Well, that was a year! The assault on political institutions and norms, the additional suffering heaped needlessly on the already vulnerable, self-serving and self-dealing in the halls of power, are individually and collectively breathtaking. From agencies run by avowed antagonists to judicial appointments of ideologues, an upward distributive tax bill, and a coarsening of civic discourse, it can feel hard to keep up. If there is a strategy, keeping the electorate overwhelmed and distracted by the show seems to be it. How many times a day do you check the news, in anticipation of another head-slapping moment of incredulity?
2017 also saw unprecedented activism. From the Women’s March to health care debates, immigrant defense and more, the challenges were met with focused and determined advocates who shone light on the likely results of proposed policies. There are many new elected officers and several veteran “bosses” out as #MeToo gained momentum. We turned grief, fear, and anger into action.
Most gratifying for me and for clients is when they can truly BE the change. By representing their aspirations in their actions, they/we begin to create the world we want. A few highlights from 2017.
• For Jews United for Justice, a strategic planning process that involved key stakeholders in the room meant the organization heard hopes and concerns directly while it held itself accountable to being in right relationship with partners who had been critical of past actions, especially with respect to race. Shared reflection of the organization’s history and aspiration helped create a vision and strategy that is grounded in its values, identities, and strengths, while also recognizing and embedding the need for growth, change, and adaptability to ever changing conditions.
• A conference of 350 women from across the country wanted to address endemic sexism within their organization internally and in program focus and design. Though the conference was endorsed by the organization’s leadership, the gathered women had little formal authority as a body. By facilitating conversations that revealed what they could do individually and collectively, they identified actions that did not require permission. They also identified formal avenues to continue to embed awareness and action in the organization.
• I continue to be gratified by my teacher role at American University in the Masters of Science in Organization Development (OD) program. The course, Use of Self in Professional Practice, lets me support existing ad emerging leaders and OD professionals as they grapple with how to be effective change agents.
• The year ended with the publication of my chapter publication “Playing the Long Game in a Short-Term World: Consequences and Strategies for Racial Justice Work” pdf of excerpt, p1-4 in Enacting Values-Based Change: Organization Development in Action (2018). Purchase here. A happy gift.
Still, the action of 2017 has been exhausting for many. The challenges just keep coming. As 2018 dawns, I see for myself and our organizations a need to recalibrate. Not necessarily to do less though a renewed focus on what is one’s core purpose and ability can be essential. We can also recalibrate how we take action. As I say in my recently published chapter, being and doing support each other. We are in a long-term process and how we engage will be reflected in the results we get. With that in mind, I turn to 2018.
Focus and balance in 2018
For myself, I recommit to creating the space to focus, including, critically, time spent in rejuvenation, recreation, reflection. Without those, action can be well meaning but ill-informed, reactive but not generative. And because the work of justice is a long-term challenge, we cannot afford to binge on our advocacy. We need to sustain ourselves, our staff, colleagues, and allies so we can play well the long-term game we are in.
Looking forward to sharing in your victories in 2018 and beyond!