See other self-portraits

David Sibbet

1000 O’Reilly Avenue
San Francisco, California 94129, USA

(415) 561-2500 x214
email >


What is an underlying question that gives form to your work or interest in this field?

How can humans’ collective movement to reclaim wholeness and spirit be supported and nurtured, so that we may see a new paradigm of respect, regeneration, and hope flourish in our times?

What is your personal experience of collective wisdom in groups?

I live my life facilitating groups and have profound respect for what can happen when people open to each other in deep ways. As a professional process consultant and graphic facilitator, I work across all kinds of organizations and communities all over the world, and have for more than 25 years. I have also been a member of circles doing deep dialogue. One is composed entirely of people who have gone through vision quests called the Elders Circle. A Pathwalkers group of peer consultants has been meeting for four years. A new Compassionet bridges India and North America, meeting in sat sang regularly. A Change Agents Café has meet for more than eight years. I’m also a member of the Thought Leader Gathering. These circles represent an increasingly important part of my life.

What is it about the work in this field that excites you and connects you to your own deepest self?

My work began with a lot of attention being paid to what people said in meetings and working out ways to illustrate and make sense out of it on visual displays. But over the years I have come to believe that it is the listening and the witnessing—the deep seeing and accepting of each other—that is the core of my work. The graphic recording is simply a way of making the listening explicit and central. Years of having my sense making exposed publicly has become a practice in radical acceptance of everyone’s contribution, and a deep trust in the larger flows of understanding finding its way to the truth. My current edge is appreciating that this “flow” can be felt as spirit, and links all life.

Please provide a brief storyline or snapshot of what brought you to this work.

I grew up in a thriving, collaborative church community in the high mountains of California as the eldest son of a Presbyterian minister. The engagement of this community in each other’s lives and the affairs of the little town of Bishop have remained a foundation of hopefulness for me. Because Presbyterians practice a democratic form of governance and worship, I have been immersed in groups since birth. It is my good fortune that much of this was inspiring.

I discovered organizational development and facilitation as a profession while working for the Coro Foundation in San Francisco as Executive Director and then Director of Training. I had been a Fellow in Public Affairs with this extraordinary organization in 1965 when I graduated from Occidental College in Los Angeles. I spent an incandescent year of learning in Los Angels with 11 other “fellows” composed entirely of internships in government, business, politics, labor, community, and media organizations, laced with seminars and projects where we provided the direction of inquiry. It was the year after the riots in Watts. Coro’s idealistic mission was to improve the quality of governance in local communities and cities by shifting the thinking and competency of 3% of the population through immersive programs in public affairs. We engaged on the issues of leadership and group cooperation at an extraordinarily deep level, in a way that shaped my life since. Coro recruited me to their staff in San Francisco in 1969 and I spent eight years designing and facilitating Coro programs using the entire SF Bay Area as a classroom.

The 1970’s encouraged experimentation and we tried everything we could find that would enhance learning in groups. Out of this came Group Graphics, the practice of using large, interactive graphic displays created while groups worked together. Designers have worked this way for centuries, but other groups have not. We pushed out into new territory, and joined others in creating facilitation as a professional way to work with groups. I started my own practice in 1977 as a graphic facilitator.

Twenty-five years later I have worked all over the world, facilitating every imaginable kind of group process, in every kind of organization and community. I have visually facilitated deaf nurses from the Philippines and conferences of persons with developmental disabilities. I have been on stage graphically supporting an urban symposium in Los Angeles for 1,800 people in the Dorothy Chandler pavilion and teachers and swamis at a residential school in Southern India. I have helped Apple Computer get through the 1980’s, National Semiconductor come back from near bankruptcy in the 1990’s, and hp go through its many eras. I’ve helped environmentalists plan water policy strategy, foundations shape programs, and associations organize new and old constituencies. I’ve helped train freshman Assemblymen in the California Assembly and worked with the people who run our energy grids. I’ve facilitated teams in Tokyo in Japanese and French firms in Monaco having their first ever strategy meeting in groups.

I know that there is such a thing as group intelligence. I have experienced breakthrough and breakdown, and the unbelievable consistency with which spirit and process find their way through people’s lives like the rivers of life they are.

My work is now transforming once again as I step into the role of being an active elder in most of the communities in which I participate. I love Michael Meade’s definition of elder as a person who “makes a shrine to the spirit as the body falls away.” In this regard I am finding my activity in dialogue increasing, and a very fulfilling role as a ceremonial leader in my garden community, my extended network of fellow vision questers, and a growing network of collaboration professionals reaching out to each other in new ways.

How would you like to be available to others in this field?

Our company, The Grove Consultants International, has blessed me with a channel for sharing my work across the world through publications, videos, conceptual models, graphic templates, and many other tools. I hope to expand the teaching and support work that we provide to those touched by our work and example. There is much more to share and write about. Many people in developing countries are waking up to the power of group collaboration and I want to be there to help serve this awakening. In my own life I intend to be available to my many communities with whatever time I have. I am most interested in responding to those persons who are truly serious about blending their work and spiritual practices in an integrated celebration of spirit in action. My professional life has been and still is quite busy, but I’m working to create more reflective time, and slow and deepen my pace to take the time it takes to be there for others and patiently water the seeds of awareness and contribution. I prefer to work transparently and in service, make no promises, other than to keep my word and share my truth.

[ Back to Top ]