Luke’s experience of the IO retreat

Yup. So I went to Greece for this thing.. I almost didn’t.
I almost filmed
EUDEC Finland (annual conference/ gathering for democratic schools).

But when the shoot fell through, I went for the IO retreat at the Candili estate, Euboea, Greece. Here’s the invite I got.

Funny how nearly you don’t do things, that end up changing everything.

I slept here.

I ate this.

It didn’t take long for me to realise I was in a group of about 40 insanely talented social innovators, conscious business people, activists, or whatever you/ they label themselves as.

People who are visionary, really experienced, full of dreams, and itching to translate ideas into actions, in a collaborative way, together.

The main thing I think I want to talk about is the fork.

About halfway through the week, I felt like things kinda fell apart. Most of us felt at least a little lost and confused, or cynical about aspects of the leadership. Eg. hand-picking a design team in a supposedly autonomous collective…

What was this nebulous thing that had brought us all here?
What exactly was the invitation?
What need of ours is being met by this event/ “IO”?

With people’s need to find a meaningful/ coherent place for themselves,
the fork I think was when we hit the crux of this, and it became clear that we weren't being invited to neatly ‘slot’ into some fixed, concrete, pre-defined roles, to drive forward a fully formed vision & strategy.

I didn't feel the leaders/ vision holders knew really how exactly we’d move from presentation of the “IO” idea into actually forming a community, enabled by a clear way of working (to be fair, it would've been much easier & clearer if the invitation was a much less exciting/ empowering, more fixed organisational structure with concrete job descriptions for us to each slot into).
I know from ChangeTheFuture how hard it is to bring people together around such a broad, visionary purpose/ container, inviting people to use the container while simultaneously defining it. I think Anton has poured a LOT of incredible skills, time & admirable values into this project, and I'm inspired by this.

Option 1 was to opt out. To just have a holiday with some nice inspiring people and chill. Maybe I’d make a couple of new friends, and that’s it.

Option 2 was to step up. To make an effort and take a risk. To invest in this half-baked vision and take some ownership of the dream.
For us to actually use our immeasurable skills in the room and have a bash at investing in this concept + into the “we”, and see how it feels… to not just identify the ‘gaps’ in the event/ vision, but to work together to fill them in.

What is this “IO” model? — it’s a WAY of humans collaborating; applicable to companies, schools, charities, intentional communities, etc. Could/ should this be the future of work?

I think we chose option 2.
Thus followed an epic demonstration of the incredible talent in the room beginning to emerge, as facilitators, project managers, designers, game and activity designers did their magic, and everyone brought something valuable.
I think this is where I started to see how we could genuinely each find a place we could belong.

One of the first things that really made the event start to feel deeply meaningful for me was Ilana’s activity getting us to move around the room on a scale (something most of us had probably done loads) -her last scale was “I feel lonely”. This is where conversations suddenly became the most vulnerable, and real, for me…

Later, a team formed around branding the IO collective. Lead by Steffen, we defined at least a working draft of the Values, Strengths, Personality, Manifestations and perhaps most importantly, the Purpose of the IO collective.

At the presentation, this earned a a hearty applause and alignment began — I think we stopped asking “What is the IO collective??!” and started deciding what we wanted it to be:
The thing that catalysed the dreams we realised we shared.

So much happened. I don’t know if talking about specific events makes sense without the wider context.

On the last day, Anton announced he no longer felt the need to be the ‘front man’ of the IO collective, now that others had stepped forward to co-create the vision, purpose and plan — a beautifully effective way for an incredibly talented and intimately connected community of change agents to 
“co-create solutions that unite and transform.”

Already we have a bunch of projects on the burner, and indeed it looks like (at least a good handful of) the attendees are continuing the conversations & work together, autonomously, asking no-one for permission, but working collaboratively, checking in at each stage of production.

Half the work we’re doing is on ourselves, the other half is ‘outward facing’ projects in the ‘real’ world.
To me, that makes perfect sense, for a collaboration exploring how humans need to work together differently.

Villa Avarof — the proposed Innovation Lab:

I love being here, working with super talented & experienced people interested in what I’m interested in, with values I align with.

Some pertinent questions for me right now:

  • How open should we be?
    (perhaps new members have to be actively ‘accepted’ by every existing member? so it’s not a private members club; we’re open to all, but we ensure everyone has a good opportunity to know everyone, and that precious intimacy is maintained, so we’re not just a Facebook group of 10,000 members, loosely connected by some fluffy vision).
  • Should we have different levels of involvement?
    (basically power + responsibilities) at least in certain areas
  • How can the IO/ IO collective help my project, now?
    (most of us have projects — how can they give & receive
  • Other questions
    I suggested we use a beautiful tool called Stormboard
    to explore questions together. I think it’s super powerful for non-hierarchical collaborations to invite each and every person to offload their most burning questions + build upon each others’ inquiries.
    Collaborative inquiry + time logging (so everyone can see actual actions each other have taken) that’s the most inspiring approach to tech I’ve seen for purpose-driven, autonomous organisations use.
Here’s other people’s reflections on the event:


I’m super keen. It’s not every day you are genuinely so intimately connected to such an incredible bunch of people so talented and experienced, and aligned with you in terms of values and world view. We’ve come together over a common purpose, to create a model of a better way of working together, and also to actually use this model in real life to demonstrate its potential.

There’s loadsa buzz. Check us out & join in. We ain't a private members club.

IO Collective — Start here

Let’s do this.

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