Let’s keep it simple. Democracy seems to have gone crazy — globally. You could be forgiven for feeling that we’re all playing our parts in a global 12 month episode of a tumultuous reality TV show — The Apprentice 24/7?
Our favourite learning question, having read a book, had a conversation or meeting, or watched a TV show, is “So what?” How has that book/conversation/show changed our views of ourselves, our relationships or of the world around us?
We’re not political commentators so our aim in writing this is not to dwell on the specific outcomes of recent democracy in Australia, Britain, USA or elsewhere nor of lack of effective democracy in many other places. Our deep interest is in how individuals, groups and communities learn, grow, build relationships and make effective contributions and worthwhile change. From that lens we note that the democratic process has certainly shown its frailty and new levels of unpredictability; and how consequently we are unable to rely upon democratic government as the core source of the changes we would like to see in our society.
So how has the last 12 months changed you? How do you react to the recent trends of the political process? anger? frustration? lose hope? adopt a victim mindset? become apathetic? not accept the people’s verdict and take to the streets?
The Four Toolkits are one way to help you to focus on your own story and your own role — directing your thoughts towards a sense of meaning and your actions towards positive change. You may initially find some of this approach challenging or excessively aspirational, but when you look around your local community you are likely to find people, teams and organisations that are making huge contributions. In writing this we ourselves reflected on the diverse range of people we know who are making an extraordinary impact on the world around them. We hope this sheds some light on a possible framework that you can use to tap into your own unique contribution and as a way to digest and act with integrity through these uncertain times.
“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed, citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.” Margaret Mead
One of the most disillusioning things that has come out of Brexit, the last Australian election and the US Presidential election is that our communities seem to hold such divided beliefs, values and senses of identity. It is easy to lose faith that there is a unified way forward. As a first step in trying to come to terms with this, reflect on what you believe and how you have been changed by the events of the last year?
- Has the last year of global politics upset you? Disillusioned you? If it has, which of your values has it challenged or brought to the surface (equality, empathy, freedom, honesty etc)?
- Are current media and politics impacting how you see yourself? (As a man, are you involved in “locker room talk”? As a Muslim, how do you feel about how you have been portrayed? As a woman has your belief in the progress towards gender equality been set back? How have you been influenced by the global media coverage?)
- How does this make your feel? Try to locate your range of emotions — Is it just anger or is it really fear? Is it disillusion or sadness at a shifting in your belief in what is possible? Is it a sense of frustration in wanting to make a difference? Is it a sense of unity in trying to bridge the division?
- Might this year’s events have clarified your sense of purpose in the world? Can you identify 1–3 areas that you hope to impact in your lifetime?
- What are your strengths and passions? How do they contribute to the above purposes?
Can you come away with a clear paragraph that distils how your identity has been or can be made stronger through seeing the past year of events?… or a pathway forward to letting this be an event that positively changed how you see yourself and your role in the world? Has it solidified your belief in the need to fight for equality of opportunity or to have your voice heard?
The world needs change and is full of opportunities to make change — including in the areas that really matter to you. The Opportunity Toolkit is about prompting you to spot those opportunities to be the impact you wish to see in the world.
- If you could impact one thing in the next year or over the next decade what would it be?
- What opportunities are already out there to contribute to making this impact? (Don’t try to reinvent existing wheels.)
- Alternatively do you need to create a new approach to achieve this impact? For example do you need to build a local community group that campaigns for this impact or find a way to connect with people artistically to communicate this idea?
- Can you brainstorm with others a range of ways that you could have an impact and find the one that offers the “biggest bang for your buck”?
- Out of the possible opportunities which one has the greatest benefits?
- Which one is most attainable with your available time and resources?
- Do your mindsets and habits open you up to be ready for opportunities to make this impact? Do you have an open mind to listen deeply to other sides of the story?
- Are you sharing your ideas and beliefs in a reciprocal and respectful way? Are you too busy and rushed to really stand for what you believe in?
Are there one of two clear opportunities for action in your community or organisation that will help to empower you to act in accordance with your values and contribute to positive change?
If you have identified an opportunity to bring back your sense of agency, how can you work smarter, not just harder, to effect progress and change?
- Are you willing to take a risk in really backing this opportunity/action?
- How can you make sure your opportunity gets off to a strong start? How much time, energy and attention do you need to invest up front to make this opportunity a success?
- Who can you collaborate with? Who else is committed to this issue/purpose? Who can you talk to about this project that would have a huge impact on its success?
- Can you envisage success more strongly by breaking your opportunity up into a number of sub-projects or steps? At each step how are you going to make sure that you’re learning and continuing to extend your reach?
- What resources are at your disposal to help you to make the biggest impact possible? (social media, your networks, freeing up more of your time and energy to devote to the project?)
- How often do you have to keep reinvesting in this opportunity in order to help it grow? Is there a way to lower that cost?
The aim of this toolkit is to create a clear strategy to help maximise the impact of your opportunity to contribute given your realistic constraints of time, energy, attention and resources.
“It’s stunning to me what kind of an impact even one person can have if they have the right passion, perspective and are able to align the interest of a great team.” Steve Case
Now you have made an action plan it is time to slow down and reflect again on how this plan can fit into your whole life. Grounding your actions in the reality of your day-to-day will help to make sure that the actions you take will be able to grow over time and not wear you down or burn you out.
- What are the different life roles you are playing at the moment? How will this opportunity and strategy fit with those? Conflict with those?
- What changes do you need to make to ensure you can sustain the momentum over the long term?
Finding a way to move to action can be challenging. It may be helped by thinking globally for inspiration or by focusing locally on what you can most immediately impact. We hope this blog has empowered you to believe that you can make a difference. If you come away with answers to only these four questions this blog will have been a success: