Moving your community

I have struggled with the issue of empowering others into action for many years, and for myself have settled on a personal strategy for moving forward. I will talk about text and e-mail later. Face-to-face conversation is at the top of my list for the most effective motivator, and is especially valuable in small groups of perhaps 6 to 9 people, sometimes more if there is an effective facilitator or respected guidelines. When we can’t all be in the same room, Skype video chat comes in as a second most effective strategy, followed by phone tele-conferences if they are truly a group participatory discussion.

The most important component of all these “live” interactions is that there be an open-hearted, vulnerable humility in all the participants, an up-front admission that we are all in this together, no one of us has the right answer or all the answers, or the most valuable piece of information, and that together we may be able — if we are patient listeners — uncover a new insight none of us had prior to the meeting. The quest is for the collective wisdom and self-responsibility, not for somebody or something to blame, label, or diagnose with our gossip. My favorite model for these kind of groups is the AA 12-step program, which has been successful at changing millions of lives for the better.

I label myself as a “recovering violent person” because of the culture of violence within which I live. Extracting ourselves from this culture is difficult, very difficult, and it is not impossible. Mutual support is a necessary component, along with mentoring, self-discipline, education, and a whole lot of patience. Learning how to communicate, build community, and “commune” with each other at the motivational level is for me the key, necessary skill-set for social change. Who teaches these things in public school, or in the media, or at home? It’s a rare talent.

E-mail does not build community, it mostly adds noise to our environment. Very rarely do we read anything that stirs our heart, because it’s impossible for text to contain 90% of the communication that normally is present when we are face-to-face with someone. Facebook, text and e-mail can be a doorway to meeting someone we’ve never met before, creating opportunities to meet face-to-face, which for me is its main value. So announcements of meetings, invitations to parties, protests, rallies, and other events are appropriate for e-mail, and they are more likely to get a response if we have already had some face-to-face with the person receiving it.

So if you want to make something “go viral,” step away from the machine, get out of your house, and get down with someone in the real, 3-D world, actually 4-D world when you add the dimension of time, and 5-D when you add feelings, intuition or spirit. Technology has made it easy to broadcast what’s on our mind, not what’s in our heart where the “motivator” lives.

I disregard most e-mail that contain opinions, philosophical statements or editorials, and especially those that contain diagnoses of what’s wrong with the world. I call that mental masturbation, and yes, I admit to indulging in it. The temptation is strong, just as the “dark side of the Force” is strong in Star Wars. However, my core interest, and I believe most people’s primary interest, is in knowing how to budget their time and energy in the most effective way to get the results they want.

Social engineering is one of those areas where very few people are zooming ahead with “the answer,” because what we’re facing on the planet right now is a situation we’ve never encountered before. There is no map. The unspoken fear on everyone’s mind is that we’re all going to die — extinct as individuals and as a species — in a very sudden, unexpected, abandoned, painful way, and I believe this is true of the rich and powerful as well as the poor and weak. Fear is pandemic. We don’t need to ramp it up.

I encourage people to use e-mail sparingly, specifically targeted with carefully chosen positive content, and supplemented with personal follow-up via phone or other in-person contact. On top of all that, if you get better than a 1% response rate, you’re doing great!

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