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Uncomfortable Essays Archives

September 12, 2008

Uncomfortable Essay #1 and Foreword to the Peace and Justice Community: Back to the basics.


Uncomfortable
Essays
to the
Peace,
Justice,
Environment, Sustainability
and
Global Cooperation
Communities

Dick Bernard
Woodbury MN
Published on the web
September 12 thru December 31, 2008

All Essays are on the web at
www.amillioncopies.info
under the title of
Dick Bernard’s Venturing
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Uncomfortable Essays
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A Brief Foreword:

The writer of these brief Essays claims no extraordinary expertise.

At the same time, I have the benefit of accumulated experience of 27 years as a teacher’s union staff member, where much of my job involved local organizing, seven years as an active participant and sometime leader in the Peace and Justice community of Minneapolis-St. Paul area, and assorted other organizing experiences gained in over 50 years as an adult member of our society.

My experience includes three years (2005-2007) as President of the Minnesota Alliance of Peacemakers www.mapm.org, active involvement in the Peace Island Conference in St. Paul Sep 2-3, 2008, and a large assortment of volunteer roles beginning in college in the 1950s.

Intended audience for these brief writing are leaders and activists in the general area of Peace and Justice, though the writings have universal application to any endeavor which depends on volunteers for its existence. The purpose of the Essays is to make observations which in turn will hopefully cause thought and conversation among the readers. There could be many more essays. I elected to stop at ten.

My ideal for use of these Essays is that they would become part of group dialogues in diverse settings, and perhaps be translated into, at minimum, some experiments in new ways of organizing.

The topics of the Uncomfortable Essays, including the date they were published on the web, is as follows:
#1 – Back to the Basics: How about “Each One Reach Two”? (Sep 12, 2008)
#2 – More on “Each One Reach Two (Sep 30, 2008)
#3 – Taking a Look at “Power” (Oct 15, 2008)
#4 – More Ways to Communicate Less (Nov 9, 2008)
#5 – The Curse of Cooperation? (Nov 22, 2008)
#6 – Money: Time to Shift a Paradigm (Dec 8, 2008)
#7 – “Overcoming the Fear of Success” (Dec 22, 2008)
#8 – Grappling with “the Truth” (Dec 25, 2008)
#9 – Death (Dec 29, 2008)
#10 – Life (Dec 31, 2008)

Feedback, including responses, or additions, to these essays is solicited. Interested persons can submit materials for publication as additional Uncomfortable Essays. Check the Website occasionally to see if there are new entries.

Dick Bernard
PO Box 25441
Woodbury MN 55125
651-334-5744 (leave message)
Dick_BernardATmsn.com
www.amillioncopies.info
(Dick Bernard’s Venturing)
*
Uncomfortable Essay #1: Back to the Basics

I call this, and the next several Venturing entries, "Uncomfortable Essays", since they might seem a bit against the grain of prevaling wisdom. They are observations, not conclusions, and invitations to consideration and discussion within the diverse communities that make up what I call the "Peace and Justice Community".

*

My most recent blog entry at this space was published eight months ago. There is a reason for this. A major conference, Peace Island, caused the investment of a huge amount of time and mental and emotional effort by, at times, nine people. I was one of the nine. The conference, held September 2-3 in St. Paul, was a success. Over 400 people registered for all or part of the conference, and all had an opportunity to hear a seeming endless parade of nearly 30highly accomplished speakers and presentors. Peace Island Conference, and Peace Island Picnic the next day, lived up to their names: they were peaceful islands.

The hard work of preparing for Peace Island Conference, plus reflection as I completed three years as President of the Minnesota Alliance of Peacemakers at the end of 2007, cause me to think of observations I have of the peace and justice movement over the seven years of my active involvement. I come from a career as an organizer (though I never thought of myself as such), and out of this experience I learned some things. It occurs to me that there are some disconnects between current organizing behaviors within this movement which tend to dampen the possibilities of long-term success. Following is my first observation.

Peace Island was a successful, stand-alone, traditional, conference. It speaks for itself through over 400 people who were there and can tell its story through their own perceptions.

A month earlier, August 1-9, totally separate from Peace Island and the traditonal movement leadership, a dozen of us tried an experiment of base-up organizing: "Each one reach two". The experiment was in complete contrast to the usual ways of contemporary organizing, and it failed for a number of reasons...but its elements, described below, are well grounded and waiting to be tried again in various other settings. Its general methods seem to me to be the key to future success. (More detailed information: Dick(underscore)BernardATmsn.com).

"Back to the basics: “Each one reach two”: "Going against the grain".
The world in which most of us grew up and live in is hierarchical, with power and control going to those at the top of endless ‘pyramids’ of almost all organizations, no matter how modest in size, no matter the issue. Somebody always is said to "lead". Also, most of us learn competition from the cradle on. Winners are celebrated. Losers, well…. At the basic level, in events as Peace Island, participation is voluntary, and passive, and encouraged only to a point: at the event a product is presented for consumption. There is a big payoff to participants -- the ‘audience’ -- in that they can hold someone else – usually a small group – accountable. They have no ownership beyond the price of admission. There is not even an obligation to attend, much less carry the event back to their own worlds.

On the leader side, moderating the power of being in control of the agenda, there are many downsides. For instance, failure is seen as the leaders fault. If you’re reading this, you know of what I speak, probably from experience. You are likely a leader.

Today, also, we live in an environment where the ways of communicating have exploded, while at the same time we can ever more easily isolate ourselves. (Think caller ID, unread e-mails, and on and on and on.) Kids talk in text-message; most people of my generation (I'm 68) are unfamiliar with the mechanics, much less the language of text-messaging. In effect, and in reality, we have more ways to communicate less.

It is this organizers opinion that organizing needs to get back to the bare basics practiced from time immemorial. Here is a simple proposal to be re-perfected by practice: “Each one, reach two”.

The concept is simple: say you have a passion, something important to you. Find two, yes, only two, who share your passion; and invite them personally to enroll two people they know, and so on. The first and second steps are crucial. In this model, the next two share responsibility and thus become part owner of the ultimate outcome. Carrying this model forward, thirteen layers out, there would be 4096 enrolled, each who become and can remain part of a simple communications network. No one needs to truly connect with more than two. This way there is much less exhaustion and anger “at the top”, and the "top" is more diffuse - leadership is shared. There is less need for fliers, paid ads, raising money…this is very simply person-to-person communications…the most basic of human interactions. Is it easy? No. Messy? Can be, but doesn't have to be.

In "Each one reach two" every person has responsiblity as a leader...but only of two.
We need to get back to this and other basics.

The solution? You. Each one reach two. How about you becoming one of those two, practicing and passing on this idea to others?"

Dick Bernard
651-334-5744 (leave a message. If you wish a call-back, clearly leave your phone number.)

A pertinent quotation from Joseph Jaworsky's "Synchronicity: The Inner Path of Leadership" 1996 (still available and a great read)

On Servant Leadership: "When [Robert K.] Greenleaf wrote Servant Leadership, he "enetered" through Hermann Hesse's Journey to the East, an autobiographical account of one man's journey in search of enlightenment. Along the way, the narrator's loyal servant, Leo, sustains him through many trials. Years later, when the man finds the esoteric society he is seeking, he discovers that Leo is its leader --to the servant is the leader, and leadership is exercised through service." Peter Senge in the Introduction to the book.

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