Musings

Tags >> social justice

In a group addressing structural racism in organizational operations and programmatic work, we are reviewing proposals for action. A person of color notes some language used in otherwise sound ideas could unintentionally reinforce the separation the proposal seeks to address. The next speaker, a white person, explains what they intended the term to mean, why it was inadequate and why they settled on it for now.


How shall I be a citizen? What will I do to participate in the democracy I believe in?


The second in a series of musings about what Dr. King has to say to us in this moment--Create True Community.


The inauguration of a minority president coincided with remembrance of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., so I seek inspiration from the great spiritual warrior. Our times are at least as perilous as he describes in the preface to his 1963 Strength to Love: “In these turbulent days of uncertainty the evils of war and of economic and racial injustice threaten the very survival of the human race. Indeed, we live in a day of grave crisis.” Given our own grave crisis, I return to a few touchstones—deal with reality, create true community, take wise action. I discuss each in turn


Happy Valentine, 2014

Posted by: heather

Do you, like so many people and organizations, wait for things to be good—however you define it—before you’ll share love in the form of appreciation, kudos, encouragement, generosity, a smile, or even your time? Do you believe that people don’t need praise just for “doing their jobs” or that feedback is what you tell people when they are doing things wrong? Well, this Valentine is especially for you.

I know well the temptation to fix what seems broken or to improve performance by focusing on what is missing. Yet experience and research show that focusing on what is working builds effectiveness faster AND generates happier colleagues, workers, family members and friends. That’s why “success breeds success” and “what we appreciate appreciates”. The disciplines of positive psychology, Appreciative Inquiry, appreciative intelligence, and neuroscience demonstrate that focus on positive possibility and accomplishment unleashes far more energy and intrinsic motivation than does the focus on the negative, which yields fear and passivity.


It's been a couple of weeks since President Obama won reelection. As the country reflects on the meaning of the election and again projects its hopes and fears onto the President, I see the presidential election and the tone of our politics so far as symbolic of organizational changes we often confront.

The first only. For organizations that bring on a first member of a new (to them) community, the dynamics are almost always challenging. The first must often be extraordinarily qualified to blunt the inevitable criticism that difference is the only reason for the hire. Whether seen as a representative of the new constituency or transcendent of the identity (e.g. post-racial), the newcomer is rarely seen or treated as an individual informed by background rather than fully defined by it or, conversely, wholly independent of it, as in just like us.


Crisis and Scarcity

Posted by: heather

My clients take on big issues—homelessness, genocide, poverty, liberty, workers rights, workplace democracy, environmental and economic sustainability, and justice. In all cases, the need is great. The forces for the status quo are well-entrenched and well-heeled. The sense of enormity and urgency can be overwhelming. At the same time, these organizations typically work with budgets that are tiny relative to the challenges. There is just not enough—money, people, time, attention, skill—to address the issues.


Another year has ended and the new one is hurrying along. It’s barely three weeks old and we’ve had a new Congress, the shooting in Arizona, snow across the entire country, and the iphone on Verizon. With that as an opening, there’s no telling where 2011 might go.


I recently read several books that you might find interesting:


What are you for?

Posted by: heather

People respond to a positive proposition with energy that’s optimistic and sustainable. That is, people will strive for something compelling even, or especially, if it’s challenging. On the other hand, identifying something wrong or objectionable and fighting against what is, gets meager results compared to pursuing a desired outcome. Analysis or critique of the current state can be useful, but a problem focus fills up the available mental and emotional space leaving little room for a positive alternative. By contrast, the desired outcome makes the challenge of now minor relative to the promise of the future.


Facilitating for Transformation

Posted by: heather

The course I taught was, finally, a success. It took a lot to reach people, to get the concepts across, to get them to take ownership of their learning, their class, and their process. My colleague and I didn’t break through until the class was about two thirds complete. The final classroom activity showed that they had learned. I sense that we set their feet on a more fruitful path. They seemed motivated to continue.


The Lotto

Posted by: heather

Recently, I encountered a couple on a hike. The setting was a lovely canyon in the Red Rock country outside of Sedona, AZ. The sun was out but we were in the shade as the nearby mountains cast a shadow, and a chill, into the pine forest beneath the red mountain walls. They were the only people I had encountered for hours. We stopped to chat about the marvelous scenery and other trails we had discovered as visitors to the area.

 As we were appreciating our good fortune, it happened. The woman said, “If you’re born in this country, you’ve already hit the Lotto. You have food, shelter, air to breathe.” I thought, hmm, not quite.


Welcome to 2010, already in progress and already challenging in so many ways. Now, more than ever, I feel called to engage with community for peace and justice.


Segregation on a Bus

Posted by: heather

At an airport, on the way to a conference, I ran into a friend and her companion. My friend offered me a ride in her rental car. We three black women boarded the shuttle bus, put away our luggage and sat at the front of the bus. The remaining passengers filed in, stowed their luggage, and went to the back of the bus. Though there were open seats up front with us, the white passengers moved to the rear, including some who chose to stand. We black women exchanged knowing and perplexed looks, joked, and enjoyed getting to know each other on the short ride.

What happened? How did an airport shuttle bus become segregated?


What is Enough?

Posted by: heather

Tagged in: social justice

As I read accounts of overleveraged banks, executive “bonuses”, people losing homes they couldn’t afford, the rising unemployment rate, some people working two jobs to make ends meet (barely) while others count their houses, I hope that the benefit of all this suffering and uneven distribution of wealth and pain is a national recalibration of our moral compass.


My Intentions

    • I intend to share ideas about organizational processes that support the effective functioning of justice seeking organizations.
    • I will share lessons about the life of organizations and provide tools that can support organizational performance.
    • Because I'm also committed to the issues that my clients work on, I'll discuss current events, justice, and the larger implications of news stories or community events.
    • Part of that discussion will include publicizing the issues, campaigns, and thoughtful work of clients.
    • As a colleague to other OD consultants, I hope to spark conversations among those of us who do this work.