Often when I sit down to write here, it is to share my favourite takeaways from a book I have just read. But sometimes, I write to share something that a friend of mine generously calls my “thought scholarship,” aka my own hot takes on what’s going on, or synthesizing and making connections between a few ideas that I’ve read or heard recently.
This month it’s the second kind.
It’s NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month). I’m not writing a novel, but I am writing a book. So today, I’m sharing a little bit about what I’m writing, what’s shaping it, and why I think it matters.
The core of the book is a number of shifts I think we need to make and how to get started - I’ve shared many of them here over the last few years:
Charity to Solidarity
Saviourism to Justice
Certainty to Curiosity
Scarcity to Sustainability
Problem solving to Possibility imagining
Individualism to Interconnectedness
Struggle to Ease
Activism to Organizing
I'm reading The Four Pivots by Shawn Ginwright, and he writes, "Our work at social change has become an effort to make better maps without a clear, compelling destination. It doesn't matter how good your map is without a clear and compelling destination."
So I call them shifts, and I know it’s important to identify where we are shifting *to*, but I’ve struggled to name it.
And then recently I was listening to an episode of the Blueprints for Disruption podcast. Jessa McLean hosts it, and she had Diana Chan McNally on in Toronto talking about encampments, homelessness, etc. And at the end, they were talking about what needs to happen to get everyone on the same team, looking past differences, rowing together, to make the system and attitude changes we need to, you know, save the world, essentially, as in across sectors. And Jessa started crying and said she has guest after guest come on the show, and they all get to here, knowing that's what needs to happen, but no one knows how to do it.
And I wonder if that's where we are shifting to.
Or rather, what these shifts help us get to.
Because I also saw a post from a guy named Kim whose kid asked him if they were middle class. And he told his kid, lower class, middle class, and upper class are all made up terms by the owning class to divide the working class.
And it feels like maybe the divisiveness we are experiencing right now keeps us from knowing our collective power. Like we’re being goaded into getting mad at people with nothing so we don't notice that billionaires are getting richer. And competing for funding dollars when foundations continue to grant just a small fraction of their wealth and the governments continue to ask us to do more with less in social services while the tax breaks seem bottomless for corporations. You know?
So maybe all the shifts are toward working together and recognizing our collective power.
As Ginwright puts it, “To sit in community and cultivate the courage to extend our circle of belonging,” an act that he says will go against everything we believe about how change happens.
In preparing for a meeting later this week, I looked up Margaret Wheatley’s poem, Turning To One Another, and I was struck by how well it sums up what I want for us so badly and what made Jessa cry on her podcast.
There is no power greater than a community discovering what it cares about.
Ask “What’s possible?” not “What’s wrong?” Keep asking.
Notice what you care about.
Assume that many others share your dreams.
Be brave enough to start a conversation that matters.
Talk to people you know.
Talk to people you don’t know.
Talk to people you never talk to.
Be intrigued by the differences you hear.
Expect to be surprised.
Treasure curiosity more than certainty.
Invite in everybody who cares to work on what’s possible.
Acknowledge that everyone is an expert about something.
Know that creative solutions come from new connections.
Remember, you don’t fear people whose story you know.
Real listening always brings people closer together.
Trust that meaningful conversations can change your world.
Rely on human goodness. Stay together.
—Margaret Wheatley, “Turning to One Another,” 2002
Over the rest of this month, I’ll be trying to wrangle these thoughts and more into a book outline and a draft.
As I do that, I’d love to hear from you - which, if any, of those shifts resonate with you? Do you have any thoughts on the importance of shifting toward collective belonging to unite across differences for change? Are you participating in NaNoWriMo? Let me know. :)
Thanks as always for reading.
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.