The Commons

Welcome to our new website, blog and e-newsletter. We are thrilled to have a vehicle to interact with more people on a regular basis and look forward to a highly participative site. Tell us what adds value for you and what doesn’t…what you agree with and what you don’t. All viewpoints are invited and respected as there is not one truth but many different truths given the lens of our experience.

Why The Commons? In this era of The Great Recession, I have been struck by how hardships have hit us all. Not one social class, race, gender, sexual orientation, religion or ethnicity has been spared—though, of course, not all affected in equal proportion. Nor have people been immune by living in certain states, working in particular industries, holding certain job titles, or by having certain degrees. Across the span of ages, marital status, military records, and political bents people are having a lot of common experiences. It’s actually a lot tougher to feel sorry for oneself today than it was two years ago for this very reason. Just as it’s easier to have, not only empathy, but a sense of kinship with people who perhaps appeared outside our realm of understanding just awhile back.

So today, when a former executive, who is now laid off, is standing in the check-out line in the grocery store and sees the single-parent ahead of him realizing her food stamps will not cover the groceries,  she may actually sense a common bond versus pity. Now, when a middle-class suburbanite who was just issued a foreclosure notice walks by a homeless panhandler, he might feel something in common with that street person instead of revulsion or fear. Suddenly, the regular shopper at the Salvation Army store finds herself discussing the merits of a used designer sweater with a retired woman who used to shop at Saks a short while ago—even a sense of sisterhood is palpable.

These experiences bring our shared humanity to the forefront of our consciousness where we can get in touch with the existence of the Commons from history (think Boston Commons.)  The definition I like for “the Commons” is things we share together that nobody owns. From the air we breathe, to the Internet, to the joys and sorrows we undergo. When we’re in the commons mindset, our hearts get touched and, instead of a sense of separation, we experience connection. This is the gift of these times…and all times if we can be open to it.

We at Preferred Futures help our clients find the common ground across seemingly disparate needs and wants and then aim for a goal that affects the common good. We do this through 1-on-1 coaching, strengthening teams and whole systems change processes. Our work is actually being facilitated by this common economic crisis we are facing together.

Interdependence can no longer be ignored and actually is our greatest source of health and renewed prosperity. Preferred Futures welcomes all commoners to this new site for ideas, products and services, and for inspiration.

Elizabeth K. Olson, MS
Founder and President

About Elizabeth Olson
Elizabeth Olson is President of Preferred Futures, Inc., a consultancy helping individuals, teams and organizations use collaborative methods for leading change including visioning, strategic thinking and planning, decision-making, leadership development, building partnerships, and learning.


11 Responses to “The Commons”
  1. Very insightful look at the gifts of these times. A good lesson on interdependence comes hard, but necessary!

  2. Steve Mullen says:

    I couldn’t agree more, Elizabeth, with your reading of our current predicament / opportunity. I remember being struck, as a young man, by Steinbeck’s conclusion in “The Grapes of Wrath” that when you’re in need you’re better off turning to those who don’t have as opposed to those who do. Possession is often blinding.
    It is those things we possess in common that connect us, including ‘want.’ Maybe especially ‘want.’
    Thank you for your conversation starter.


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