For decades I’ve worked with communities: groups of people who come together for a cause, in most cases toward a more dynamic city or better health for everyone. There are best practice activities to engage in, and lots of resources out there. And yet over and over (and over, if you want to be specific) I see that the space between people or groups is where the work happens or doesn’t. Collective Impact: diverse groups coming together to make a change, AKA Working with People Who Don’t Have to Do What You Say.
I recently heard a statement attributed to Len Bartel, “Progress happens at the speed of trust”, and this is what’s rolling around with me today. Mom and Dad, my kids, my relationship with my man, my work. As I look around at my life and the space I’m holding, I’m learning that I am a Challenger, and I better wield that wisely. In Resistance Flexibility, I have what’s known as the Genius of Community and Challenge, a Skin type in TCM. The enneagram puts me at an 8, Challenger again, and the Fascinator has me down as a Catalyst: where passion and innovation come together. If you haven’t partaken of these tools, please give them a try. They’ve helped me immensely to gain perspective and feel more at home in myself.
Of course the shadow side of this, and of me, is that I tend to want to break shit. My eye and heart goes to the place where the breakdown is, immediately. This is often perceived as a threat, or I’m threatening, and triggers a defensive attitude. So my growth and best service comes from owning this power and holding love and stillness in there as I do it. I can do tremendous damage if I’m not careful, and can get very sick if I stay in a place that resists change and protects the status quo. I’m also not a theorist. I’ve got to see where action shows up in physical form, with a sense of urgency there as well.
Now that I’ve spent too much time contemplating my navel, I want to offer something of value to you, Dear Reader. This has taken a turn inward that may not be useful.
As I write this, the school across the street is having their morning announcements, you know, over the PA system. I’ve been listening to them for years, and I love the sound of children on the playground. They are grades 4-6 I think, and this year, students are reading the announcements. Today being Friday, I guess they’ve earned a reward, because Rock n Roll music is pulsing through the speakers. Progress. Members of the community, in this case students, given a sense of personal voice and agency in the community they live in. Not just recipients, audience, or vessels for outside information in this moment. I can feel that.
I’ve lived in a lot of places where that has been systematically bred out of a population, i.e. Mill Towns in Maine. Communities where longstanding resentments, often through a broken process or disrespectful systems of power and control let people continue to behave badly, or at least in ways that do not serve them. The oppressed want only to lay blame, and those in a broken power dynamic seek to protect that system at all costs. The car dealership owner who makes a strategic phone call to prevent citizen-led action that may shake things up, as an example.
The stories carry a common thread across communities. The flavor of that nugget of hope that becomes the rallying cry is what changes, and what makes change happen, at the speed of trust. I love that euphoric moment.