In the autumn of 2005, the late Finn Voldtofte sent out an email calling for volunteers to join a team to host a gathering called Moving the Edge of Collective Intelligence. I had first met Finn a few months before in Devon at the Kaleidoscope Café gathering — a retreat for practitioners of World Café and Art of Hosting, where we had experimented with what Finn called ‘listening to the middle’. I knew at once that I had to be there.
The way we worked was quite radical, in that we offered no structured, predefined programme. As the hosting team, we started the convening and hosting process through regular conference calls, the full notes of which were openly published on the internet. In that way, anyone considering participating in the gathering could follow the preparatory process and even comment and contribute beforehand.
The entire gathering, which took place in Denmark in March 2006, was a quest in search for this collective intelligence (or collective wisdom) that was bigger than the sum of the individuals. Finn called it The Magic in the Middle. We struggled and strained for a glimpse of this evasive magic. When the hosting team finally relinquished all attempts at facilitating a programme or design, we finally found ourselves inside this collective magic for about two hours! And indeed, it was magic! The true spirit of dialogue — as the ‘meaning flowing through’ the conversation (from its Latin root) — was palpable. Whatever anyone said fitted right into the flow of unfolding meaning. I knew and recognized this kind of meaning-flowing-through from experiences in my small women’s group in Flanders (Belgium), and some of the others could refer to similar experiences in other contexts. But most of the participants had no idea of where to go or how to get there.
Were we presumptuous to think that we could move the edge of consciousness itself? Was I arrogant to think that I could be of value to such a gathering and such an inquiry, and even to offer myself as part of the organizing and facilitation/hosting team? Maybe so, but I know that Moving the Edge of Collective Intelligence set me on a path. One inquiry lead to another, and to this day it hasn’t stopped.
One of the participants in the Moving the Edge gathering was Judy Wallace, a lady from the Boston area who was working on a master’s thesis on collective intelligence for her study in conscious evolution. She showed up at the gathering, knowing some of the people on the hosting team through her research work. She would become the co-initiator of Women Moving the Edge with me. This book could not have been written without our experiences in the thirteen gatherings between 2007 and 2012.
By the end of the year, Finn Voldtofte was dead, after a sudden illness and conscious dying process through which he hosted and inspired his friends, loved ones and colleagues. Finn was an important teacher to many of us and Women Moving the Edge and much of this book were born from seeds he planted.