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Uncomfortable Essay #2 - More on "Each One Reach Two"

A week after posting Uncomfortable Essay #1, I was at a meeting and the chair, who had read the Essay, invited me to talk about it with the group of 14 in the circle. I was taken aback by the invitation to, essentially, 'defend my thesis', a 'pop quiz' on my idea! Likely, most of the people had not yet read the piece, and since the time available was short, I did what I could. Perhaps the rest of this essay will fill in some of the blanks I left open at the meeting. But it was very important that the leader encourage the conversation, and ask me to talk further about what I meant about "Each One Reach Two". So, Lowell, I publicly thank you for the uncomfortable opportunity! And I urge many other such conversations.

September 30, 2008, I had my usual bi-weekly coffee with two great friends of long-standing. During our conversation the critical issue of the upcoming election was discussed, and the responsibiity we each have to get in contact with others about the importance of casting an informed vote on Nov. 4. It was a "Reach Two" moment, to urge my friends to pass the word to others, and urge their friends to do the same. (My friends will read this, and can tell me if I made my point clearly that day).

Later I did a little calculation. What if my friends got my message pass the word "to cast an informed vote Nov. 4", and the next day each one of them did reach two more; and the next day each of the four reached two more with the simple message, and so on? What would result?

If by some wild chance this day by day enrollment of "Each One Reach Two" continued, a few days before the end of October 2008, EVERY voting age citizen of the United States would have received the message - well over 200,000,000, All that was necessary was to truly "reach [and enroll] two" of their friends in the task. Just think of the conversations that could begin from that small takeoff point, one reaching two, September 30, 2008.

If this seems impossible, do the math: 2x2=4, 4x2=8, 8x2=16 and so on. Truly great results are possible if people put their passion and their energy to the task.

So, if it is possible to have such outstanding results by simply enrolling two people, why was the initial experiment described in Uncomfortable Essay #1 a failure? (*)

Acknowledging that there are a list of possible reasons why the experiment failed, here are a couple of strong possibilities that are very important, at least from my point of view.

1) Everyone in our experiment group of a dozen August 1-9, 2008 was a 'leader' in his or her own right. But a specific request was made of each of these leaders: that they enroll only two people, not three, not ten...only two. There were no news releases, and only a single quarter sheet flier to be passed personally, hand to hand, to two people. It was an outside the box venture for us - something we weren't accustomed to doing. I suppose the idea originated with me, but I can't recall ever having done an activity like this myself. Some organizing rules were changed.

2) Probably even more problematic in this exercise is that the two people each of us were to recruit for the activity were given a responsibility to enroll two others, and to pass along the responsibility to them, in turn, to enroll two more. In the dominant model I have seen in play in our organizations, this delegation of leadership is a strategy that is simply not used. The people recruited to attend events have only a passive role in the success of the activity: they come, or they don't.

It is probably true that it has always been a part of the human condition that few people lead, and the rest follow, and while the followers may grumble, they are inwardly glad that someone has elected to come forward to tell them what to do. This is, unfortunately, a recipe for certain failure. Leaders cannot do it all; leaders are fallible people. Strong leaders can as easily create disasters, as successes.

If my thesis is at all true, "Each One Reach Two" is a manageable and trainable export of leadership skills, and of sharing of responsibility of leadership, and we are missing the boat if we do not at least try to put it into practice.

We could accomplish amazing good November 4 if a few of the roughly 500 people who are learning about this essay this week would actually try Each One Reach Two between now and election day 2008.

In my opinion, the essential future of organizing for success in Peace and Justice and related activities is making owners(leaders) out of our consumers, and thus sharing leadership responsibility much more broadly than is currently the case.

(*) - (NOTE: The August 1-9 activity involved a silent meditation for a two hour time period during open hours at a well known Church. There were no rules for what to meditate about, nor how to go about meditating, nor any risk at all...only to be there for two hours on a single day.)

Uncomfortable Essay #3, on A Different Look at "Power", at this space on or about October 8, 2008.
***

A sidenote on what is possible if a committed individual really takes on a task. There are endless similar stories, but read on and be inspired.

A month or so ago, a first-time visitor to http://www.amillioncopies.info felt moved to write the following: "You begin your [About A Million Copies] with "A million ordinary women, men, and children in a million places at a million times have made a million differences in their communities and in their world." In March of 1982, my father, a farmer, met with a retired Methodist minister to discuss how they could participate in providing food for starving people around the world. They, along with 20 others, eventually formed the WHET-Force (World Hunger Ecumenical Task Force) and spearheaded a drive to send one million bushels of grain to Poland. Three Iowa Farmers, including my father, and a Catholic Priest, traveled to Poland where they saw long lines of people waiting for small amounts of food due to their severely crippled poultry industry hardhit by Poland's economic conditions at that time. [To make a] Long story--short: There were problems but on February 14, 1983, 5 million pounds of soybean concentrate and 80,000 bushels of corn were shipped to Poland and on May 1, thousands more bushels of corn were sent to get the Polish poultry industry back on its feet. A simple conversation between two people started a mission in another area of the world because somebody cared."

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This page contains a single entry from the blog posted on September 30, 2008 4:49 PM.

The previous post in this blog was Uncomfortable Essay #1 and Foreword to the Peace and Justice Community: Back to the basics..

The next post in this blog is Uncomfortable Essay #3: Taking a look at "Power".

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