Words and the way in which we order and convey them can have tremendous power. This has been driven home by a variety of experiences and stories. There was the environmental conservation effort that was having a hard time bringing certain stakeholders under its umbrella until it began offering others the opportunity to join a movement to “preserve quality of place.” Then there was the effort to intervene on the behalf of some of our depleted fisheries that began with a slogan more or less about about “saving fish,” and that only ended up bringing key players into the fold when it shifted to being about “ensuring that we can fish forever.” Engagement is a science and an art form and the importance of our word choices is not to be underestimated.
What experiences have you had with the power of words in the pursuit of social change?
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I’ve been working with a couple of organizations and initiatives lately as they discuss enhancing their strategies for stakeholder engagement. Throughout all of this work is the emerging awareness that we are in the midst of a paradigm shift in our field with respect to what engagement means and looks like. This, of course, has been captured by many writers and thinkers who have been looking closely at what social media is enabling (see, for example, Clay Shirky’s work, the Working Wikkily blog, or the writings of Beth Kanter and Allison Fine). And at the same time there is a realization that this is not just about technology, but a return to some of what we’ve forgotten as well as a step towards something new. Read More
Last month we were graced by the presence of Kathy Sferra, who was on loan from Mass Audubon. Kathy took the initiative to approach us about spending one month of her six week sabbatical apprenticing herself to IISC, observing and contributing to our work and taking the lessons back to her home organization. She began contributing instantly as a thought partner, often making keen observations and asking good questions that her relative outsider perspective afforded. As her parting gift to us, Kathy offered up the following reflections and take-aways, specifically with respect to designing and facilitating meetings and other convenings, that I wanted, in the spirit of the season, to re-gift and pass along: Read More
As I prepare for what I’m sure will be a challenging and exciting process, I look back on Bill’s insights on network building (thankfully, LCW is an organizational partner in this process!) and his following quote really stands out:
“A network is best understood as an environment of connectivity rather than an organization in the traditional sense. At its best, it is an environment that is value driven and self-generating, where control and decision-making is dispersed and where being ‘well connected’ is the optimal state for any participant. Networks are established in order to create efficiency and optimum value for its participants – with only as much infrastructure as is needed to create effective connectivity. Read More