Katie Boone is a colleague of mine who does system change work from her position as Innovation Manager at the Future Services Institute based in the Humphrey School of Public Affairs at the University of Minnesota. We were talking the other day about how intentional pausing for reflection can be a powerful tool to help systems change. She shares her thoughts on how this word  – PAUSE – could be defined. – KA

Reading the ongoing headlines regarding this administration’s lack of leadership and response to COVID-19 the other day, I clicked on a story regarding Dr. Fauci’s response to the administration’s reaction to the CDC guidelines regarding schools and this upcoming school year, whether to be online or in person and if in person how to go about doing so safely. I don’t know about you, but I’ve been baffled by the ongoing debate over whether or not to wear masks and some people’s desire to stay and keep everything open as if the old normal will return us to what life was like before COVID-19. 

What I noticed in the article I was reading was a very subtle, but strategic shift in the narrative. What I noticed was Dr. Fauci used the word “pause” saying that we weren’t shutting things down, we were needing to take a pause to assess the best course of action to take. The word “pause” was used in every other line in the article and it seemed to me a powerful reframe that gets us out of the dichotomous debate we are in. All of this while we are in the midst of rising positive cases and all of the uncertainty that is demanding that we recalibrate our ways of being, thinking and doing together. I began to think about what the word “pause” could mean for us as we navigate through this and this is where I landed. I invite you to pause for a moment and reflect on this with me.

 What could “Pause” stand for if it was made into an acronym?

  • Present
  • Awareness
  • Understanding
  • Sensing
  • Everyone

The Great Pause:


P is for Present

Presencing our presence in the present, we begin to see this isn’t about you or me, it’s about we. Are you present with me, here in the we?

A is for Awareness

Authentic, aware and awake- we begin to recognize this isn’t about anger, it’s about aliveness. Are we are living in this moment together?

U is for Understanding

Uncertainty, undoing and unity- we begin to feel curious about the unknown, letting go of the need to control. Our well-being and connection to each other is interdependent and interconnected. 

S is for Sensing

Searching, shifting and synchronizing – we begin to move from dissonance to resonance. A coherence builds rhythm and right relationship, with people and planet.

E is for Everyone

Equity, environment and evolution – we begin to grow in the direction of our dreams, realizing they are ours to build. We are nurtured, loved and whole. 


Can you imagine the conversations we would be having if we all just took a moment to pause, breathe and reflect? 

What a different world we would become. 

Katie Boone is Innovation Manager for the Future Services Institute at the Humphrey School of Public Affairs, University of Minnesota. She can be reached via email or on LinkedIn