I can’t remember exactly where I saw the phrase recently, but I latched onto it. “Connections change what is connected.” So true. And this is a reason to seriously consider the power and promise of building networks for social change.
In our mainstream culture it seems that many people tend to look at things in isolation, without appreciating that context and relationship have so much to say about the nature of … well, everything. Think about the following examples: Read More
One of my mantras around network building and social change is that creating greater (and new forms of) connectivity is not simply a “so that” or a “nice to have” but is really an “as” and critical to the work of systems and structural change. This is echoed is some way, shape or form in many of the posts that appear in this space, and I think it bears repeating. Consider the following:
“Whether we learn how to love ourselves and others will depend on the presence of a loving environment. Self-love cannot flourish in isolation.”
Isolation can kill. Science shows how loneliness and social isolation can ravage the body and brain. As noted in an article in The New Rebublic – “A partial list of the physical diseases thought to be caused or exacerbated by loneliness would include Alzheimer’s, obesity, diabetes, high blood pressure, heart disease, neurodegenerative diseases, and even cancer.” And who are the lonely? In many cases the poor, the bullied and oppressed, the “different.” When we consider how isolation can impact genes, we see how the cycles of poverty and oppression can play out at a fundamental psychobiological level. What this calls for, in part, is work that reconnects those who are currently in isolation and on the margins from/of myriad social goods including emotional support, tangible services and other critical resources.
Disconnection breeds irresponsible behavior and prejudice. Science is helping us to understand the role of implicit bias in all of our lives and in society. Furthermore, the work of people like Paul Piff shows how those with considerable privilege who isolate from the rest of society (and keep to their own) tend to lose touch with empathy and any sense of egalitarianism. As my colleague Cynthia Parker notes, “Engaging with people unlike ourselves in situations that involve meaningful activity [and] counter-stereotypic experiences” helps to eliminate biases. In other words keeping and strengthening direct connection is a key part of the work for equity and democracy.
University of California researcher, Paul Piff, and his colleagues have been studying privilege.
In one study, they set up a rigged game of monopoly. The players who had been randomly assigned to get more money and other advantages began to demonstrate some disturbing differences from the other players. They began to move their pieces around the board more loudly, displayed “signs of dominance and nonverbal displays of power and celebration,” ate more pretzels, and came “ruder, less and less sensitive to the plight of the poor players, and more likely to showcase how well they were doing.” After the game, the rich players attributed their success to their skills and strategy, not the systematic advantages they had over the other player, even though they knew the advantages were real and were randomly assigned.
In a rigged game of Monopoly, denial of unearned privilege has few consequences, but what about in the rigged game called life?
“Somebody’s gotta tell them, that we are not ghosts, that we are in this city and we are alive!”
– Jessica Care Moore
Feeling nostalgic, shaken, stirred, and inspired during my current trip to Michigan, and my first return visit to my hometown of Flint in 15 years. So much here has changed: foreclosures – 2,000 last year alone, 40% of all property parcels in the city are vacant or abandoned, jobs have disappeared now to the point of 25% unemployment, 36% of all residents live in poverty, half of the student population in the public schools has left in the last 10 years resulting in numerous school closings including my high school, of those students that remain 81% qualify for free lunch. And the flip side, there are anchor institutions, physical landmarks, and stalwart active citizens (thank you, Sylvester Jones and Harold Ford, among others!) that remain and provide some sense of backbone, continuity, and hope. Read More
I made it out to #occupywallstreet last Friday night. Here is how my experience unfolded:
1. Culture Shock
I’m into showers, they’re not. I’m in my mid-thirties, grew up in a working class Puerto Rican community and I’ve been yupified over the years. I didn’t see a lot of people of color and I wasn’t feeling the vibe. I wondered how people from my community could ever make a link to this crowd. I was welcomed to walk around, curiously browsing, checking out the scene, the art and the people.
I’m the one that’s all shook up. I’m just getting back from doing some very powerful work with Reading Village in Guatemala and I’m still processing the experience. It is difficult not to be overwhelmed by the sheer scale of poverty and palpability of oppression. I come back with images of the smiles of an incredibly resilient Mayan people and I can not understand how they have withstood five centuries of aggression. It is in this context that we were called to do our work. Read More
Haiti. I’m sure I’m not the only one who watches with profound sadness at the loss of life and devastation by way of natural disaster and makes direct comparisons to the Hurricane Katrina tragedy and its blow to the precious people of New Orleans.
I’m writing from the Opportunity Collaboration, and anti-poverty convening in Ixtapa, Mexico. It has been quite an experience and while we are working with powerful content, I want to write about process. This has not been a conference! About 260 delegates have been convened in a beautiful resort to tackle the problem of poverty from a relatively diverse set of approaches and outlooks, ranging from philanthropy to micro-finance, nonprofits and other social ventures.
Groups of 20 delegates come together 2 hours each morning in what has been titled the Colloquium for the Common Good. This is the common conversation we are having throughout the convening as we are invited to reflect on our values and why we do this work. I have been honored to serve as facilitator for one of these groups and I am quite impressed by the depth of our conversations.