I’ve been reading Diana Block’s memoir, Arming the Spirit, and am grateful for the chance to dig into another story of someone whose work for social justice came before me and contributed to where we’re at now. Diana went underground for thirteen years in the 1980s and 90s as part of a collective doing solidarity work with the Puerto Rican independence and Black liberation movements. Diana’s journey represents one group’s choice about how to be effective as white folks challenging racist systems of oppression.
“Our political history was rooted in our commitment as white people to solidarity with Third World struggles around the world and inside this country. That commitment will take different forms today but I think solidarity is still critical for white people who want to make social change. Also, for people who live in America, we definitely need to situate our work in relationship to the efforts of people around the globe who are fighting imperialism or we cannot expect to achieve very much.”*
Thanks first of all to Margaret Benefiel of Executive Soul for turning me on to this video. It times beautifully with a lot of thinking, writing, and experimenting we’ve been doing here at IISC about/with the power of design, and specifically the design of experiences that can change behavior and bring out the best in individuals and groups. Check out this clip from The Fun Theory, an initiative of Volkswagen, that aims to show that fun is one of the best ways to change behavior for the better.
In the collaborative leadership trainings we do, inevitably we get to a point where people talk about the dry, frustrating, “deadening” and even pointless meetings and gatherings they often attend. Many are at a loss for what to do. One response on my part is to ask, “What has brought you to life at meetings that have been particularly engaging?” And when the answer comes, to say, “Do that!” If it brings us to life, there is a good chance it will do the same for others. To paraphrase innovation guru Marty Neumeier, in order to “focus minds and intoxicate hearts” many more of us will need to think and act like (process and experience) designers. So what are you doing to throw a little fun into the mix?
It has been quite a week or so on the climate action/activism/advocacy front. From the 350.org global day of action to the Bioneers conferences happening around the country, to some interesting personal conversations I’ve had with staff members of the Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS) and Conservation International (CI), to ongoing preparations for the upcoming UN Conference on Climate Change in Copenhagan, it seems clear that momentum is gathering towards taking serious and significant steps to help mitigate and adapt to changes in our global climate that have already begun.
I just finished reading “Mob Rule! How Users Took Over Twitter” by Steven Levy on this month’s Wired. This is the stuff movements dream of! How many times have you been a part of the “leadership” conversation? Or the eternal question on the problematic role of the charismatic leader? Who should really be in charge? What is organic or truly democratic? Who has the power? What type of power? And how is power distributed?
We often say that one of the key attributes of networks is that you have to give up control. And little by little we are learning that this giving up of control is a new discipline of leadership, something we are having to learn after being socially trained into the command and control fantasy. From this perspective, by creating a space that organizes and runs itself, the people of Twitter have accomplished something that we movement builders can only dream of – so I think it’s worth taking a closer look.
Every October in Camden, Maine, 700 remarkable change agents from across all sectors, issue areas and the world come together to share their breakthrough social innovations that they believe will build a just, sustainable and positive future. The gathering is hosted by PopTech a truly unique innovation network “known for its thriving community of thought-leaders, breakthrough innovation programs, visionary annual conferences and deep media and storytelling capabilities”.
This year’s conference was titled America Re-Imagined and again proved that while the media covers only catastrophe and great suffering there is a parallel reality, a great force, that is building, creating and innovating our way forward. The effects of this movement are seen everywhere and some of its most talented members can be seen and heard through the PopTech video link.