Today marks my last day at the Interaction Institute for Social Change. This has been my professional home for the last 10 years. IISC is the community that has shaped me and my capacity to fulfill my life’s purpose. I am eternally indebted to this place. This is the platform that has allowed me to make my contribution to our quest for liberation. I leave with love, appreciation and commitment to our evolving relationship. Read More2 Comments
We are thankful for the thousands of people taking to the streets in Chicago in protest of the murder (and attempted cover-up) of Laquan McDonald. We are thankful for the thousands of activists demanding #JusticeforJamar in Minneapolis at the #4thPrecinctShutdown who have endured gun violence at the hands of white supremacists, desperate to stop the growing Movement for Black Lives.1 Comment
At a recent gathering of the Food Solutions New England Network Team, one member, Dorn Cox, told the story of a farmer who has become renowned for the health of his soil. Remarkably, the soil health consistently increases, due to on-farm practices created over years of close observation and experimentation. This is significant as it has boosted the quality of the farm’s produce, reduced the need for and cost of inputs (helping to increase revenues), increased the soil’s ability to handle extreme precipitation and dry conditions brought on by climate change, and mitigates carbon release. This accomplished practitioner has subsequently been sought out by academics and has served as lead author on numerous peer reviewed academic articles about his soil health practices. Dorn then relayed that the farmer recently reported that because of academic protocols he cannot get access to the very articles he has co-authored. Dorn punctuated his story with the lesson that to support learning, equity and resilience, knowledge wants and needs to be free and accessible.
This is a key principle for leveraging networks to make change. In the old world, knowledge was owned and proprietary. But in this increasingly volatile world, to help people be adaptive to change, we need robust flows of information that are equitably generated and accessible. This was a lesson learned by professor Anil K. Gupta, before he started the Honey Bee Network in India. By his own admission, Dr. Gupta had been engaged in the practice of extracting information from people that served his own or purely academic purposes, without ensuring that the information made it back into the hands and minds of practitioners. He realized that “on efficiency and ethical grounds,” this could not continue. Read MoreLeave a comment
This is the fourth of a four part series, sharing some of the lessons IISC and Horsley Witten Group learned in our efforts to support RhodeMap RI in weaving social equity into its regional planning process, and particularly our facilitation of the project’s Social Equity Advisory Committee.
Lesson 4: Lead boldly, collaboratively, authentically
Finally, working in this kind of collaborative partnership is unfamiliar for many planners and also for many community residents. It requires everyone to do their best to embrace the discomfort and awkwardness that comes with learning and develop both attitudes and habits that support collaboration. IISC has found that several key values and attributes are important for collaborative change agents to be well-positioned to support this way of working. The attributes include demonstrating a collaborative mindset, strategic thinking and a receptive and flexible skillset for facilitating collaboration. Core values include mutuality and service, authenticity, and love – a deep regard for the well-being of others. Read MoreLeave a comment
This is the third of a four part series, sharing some of the lessons IISC and Horsley Witten Group learned in our efforts to support RhodeMap RI in weaving social equity into its regional planning process, and particularly our facilitation of the project’s Social Equity Advisory Committee.
Lesson 3. Build the capacity and culture within public planning institutions to focus on equity and to facilitate broad-based public engagement.
Most planning agencies, regulators, and planning consultants are not well equipped to take on the challenge of seriously engaging communities that chronically experience social inequities. As a planning agency prepares to launch a planning process, it needs to build both a culture and capacity that welcomes and supports engaging community members. This often begins with acknowledging the expertise that comes from lived experience, and the awareness that the agency may not have all the knowledge and skill it needs to take equity seriously. Read MoreLeave a comment
This is the second of a four part series, sharing some of the lessons IISC and Horsley Witten Group learned in our efforts to support RhodeMap RI in weaving social equity into its regional planning process, and particularly our facilitation of the project’s Social Equity Advisory Committee.
Lesson 2. Design the process for maximum and meaningful involvement, particularly of those who are most directly affected by the inequities, and build the community’s capacity and infrastructure to participate in the process.Leave a comment
This is the first of a four part series, sharing some of the lessons IISC and Horsley Witten Group learned in our efforts to support RhodeMap RI in weaving social equity into its regional planning process, and particularly our facilitation of the project’s Social Equity Advisory Committee.
Lesson 1: Weave equity into the planning process AND the content of the resulting plans. Read MoreLeave a comment
“The goal is not so much to see that which no one has seen, but to see that which everyone else sees in a totally different way.”
– Arthur Schopenhauer
I just finished reading The New Science of Sustainability:Building a Foundation for Great Change, which added depth and nuance to my understanding of the importance of thinking and working in networked ways to create social change. Lead author Sally J. Goerner isScience Advisor to the Capital Institute and lectures worldwide on how the science of “energy networks” can provide measures and an overall narrative for supporting social, economic, and ecological sustainability. Read MoreLeave a comment
I’m working with a social change network that is evolving its structure to make better use of existing resources, and we have talked about how aligning more explicitly with network principles, both in its structural design and operations, might help with this. Culling through a variety of principles from other networks with which I’ve worked, I’ve come up with the following dozen examples:
- Always make opportunities to build connections/relationships/trust
- Welcome/incorporate diversity and divergent thinking
- Design for serendipity/emergence
- Make room for sharing, reflection and learning
- Model and encourage generosity (generosity leads to generativity)
- Promote and practice distributed leadership
- Value contributions over credentials (“expertise” takes many forms)
- Make it easy for people to take initiative/self-organize
- Ensure equitable access (to ideas, resources, one another)
- Honor diverse forms of knowledge and expression
- Make the periphery the norm
- Adaptability, not control
“If you have come here to help me, you are wasting your time. But if you have come because your liberation is bound up with mine, then let us work together.”
Last week I attended a gathering of network funders and practitioners in Oakland, CA hosted by Leadership Learning Community. Surrounded by so many bright lights, it was hard to get enough of any given individual or conversation. That said, one interaction that continues to stick out for me occurred with Allen Kwabena Frimpong and June Holley of Movement Netlab. Allen, June and I share an interest in supporting collaborative platforms (virtual and in-person) that can help to facilitate resource movement and exchanges of all kinds among diverse actors for the benefit of structural change. Read More2 Comments
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Ceasar McDowell Speaks at TedX Event from 3-6PM EST on October 10.
Hamilton College has produced a TedX to remember, with speakers united under the theme “Curiosity and Creativity Uninhibited.” It was an honor for IISC President Ceasar McDowell to be invited, and supported by Hamilton student Chidera Onyeiziri.
Ceasar’s talk is entitled, “Big Democracy: A Fundamental Shift.” See him open with the vastness of wonder that exists in the universe, literally displaying a photographic representation of the Big Bang. He then presents the comparison to the Human Universe with its constellation of different races, ethnicities, languages, sexual orientations, and belief systems. So while the complexity of the universe inspires, the complexity of the Human Universe feels daunting.”
His answer to help us see and understand the complexity of the human universe is Big Democracy. Ceasar describes the artifacts democracy produces and interactions needed for an equitable society. He invites we frame our collective agenda using inquiry, explores why we need to design for the margins, and shares his latest idea for inter-personal change: micro-inclusions.
The talk calls on the audience to acknowledge the choice-point we are at as a society, and to imagine a new series of actions and interactions for social change.1 Comment
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This week we lost Dr. Grace Lee Boggs. She was 100 years old. The long-time Detroit political and labor activist, author, and philosopher was a source of inspiration for many of us at IISC and in activist circles around the country and world. Dr. Boggs’ life and work is the focus of a documentary film called American Revolutionary, which POV is streaming for free until November 4.