Director, Community Resource and Renewal Center
“Virginia helped us bring closure to the past and enabled us to set goals and move ahead into the future. She has helped us see that our diversity is in fact a gift and has helped us affirm our differences. We are listening and talking to each other in a new way through her work.”—Thomas R. Minifie, Rector, St. Paul’s Parish, Medford, MA
On how Virginia Swain works:
“Virginia was an active participant in the Steering Committee of the Tent of Meeting project for the City of New Haven… Virginia distinguished herself as a concerned and committed citizen to bring a work of art to the City that involved the participation of various community groups. Virginia brought careful and realistic analysis of our budget structure and implementation. She brought keen attention to the issues and questions that the committee had to solve. She had an understanding of the Project that involved both an appreciation for the Tent of Meeting as a work of art as well as its implication for the good of the community at large. Additionally, she was the person on the committee that continued to remind us and help lead us to the point of focus… [she] helped draw on the strengths and talents represented in the group in order to make a contribution towards our common interest. She was one of the outstanding members and represented very high standards of managerial and human resource skills. Displaying a keen intelligence as well as sensitivity to the various types of people involved, Virginia emerged as a civic leader who has talent and ability to work in public relations and public projects in a constructive and successful manner.” —John W. Cook, Director, Institute of Sacred Music and Professor of Religion and the Arts, Yale University