Happy New Year! Today is my 42nd birthday and the 2-year anniversary of the Disrupt For Good Blog. It all began with my New Year’s Revolution/40th Birthday Manifesto. Whether you’ve been here since day one or you’re new, thanks for joining in the conversation about how to disrupt the social services sector for good and intentionally centre our work in justice approaches.
Today I'm sharing some 2022 highlights and a few thoughts as we move into 2023.
Yesterday I was working into the evening, and my daughter told me I was in the grind.
That is the opposite of what I want to be.
It is the opposite of what I want to model for my daughter.
And also, I don’t think resting and disrupting for good should be at odds. Which means that the way I am working—trying to cram in a too-long list of to-dos, picking up slack and being mad about it—isn’t aligning with my values and with who I want to be.
So today I’m thinking about rest as resistance. Disruptive rest. And our tour guide for this work is the leader of the Nap Ministry, Nap Bishop Tricia Hersey.
Last week I had the honour of participating in the first Community Change Experience, held in Delray Beach, Florida. The 3-day gathering was a joint initiative of Palm Health Foundation, Tamarack Institute, Tenacious Change, and EJS Project.
I want to share my main takeaways with you.
A Homeless Enumeration is a community-level count and survey of people experiencing homelessness at a particular point in time. These are mandated by the Ontario Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing, but they are conducted regularly in other jurisdictions in Canada and beyond.
Most homeless enumerations in Ontario use a combined methodology of a PiT (Point in Time) count, as well as a survey to try to glean more information that communities can then act on to improve our understanding of homelessness, inform efforts to meet the needs of people experiencing homelessness in a given community as well as long-term strategies to prevent and reduce homelessness, and more.
The website for the one here in Simcoe County reads “Our goal is to end homelessness in Simcoe County. The data we gather helps us do that.”
I wrote that sentence. I have supported our communications efforts through four enumerations.
We do gather some good data from enumerations that help us better understand the demographics we are trying to support - how many people, what type of housing they want and where, what barriers they face - but the more I am learning (and unlearning) about homelessness, the less I believe that the enumeration we are doing supports ending homelessness. In fact, I now believe it perpetuates harmful stereotypes.
“Nobody wants to work anymore.” You’ve heard it. You might have even said it. It’s a dominant narrative, from fed-up employers to grumpy waiting customers and everyone in between.
But is it true?
As a reminder, this is part deux of last month’s blog post inspired by Story or Die by Lisa Cron.
I left you at the end of chapter 4, completely convinced of the power of story, ready to turn the page into the section entitled “Your Audience, Their Story, Your Point.” And friends, I will tell you now, I had high hopes that for $22.99 plus applicable taxes, I had stumbled onto the guide that would help me, and us, tell the stories that would persuade everyone to do what we want them to do.
Soooo, there’s a lot going on, locally and globally.
As one Twitter user noted: “hey sorry if I seem tired they did like fifty years worth of bad stuff in a week.”
For us hopey changey folks, there have been some...setbacks lately. It can feel like we are banging our heads against a wall as we advocate for things we feel are obvious.
On some level, that comes with the advocacy territory. It's a long game. But also, I can’t shake the feeling that a lot of our well-meaning messages poll well in our echo chambers but just aren’t landing with the folks we’re trying to persuade. My instinct here is that better stories are at least part of the solution - not necessarily slicker, more polished stories. But a more strategic use and understanding of them maybe.
So, after some moping, I’m digging into a book I’ve had in my TBR pile for a few months: Story Or Die by Lisa Cron.
Full disclosure, I’m only on chapter four. BUT Cron has already dropped some seriously good points and tips that I want to share. Because not to be dramatic or anything, but the stakes are really high in some of the fights we are in right now and we need to be putting our best foot forward.
It’s voting day here in Ontario. I heart democracy, and I take my privilege and responsibility to vote very seriously. Even with my love of democracy and my shiny optimism, it can be hard to get excited about elections where we watch politicians backed by wealthy donors ‘win’ a majority government with less than 50% of the vote. Especially when a number of those candidates that will likely be elected tonight avoided all public debates.
BUT. For my mental health, I'm not writing that rant today.
In honour of the provincial election today, and in preparation for the municipal one we will have this fall, today’s post is a more positive democracy round-up: some history, some insights, and some inspiration.
I finished Jordan Flaherty’s book No More Heroes: Grassroots Challenges to the Savior Mentailty this weekend. As I’ve mentioned before, I’m increasingly aware of saviourism in the non-profit sector, and so the title of this book grabbed my attention and I was quick to click the “add to cart” button.
While the specific stories and struggles Flaherty shares are mostly American and largely racial in nature, there was still a lot here that I found relevant. Importantly, some good takeaways for us on how to avoid falling into saviourism ourselves.
For no particular reason at all, apropos of nothing in particular, a book called High Conflict: Why we get trapped and how we get out, by Amanda Ripley, caught my eye a few weeks ago.
Ripley distinguishes between healthy conflict and high conflict. Healthy conflict she describes as “useful friction” rooted in curiosity, passion, and where all sides want a solution. It can get stressful and heated, but everyone’s dignity stays intact.
High conflict is something else altogether, when discord distills into a good-versus-evil, us-versus-them feud where curiosity is replaced with certainly and righteous rage. The fight is no longer about the original issue, it becomes about the conflict itself. And there seems to be little interest in moving through it to the other side.
Sound familiar? Any number of local, national, and international examples may be popping into your head right now.
The book is very illuminating with stacks of stories as examples. One of my biggest takeaways for us is the role of narrative in perpetuating or getting out of high conflict, and that’s what I want to share with you here.
I'm Jennifer. I am an advocacy and communications strategist working with multiple charities and nonprofits. And I want to disrupt our sector for good.