Do You Have a Vision?

January 20, 2010 Leave a comment

It’s the beginning of a new year, and all the treadmills are occupied at the gym. It’s hard to find any space in the locker room because so many people are set on establishing a new healthy routine for 2010. I’m not a new year’s resolution person, but I am thinking about fresh starts, renewed commitments to be good to myself, and shifts in the projects I’m going to put my energy towards. At IISC, we’ve committed to a new strategic direction for the next three years. Perhaps you’ve been mapping out your personal workplan for 2010 or doing some beginning of the year reflection with your peers, about how you want to work together this year to achieve progress on whatever social justice project you’re working on.

I wonder, do you have a vision for the world you want to see? Have you articulated it to yourself? Have you articulated it to your colleagues? Do you know what your co-conspirator’s visions are? I generally find this to be a very difficult exercise. I can talk, for example, about what’s wrong with the mainstream media’s treatment of the current crisis in Haiti, but have a much harder time describing what economic justice looks like. And at the same time, I know that I feel more closely connected to people and am more excited to dig into work with them when I know something about their passion and motivation and when I have shared something about what kind of change I hope to ultimately be contributing to.

If you’ve facilitated groups of people within a non-profit or across organizational boundaries who are working on something together, or even worked on a social justice project within an organization or independent of one, you may have grappled with the following questions. If so, what insights can you share?

  • What are your favorite tools or exercises that engage people in articulating their vision?
  • How do you create a space that allows for healthy dissonance among the visions of the people in the group?
  • When do you think engaging a group in visioning exercises is helpful, and when is it not?
  • To what degree does a group need to agree on a collective vision for their work or for the long-term impacts of that work?

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  • Wonderful post, Jen. Really. Great questions and Im sure many colleagues will answer with their tools and tips…but for now, Im challenged to work on my own vision, sparked by your post. Just got off of the phone with a beloved friend of mine for years, definitely one of my co-conspirators on this Life Journey. We caught up on our visions for the new year, and he challenged me to put legs to a new vision I have for a creative project. Not until I read this blog did it occur to me that I should just write a Vision Statement for the thing. Its in new arena for me, and I dont otherwise know where to begin. Youve reminded me that the Vision Space is a great space to capture at the beginning of a dream, as a way to concretize and memorialize it as I concurrently build and implement it. Im rambling….but better yet, Ive got to go….and write my Vision down. Thanks, J!

  • Gibran says:

    Thanks for the questions Jen, as well as for your reflection! Here are some point by point quick answers:
    • I’m enjoying finding a ways to illustrate “creative constraints” (something between point A & point B) and then invite people to tell me the story of their vision in 20 images from the internet
    • I’m into the idea of ritualized dissent as a way to “poke” at a collective plan or vision, I like to tie this in with some sort of “believing game”
    • Definitely helpful to engage in such visioning at the beginning and the end of a given process, I tend to stay away from “re-opening” on vision once the group has reached agreement on where they want to go.
    • I think the group should share a “north star,” a general direction of where they want to go, but I think the idea that everyone must be in the same page in order to move is overrated and often paralyzing.

  • Susan Wright says:

    Thank you for posting those questions as I believe vision can come as a daunting task for some or even elusive at times. However, in working with groups or individuals I believe the core of that vision lies a truth, message, or value that each person/or group may hold. In other words, to engage in the process it’s helpful to allow any fears or constraints to be accounted for or at least acknowledged; thereby, relieving themselves of these unsurfaced conditions each can then venture into a creative way to express there hopes, intentions and key motivators.

    Regard to last question – there does need to be a sense of direction and some shape to this, but enough space for it to be flexible, unfolding and expansive. More people rowing in the same direction adds power with each injecting a skill or strategy to arrive at a better result (so room for disagreement as long as it steers the boat in the right direction).

  • Jen Willsea says:

    Wow, thanks Melinda, Gibran, and Susan for your thoughtful replies! Melinda, I hope you’re having fun writing your mission statement!

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