Living in Love

August 16, 2013 2 Comments

We worked with a national network of mostly white social change activists. We supported members of the network to increase the number of people of color at their annual gathering from 5% to 40% in a single year.

To engage people in the midst of palpable tensions, we designed self-organized dialogues, storytelling, social time and outdoor time to build relationships, explore one another’s work and discover new collaborative possibilities. We even took advantage of a power outage to have an intimate candle light dinner.

Some of the principles that guide this aspect of our practice include:

  • Honor the value each person brings. We facilitate cultural sharing and use visuals, processes and materials that reflect participants’ diversity.
  • Design for whole people, not “brains on a stick,” as one of my colleagues says. We make connections between body, mind and soul in the physical, emotional and intellectual spaces we create, integrating movement, poetry, art, self-reflection and more.
  • Leverage the power of narrative to engage hearts and minds. A well-placed story can transform a person’s perspective more than a mountain of data.
  • Shift the binary race discourse (either I am a racist or I am not; either I’m good or I’m bad) to one where our goodness is not impugned and our daily practice to transform racism is what matters.
  • Recognize the power that people of color bring to the table. Don’t rely exclusively on white power. Facilitate spaces where people of color can transcend the trauma of racism and become self-determined actors whose course is not guided primarily by responding to racism.
  • Celebrate accomplishments large and small.


  • GibranX says:

    Pure resonance here, thank you for the excellent and concise articulation!

    We need better apprenticeships for this work, we need more people to “feel” what it looks like, rather than just trying to make sense of it from brilliant blog posts… but blog posts like this one are a great way to launch.

  • Beau Stubblefield-Tave says:

    Cynthia. The numerical growth of 5% to 40% is impressive. Expect the individual and community growth is even greater, if more challenging to measure. What have you observed? Any measures you can share?

    GibranX’ comment regarding apprenticeships is spot on. I had the pleasure of training at Harvard Pilgrim with consultants from Tom Gordon’s team. After an intensive 3 day training, we worked in diverse, three person teams. Each team had an external master trainer and two internal apprentices. Eventually, several of us became internal lead trainers and the consultants were largely phased out.

    This version of ‘train the trainer’ is expensive, of course. In my book, the return on the investment is far greater than the single external trainer model or even most traditional train the trainer work.

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