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.
Some 2022 Highlights
In my twenties, I had no time for reflection. There was too much to do! Too many wrongs to make right! Obviously our work is having a good impact, we should use all our time doing more of it. But I now recognize the value of pausing and looking back for lessons, themes, learnings, and sometimes, wins. If you do, too, you might enjoy YearCompass as an exercise in closing 2022 and starting 2023.
As I look back over my posts here through 2022, I was definitely writing about what I was learning. I see the progression through my early understanding of narrative change and how facts and stories work together to frame our understanding of issues. (Disrupting With Stories, pt 1 & pt 2, Disrupting Individualism: Homeless Enumeration Edition) I also see my thoughts about saviourism taking shape. (Shifting from Saviourism to Solidarity, ‘Rescuing is for kittens’: some thoughts on Saviourism, Disruptive Organizing: No one is coming to save us)
Moving into 2023
Especially in the last few months, I’ve been working through my personal role in supporting marginalized communities: I’m not the saviour, and I’m not the hero swooping in. We’ve established that. So who am I? How do I help marginalized communities build power themselves? What is my role in this work? Those are the questions I’m taking into 2023.
Related mini rant - I’ll call it a hypothetical, but we all know this plays out all over the place, especially at Christmas: It is natural to prefer to provide assistance and support to people who show gratitude. Who thank us politely, and maybe add that they don’t know what they would do without us. Who make us feel good about ourselves for helping. That is a very human thing. But it is imperative that we acknowledge that preference and then overcome it, especially if we are the funded service providers in our region and especially if those services we are providing are life-saving. A rights-based approach is the opposite of a merit-based approach, and no one needs to earn our services. That’s not how this works. If a doctor turned away a patient because they were rude, we would be outraged. Why do we accept it at shelters? If you’re here and reading this, this probably isn’t you anyway, but it is probably happening as I type it, and I’d encourage you to call it out when you see it. Take a buddy if you can. It’s always easier to be brave with a buddy.
Another thing I want to learn more about and put into practice in 2023: how can I practically, strategically, and intentionally do the work of disrupting harmful narratives as a communications director and executive director within my organizations, respectively? I’ve also just been introduced to the term narrative justice, which I’ll be exploring more. I’ll share what I learn here as I really do think this is imperative to positive change.
Word For The Year
Last year was my first year choosing a word of the year, and it was Solidarity. And I really do think it helped me be intentional, shaped my decisions, and helped me do better work.
Solidarity on its own, though, and a justice approach, leaves me feeling angry a lot. And sometimes, bringing issues forward from a place of anger works. Sometimes it does not. I’ve struggled a bit in the last year with whether or not to temper my approach to placate policymakers so that they will listen, and feel strongly that we shouldn’t have to ask politely for basic human rights. Whether I’m right or wrong about that, I was told multiple times that my requests wouldn’t be considered because I hadn’t asked politely enough. (In the end, whether or not it was almost entirely middle-aged white men in seats of power who told me that is neither here nor there. The patriarchy remains largely intact, and this is the system we are doing this work in.)
I don’t want to let anyone off the hook. I don’t want to water down the truth. I don’t want my hard-core social justice friends to call me a bootlicker.
And also, I want to be able to have important conversations and don’t want people to lose out on needed support and services because a politician didn’t like my word choice or tone of voice.
Also also, I don’t want to be angry and judgy all the time.
My experiment for 2023 is to mix justice and solidarity with a dash of Grace. I’m hoping adding grace to the mix will help me be hard on issues but soft on people, and communicate in a way that lands on open ears without compromising my integrity. I’m actually not sure it will, to be honest, but I’m very interested in finding a way forward that works, and I’m open to your insights if you have some to share. I have some really exciting opportunities coming up in 2023, and I don’t want to squander them.
So with that, cheers to disrupting for good in 2023. Thanks so much for reading!
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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.