Our third planning meeting for our community engagement efforts was a real brain-bender, as we followed Catalytic Thinking to consider the conditions under which people would want to be in conversation with us.
In addition to reading those summaries, this particular meeting had deep, meaningful, thoughtful observations that would be best experienced in real time. We strongly recommend that you listen to the conversation itself – a discussion filled with passion, energy, spirit, and clarity.
Deep gratitude to Jackie Bradley for the following notes. Jackie is the documentarian for our Integrity Team, and her ability to capture the essence of a conversation is unparalleled. Thank you, Jackie, for always helping us find clarity in what are often some mind-bending discussions.
Creating the Future Integrity Conversation: 7/11/2022
Meeting #2 Recap
Following Catalytic Thinking for this planning, the first question we asked is – Who would be affected by engaging around the question of what’s next for Creating the Future? If we don’t ask about who would be affected, we’re opening the door to unintended consequences. We spent a lot of time listening to each other about why engagement matters. Last meeting, we started talking about what engagement makes possible. The three big themes: engagement makes possible…
• feeling connected
• learning from each other
• a shift in power
Ultimately, the best possible outcome of people engaging is that people are engaged!
Following Catalytic Thinking, the next step is to determine the conditions that must be in place for people to feel connected, for people to learn from each other, and especially for people to step into their own power. At this meeting, we began with that last item – shifting power.
What needs to be in place for people to feel they have agency / power to make a difference?
- Young activists are feeling more despairing about their activism – especially in the context of climate activism. People need to understand how change happens and that its not linear
- Honesty – honesty comes from being heart centered. I’m reading The Tao of Equus, to paraphrase one passage – The salvation of the world depends on the resurrection of a heart centered, co-creative partnership between human beings and the world. Being heart-centered is key to having a conversation and listening to each other.
- I have been engaging with Tema Akun’s work on the characteristics of white supremacy culture and the principles of racial equity. As we do work and shift power, we have to be accountable to both people and principles at the same time. It’s not either/or. We have to be able to do both at the same time. You can’t sacrifice your principles, but you also can’t sacrifice your people.
- Change has to happen at multiple levels. We have to give people opportunities to engage at multiple levels and also push them to engage at multiple levels. It’s not just about what the community can change, but also the internal changes that need to be made, and vice versa.
- We need to know how to help people step into power. It’s not always enough to just ask; you need to provide a safe place for people to practice taking on that power.
So, what does it take for people who have been told that they don’t have power to feel that they have the agency to step into their own power?
- Experiential learning – people need the opportunity to come together and practice holding each other up.
- Listen and make immediate changes based on what is heard
- Trust and coming into the conversation without having the answer already
- Transactional analysis – In an interaction, people take on the role of parent/child/adult based on the role of the other participants. For example, if you take the parent role in your approach, the other person will respond in the child role and vice versa. But if you approach in the adult role, the other person will also respond in the adult role. You need to enter as equals.
- Stepping away from some of the power that we carry
- An understanding that trying and failing is better than not trying at all
- Supporting people through experiments and working to right the boat when it tips. Encouraging them to try something they might fail at by ensuring you will be there to support them regardless of the outcome.
- A lot of communities are tired of being engaged and this conversation feels very academic. What would actually be engaging to people right now? For many people, right now is about survival.
- What are people passionate about? And how can we meet that passion?
- Being transparent about the process up front and sticking to what you say is going to happen. It really drains you when you give your involvement and then don’t see the changes. Trust needs to be built slowly and iteratively. You need to show people again and again and again that you’ll live up to what you say.
- It feels like there are two different tracks – trust needs a long process and at the same time, we need to listen and make immediate change. Ask à listen à
- People exist in contexts, so how can we support them through the different layers of their context? How can we help amplify people’s power to create ripples throughout these layers?
- Community engagement may be the wrong term. We’re looking to co-create, not do something at or to the people. To figure out what’s next, we need to co-create it.
- When we’ve been talking about community engagement, we’ve been talking about how to get people involved in our work; what if we flipped it to say how can we get involved in the people’s work?
- Story about a fish – One group of kindergarteners were told to draw a fish and they drew all sorts of wonderful fish. The other group were told to draw a fish and here’s what a fish might look like. The second group all drew that same fish. Is this what’s happening to us by calling this “community engagement.”
- Is the community separate from us? When I think about what it takes to engage myself, that creates a very different path from what it may take to engage a community that doesn’t include me. And if we’re talking about engaging a community that doesn’t include us, then we need to ask why aren’t they here?
- We’re in a chicken and egg situation regarding who gets to decide what’s next. People don’t have the time or energy to co-create right now. Are these conversations currently relevant to communities? The past few months of Creating the Future’s conversations have been very intellectual with no discussion about the current realities facing communities.
- How do we create an environment where people can take those urgent, practical steps in their communities?
- What is our role in helping people take action that actually accomplishes something?
- A lot of the things that we’ve told people will make changes are simply not true. We need to make sure people have the right tools. You need both/and – both a confrontational strategy and an “insider” strategy to make change. Are we a group who will advise people on direct action? Maybe not, our role might be to make those insiders more effective, because they have to be.
- I’m thinking about the “yes/and.” It takes both direct action and systemic, structural stuff. It’s also really necessary to move beyond the performative.
- We need to be really clear about what our contribution is and what our contribution is not. We need to think about whereabouts in the system we have a role because we cannot be everything and do everything.
- This might not be the right thing for everybody right now, so I’m thinking about who this is for and what we’re doing. How do we provide the right thing for the right people at the right time?
- What are the strengths of Creating the Future? What would need to change to be more effective? What needs to happen for us to be engaged?
- I’m struggling with the urgency being real and now, but these conversations also creating a space for me to stay in line with my values. I see value in that, but is that also just me being able to exist within my privilege?
- Thankful for all of the conversation and thinking about how tired people are about being asked to be engaged
- I needed to go back to the goal. For me the goal is not engaging the community, it’s people feeling like they have the power to make change. Maybe the words around that aren’t right, though.
- How do we extend ourselves to other communities? The phrase “community engagement” by itself creates division. The language itself is giving us a problem.
- I’m thinking about the name Creating the Future. To me, that pathway to a vision for the future is the thing that ties together direct action and institutional change. I’m also thinking about the distinction between relationship and engagement.
- I’m feeling different from the group today. Much of what we’ve discussed is not what I’ve experienced. And so I keep learning.
- The thought leadership from Creating the Future has been instrumental. We cannot make Creating the Future agnostic in its approach. The people who perhaps have been using pieces of Catalytic Thinking most effectively have been conservatives to get US Supreme court justices on the bench, without even realizing they are doing it. They aren’t using the first and most important questions around who will be affected, what it would take to listen to what is important to them, ensuring they are the ones making the decisions about the work. But they have very successfully reverse engineered our current situations.
Our next planning session will be Thursday, July 14th. Details are here. We hope you will join us!