Tuesday, October 02, 2007

Recipe for Significant Social Change

First, please let me review the assumptions. Most US residents don't feel well represented by either the Democrats or the Republicans. We are all increasingly disenfranchised and disenchanted by a government comprised of the best politicians money can buy. The two party system gives each party incentive to make the other look bad and they've both done such a good job that half the populace is convinced that all politicians stink and there's no point in voting. Meanwhile, as both parties fight over the "middle of the road" and the funding of corporations, they reinforce that perception with real bad decisions.

In this age of communications, most of us have access to information that undermines the corporate disinformation that spews from the for-profit mainstream media. We are increasingly distrustful of TV and centralized news, as we piece together skeptical truths from alternate sources, who have no incentive to lie to us. No one source has the whole truth, least of all the mainstream media.

Our human nature is to do good. We wish no harm upon those who have not hurt us. We all care about children in particular. While our competitive culture renders us too eager to search for enemies, we all know how to collaborate for common good. Americans are particularly supportive of individual liberty and democratic decision making.

So we have a nation full of people who are disenchanted, growing informed, and well intentioned. The main element that is missing for social change is personal empowerment. Most Americans have little sense of how much power we each hold. The corrupt lords need us much more than we need them. Our work and money make the future happen. Do we work for the corporate order or do we support a healthier alternative?

What follows is a recipe for setting up a discussion in your neighborhood about how we can best support each other to live up to our own values. It's not about telling anybody what to think or believe, although it leaves room for sharing information and sources. The assumption is that if we empower each other to do what we already know is right, we will improve the world.

We also believe that effective change must be from the grassroots up, rather than the top down. Authoritarian solutions only invite further corruption.

1. First, you must assemble residents of your neighborhood for a discussion. Pick a time slot at least two hours long and a location that will comfortably accommodate at least 20 people. Consider providing food or inviting people to a potluck. Now go door-to-door through your immediate neighbors on weeknights between 7 and 9 pm. Introduce yourself as a neighbor (point out where you live) and issue an invitation. Ask how many members of the household can attend. Continue, expanding slowly outward, until at least twenty people agree to come (please don't accept maybe). Give each a written slip with the time, date, and location of the discussion and get a phone number for each, just in case something changes. The evening before the event, call all 20 to remind them of their commitment.

2. Imagine how the discussion will go. If you can't see yourself in the facilitator's role, please find somebody who can (ask me, if I'm in your part of the country). Consider what you'll do if the worst thing you can imagine should happen. Then go to bed the night before envisioning the best possible outcome.

3. Begin the discussion by asking each person to describe their view of the most serious problems we face. Encourage each to explore their personal complicity in those problems. For example, if the problem is global warming, ask about the carbon footprint of the speaker. If the problem is government, ask if the speaker pays taxes. If war, do you buy the resource they're fighting over (oil)?

4. When everybody has had a chance to speak about the problems, steer the discussion toward solutions. Ask each to share their vision of a world without those problems, focusing particularly upon their personal roles and lifestyles.

5. Save at least the last third of your discussion time for examination of the actions each of us can take to bring us closer to the envisioned solutions. Explore the ways neighbors can support each other in living up to their values. Try to extract a specific commitment to act from each person. Get neighbors to express support for each commitment.

6. Before you end the meeting, decide how you will meet again and if you will expand the discussion to include other neighbors. You may even decide to take a group action (http://www.catalystsofhope.org/collaborate.html).

Please contact me to let me know how this model works for you or if you've found ways to improve upon it. e-mail kashimbi@earthlink.net or call 425-438-8985. Thanks!

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