“Some of my relatives lived for decades in the North, in Kano and Bornu. They spoke fluent Hausa. (One relative taught me, at the age of eight, to count in Hausa.) They made planned visits to Anambra only a few times a year, at Christmas and to attend weddings and funerals. But sometimes, in the wake of violence, they made unplanned visits. I remember the word ‘Maitatsine’ – to my young ears, it had a striking lyricism – and I remember the influx of relatives who had packed a few bags and fled the killings. What struck me about those hasty returns to the East was that my relatives always went back to the North. Until two years ago when my uncle packed up his life of thirty years in Maiduguri and moved to Awka. He was not going back. This time, he felt, was different.” – Chimamanda Adichie1 Comment
“Our minds automatically justify our decisions, blinding us to the true source, or beliefs, behind our decisions. Ultimately, we believe our decisions are consistent with our conscious beliefs, when in fact, our unconscious is running the show.”Howard Ross, Kirwin Institute, 2008Leave a comment
Last week, Curtis Ogden wrote about the power of narrative to build engagement and shape the action in networks. We’ve also been taking a deep dive into the role of narrative in racial healing. That is, focusing on the need to expose and transform the deeply embedded narratives about race that allow racism to persist through unconscious bias, individual behaviors and micro-aggressions, institutional practices, and structural arrangements in this society. The report “Telling our Own Story” describes the ways in which narratives about race have shaped the U.S. culture and values, and laid the foundation for social structures based on false stories about the value of people based on a racial hierarchy. Here are a few opening ideas. We hope you will read the full report. Read MoreLeave a comment
“Narratives can create a very different world, one where pressure evolves from a source of stress to a source of excitement, calling us to achieve even more of our potential, both as individuals and collectively.”
– John Hagel
Today’s post gives a big tip of the hat and bow of gratitude to John Hagel for his work on narrative, which I believe has much to offer networks for social change. First a little story . . . Read MoreLeave a comment
Kate Tempest and this video were brought to my attention by Tom Kelly of the Sustainability Institute at UNH when he presented Tempest’s work as an “offering,” a ritual opening and closing we use in our meetings of the Food Solutions New England Network Team meetings. It was certainly apt as we were talking about what it means to “put ourselves out there” on various fronts, to enter new territory with one another as we collectively push forward the conversation about New England creating a more just and sustainable regional food system.
I appreciate Tempest putting herself out there in general as a young artist, and this particular poetic rendering of the Icarus tale that suggests the young ambitious man’s “fall” provides lessons for the collective advancement of those whose feet have not “kicked the clouds.” Celebrating boldness and reaching new heights . . .Leave a comment
Ceasar McDowell, President of the Interaction Institute for Social Change and Professor of the Practice of Community Development at MIT brings the concept of a “Question Campaign” to our emerging work on Cities.
The question campaign is anchored by the premise that “asking questions invites people into conversation, rather than shutting down discussion by giving only answers.” Question campaigns “generate dialogue as a crucial first step in creating actual change on the ground.” Read More1 Comment
“Is there really One Boston? Boston Strong? Is the violence that occurs on a day-to-day basis acceptable? Is the reaction and response to violence different depending on where it happens or whom it happens to? Have we become desensitized to ‘regular violence’?” These are the questions the Blackstonian newspaper raises in a report detailing the 237 shootings in Boston since the Marathon bombings. Read MoreLeave a comment
Conferences and other large in-person convenings provide a great opportunity to launch and further develop networks for social change. As has been mentioned previously on this blog, and borrowing from the work of Plastrik and Taylor, at IISC we see networks for change as developing in various inter-related “modes,” including connectivity, alignment, and action. Paying attention to multiple dimensions of success can inform a variety of approaches to support a more robust, trust-bound, commonly-oriented, self-organizing and (as needed) formally coordinated collective.3 Comments
At IISC we are orienting our selves towards the City. These are the places where most human beings will live. They are the theater of human struggle, and thus for liberation. And as Jen points out, they just might be the key to sustainability.
Inequality is tearing our society apart. Oligarchy’s global claw back has been relentless, and potentially self-destructive. We are governed by moneyed interests and the precariat have been abandoned.
— MAG-Net (@mediaaction) February 27, 2014
Picking up where Gibrán’s post about our interior condition left us last week and my recent viewing of César Chávez, I wanted to lift up a description of love offered by staff of LUPE on a visit I took there last fall. “Love is a process, not a destination. Love is a set of actions that arise from an emotional state or a cognitive commitment.” Recently, I wrote about the power of strong emotions to create the space for breakthroughs. Today, I want to focus on the processes and commitments rather than the emotional states related to love.
When I read and listen to the reflections of people who are deeply committed to social justice, I am struck by their commitment to engaging with people and engaging the struggle in ways that proceeds from a powerful internal compass, even in the face of strong resistance. Think of the standard bearers of nonviolence during the Civil Rights Movement, who practiced non-retaliation in the face of attacks. Think of the painstaking and beautiful reconciliation process in the wake of Sierre Leon’s civil war, where the restoring right relationship between perpetrators and victims began with a public expression of remorse and a request for forgiveness.
In these cases and many others, there was as much attention to the interior condition of the people involved as there was to designing the processes by which they would catalyze change.
How are you attending to your own interior condition as you work for justice? How are you encouraging others to attend to theirs? How does that translate into processes that embody your commitments to love?
The structural vs. transformational debate is alive and well. I’m glad that Curtis and Cynthia have been dipping back into it over the last few weeks. It is good to start at the end: the answer is a both/and, it’s not a good idea to get stuck in binaries.
The print pictured above captures it for me. It is Nelson Mandela’s drawing of the view from his cell at Robben Island, where he was imprisoned for 30 years.
Take that in for a second.
Thirty years in jail for daring to stand up for freedom.
The print’s beauty is undeniable.
How is this perspective possible?
There was something in Mandela’s mind, something in his soul, that could not be subjugated. Oppression doesn’t get more structural than four walls and a padlock. But they could not take away his freedom. This is the freedom that breaks chains. It is the freedom that inspires the world and liberates a whole people.
Nelson Mandela is the icon that destroys the binary. Structural and transformational integrate in his lifetime.
I agree with Curtis and Glanzberg that “The pattern most in need of shifting is not out there in the world, but in our minds.” And I agree with Cynthia that our mind changes when we become aware that others share in our condition and that our condition is the product of a very specific structure.
But there is something else happening here.
We have an interior condition. This interior condition is significantly affected by our thinking, but it is more than our thinking. This interior condition is significantly affected by our objective conditions, but it is more than our objective conditions. This interior condition is profoundly individual, but it is greater than the individual – our interior is “inter-subjective.” We have a collective interior.
Bringing our care and attention to what is inside. Nurturing, cultivating, developing, evolving what is inside. Connecting to one another there. Actively engaging a mutual awakening – that is the key to changing our thinking and to transforming our structures. It is the next step to liberation.