We all have the capacity to have our fire kindled on behalf of the welfare of others and our own.
— Sharon Daloz Parks

Sharon Daloz Parks was in grade school when she first imbibed an image of a shared commons.  Her mother made a rule that everyone in her class would get a birthday invitation because it was simply the right thing to do.  Years later Sharon would find herself exploring similar values on a larger scale as a Professor at Harvard.  She looked at faith as meaning-making, something that all human beings do, not just what religious folks have.

This exploration lead to a collaboration with her now husband, Larry Daloz Parks and Cheryl and James Keen, to co-author the book Common Fire, an artfully crafted analysis of inspired lives that gets to the very primal dimensions of where our collective well-being is dependent...

The Commons.

Sharon describes the commons as, "a shared life within a manageable frame."  When referencing physical space, these are places where we all come together, either planned or unplanned, as ourselves, and are vital for a vibrant society.  The modern commons takes many shapes and forms.  It may look like Starbucks, a park, a baseball game, or a market.  Common Fire explains how integral these spaces are in creating a flourishing society because they create a sense of trust and a framework for understanding Other.  These outer landscapes are essential to developing the inner landscapes and capacities required for humanity to lead within complexity on behalf of the collective well-being of others. 

However, this elemental, place-making, soul-shaping fabric of human society is at a premium in the world today, and it is creating a deep hunger to recover and reimagine the new commons.

Although Common Fire was first published in 1996, it carries enormous relevance today as the velocity of change has accelerated leaving us with a gap in responsiveness, understanding and direction.  What Sharon articulates so elegantly truly gets to the core of what The Emerging Future Podcast is about: being present and courageous enough to lean into the complexity and unknown of the gap, and to wait expectantly for transformative moments that surprise us, and give us a deep sense of where we are and what's needed to move forward on behalf of Other and the future.

Sharon's Bio

Sharon Daloz Parks is Principal of Leadership for the New Commons and Senior Fellow at the Whidbey Institute in Clinton, WA. She holds a B.A. from Whitworth University, M.A. from Princeton Theological Seminary, and doctorate from Harvard University, the Divinity School. She has held faculty and senior research positions at Harvard's Schools of Divinity, Business, and Government. She has also taught at the Weston Jesuit School of Theology and currently teaches in the Executive Leadership Program at Seattle University as well as the School of Theology and Ministry.

She speaks and consults nationally in the area of leadership and ethics for corporate, non-profit, and other professional groups across sectors, especially in business, higher education, and religion. She is the author of Leadership Can Be Taught: A Bold Approach for a Complex World (Harvard Business Press, 2005) and Big Questions, Worthy Dreams: Mentoring Emerging Adults in Their Search for Meaning, Purpose, and Faith (Tenth Anniversary Edition, Jossey-Bass/Wiley, 2011). Her other publications include co-authored Common Fire: Leading Lives of Commitment in a Complex World and Can Ethics Be Taught? She is the recipient of four honorary degrees.


Artists are harbingers of the future, paying exquisite attention to what’s happening in the present rather than looking through the spectacles of yesterday.
— Sharon Daloz Parks