What Does It Mean to "Be the Change We Want to See?"

GandhiFive consultants from across the US walked into our class last Monday as “consultants to community benefit organizations.”  They left on Friday as facilitators of their communities’ highest potential for being amazing places to live.

As it is with each of our Consultant Immersion Courses, the focus began far beyond the question “What do I have to do to effect change in my community?” Instead the class began where we begin each time, asking, “What does it mean to be the change I want to see in my community?”

I hope that begins to answer why conversations here at the blog have ground firmly to a halt.  The week was an intense cap to one of the most intense months we’ve experienced in quite some time. It started with a trip to Chicago as the “founders of the diaper banking movement,” to meet with leaders from ten diaper banks from across the country.  It was powerful to see what this small band has accomplished already, and more powerful to consider what they could accomplish together that none of them can accomplish on their own.

The month included a week of preparing for our immersion course, and another week teaching that course. It included visiting a dear friend for several days, knowing it would be the last time we would see him. And then the month included not only his passing, but the sudden passing of another member of our extended family – a 33 year old man who was a mentor to my daughter. Death and birth and intense work marked the month of October.

And transformation. Thinking about our Consultants Immersion Course last week, I am realizing the extent to which teaching this class also transforms me. October’s class was Class #4, which means I’ve been transformed 4 times now. Class #5 will join the team mid-November, which means I am due for the next morphing of my own being. What a gift that is!

Class #4

Participants in the courses have included both independent consultants and leaders of management support organizations (volunteer centers, United Ways, etc.). They have included a 77 year old who is ready to greet whatever life has in store for her next career, and a 35 year old who is at the exact same place.

Some have been relatively new consultants, wanting to form effective “community change habits” right out of the chute.  Some have been consulting for 30+ years, knowing the course would stretch them beyond their very comfortable comfort zones, and further knowing that is precisely what it will take to be the change they had hoped their consulting work would have created by now.

All these individuals share one thing in common: A commitment to doing whatever it takes to be the change they want to see in the world.

They know that the 3 tiny words “be the change” includes two critical components. The first component lies in the words the change.  Exactly what change is it that we want to see?  That change is nothing less than our highest potential as consultants and as change facilitators. Spending time to identify the change takes the phrase beyond a trite saying, and begins to make that change real and possible and powerful.

Secondly, “being the change” requires that we understand the being part. What does it mean to be that change?  What does it mean to be our own highest potential as change agents?

As I get my sea legs back after the intensity of last month, I hope the transformation of last week’s class spills over in this post, and spreads over your own work.

What is the highest potential for the work you are doing?

And what will it take to accomplish that success – to BE the change you want to see in the world?

We hope you will consider joining our merry band of change makers. Classes are scheduled throughout 2010.

1 thought on “What Does It Mean to "Be the Change We Want to See?"”

  1. Hi Hildy: I want to reply to your post, with a bit of a philosophical issue.

    You know that I worked in neighbourhood community development for 10 years, in an area that was “high risk” everywhere you looked. But I was always stumped by the phrase used in the program model, “primary prevention”. Because I’m not a trained social worker, but I am a skilled activist, I could never figure out what I was supposed to do to achieve primary prevention. I asked often in my first 2 years, and no one could ever tell me. It seemed like some sort of vague mystery, and that I might have the answer to some day. Well, I finally got fed up with waiting. I knew I needed a pathway for action, and decided to just create my own answer.

    What I did was reframe the vague and negative notion into a positive concept (drawing from the NLP teaching of my educational psychology prof in teacher’s college). What’s the positive opposite of prevention? I reasoned that it is “enrichment”, whereupon I began a new teaching practice called “how to enrich the neighbourhood”. Where people had previously been as flumoxed as I was about what to do in prevention, they knew exactly what they wanted to do in enrichment. The word itself has the most beautiful connotation – riches! We figured out lots of ways to honour the richness of the neighbourhood and to enrich its struggling residents. No small feat.

    I feel the same way about the phrase, “be the change”. What does that mean when we speak in CDI terms? For me, it’s too oblique, too vague. It speaks to the negative, or to the half-formed process. This thought has been hovering in the background of my consciousness for a while, and for some reason has crystalized in the last couple of days: it’s not the change that we want to see, as much as the lived expression of the community we want to create. Change is only 50% of the way there.

    The activist in me says, “the point is the completion of the process”. So, with all due respect to you and Mr.Ghandi, I’m changing the phrase to “be the community you want to see”. It tells me what to do, rather than what not to do.

    Thanks for the column, and helping me complete the thought.



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