Medium 9781605098821

Collective Visioning

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In far too many organizational meetings, equal speaking opportunity seldom results in equal say. Factors such as race, class, and personal history too often inhibit open dialogue within and among groups, which can lead to a sense of disenfranchisement within the organization, and subsequently, disillusionment with the movement.
Collective Visioning is the first visioning method to address these hurdles in the organizing process and to fully enable members to share their opinions without hesitation. Linda Stout uses her background and her own personal experience of marginalization within the organizing community to show how trainers can be more mindful of the diversity of their members as they strive toward a common goal.

The book features a clear, actionable, step-by-step process to set up and create a welcoming space for activist leaders to collaborate for positive change. Stout details ways in which trainers should reach out to different groups, listen to and understand needs and concerns of the group, create a welcoming space for all voices, foster agreements, ensure the visibility of all members.

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chapter one How Collective Visioning Works

ePub

In a time of great global change, humanity is still relying on the old myth of survival and domination. We need a new myth, a new vision, a new definition of power and leadership. We must go away from the old model and toward one of creative cooperation on our small and threatened planet.

JONETTA COLE

If you can’t imagine a better world, you can’t create one. If you can imagine a better world, you can make one. In order to do this, we have to vision collectively.

Collective visioning happens when a group of people, with guidance, envision a future together. The approach to collective visioning in this book begins with leading people through an individual guided meditation around a theme. The theme can be a very broad question, such as, “What do we want our world or community to look like twenty-five years from now?” Or it can be really specific: “If we could change the media to truly reflect our community and the wishes of ordinary people, what would it look like in ten years?” When I did collective visioning with a group called Rethink: Kids Rethink New Orleans Schools, we asked. “What should our schools look like so we can feel safe and healthy and have a positive learning environment?”

 

chapter two Laying the Groundwork for Collective Visioning

ePub

There is no power greater than a community discovering what it cares about.

MARGARET WHEATLEY

Designing a collective process that works for everyone involved is a critical first step in creating a successful collective vision for change. To prepare people to work together, you need to understand how to do the pre-work to build trust and bring together a diverse group; how to create an inclusive, welcoming space; and how to facilitate. These tasks take time and energy, but don’t skimp here. The time and effort you put into laying the groundwork makes extraordinary results possible.

First, you need to know whom you want to be a part of this effort. If you already have a diverse group or organization, you won’t need to do this step, but if you are starting from the beginning, you need to know how to build your group. If the visioning will be centered around an issue, such as education or the environment, you will be seeking a specific group of people. If you are working at a community level to address people’s concerns, then you will be looking for a broader group to represent the community.

 

chapter three Personal Visions

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Shared visions emerge from personal visions. This is how they derive their energy and how they foster commitment.

PETER SENGE

If people have never learned to vision for themselves, it’s hard to create a collective vision that leads to change. In some cases, you will sense that the group you are working with is not ready for collective visioning because individuals feel so hopeless in their own lives. I have found this to be true often among urban teenagers and young adults, especially low-income youth and youth of color, who face extreme challenges around lack of education and job opportunities. Such youth are condemned by statistics. They are repeatedly told that a high percentage of them are not likely to graduate from high school or that they will end up in jail or dead by age twenty-five. Recently, I heard an amazing eighteen-year-old speaker, Mathew Davis, say,

I remember numerous “inspirational speakers” coming to my local community centers to speak to me and groups of other young black males and giving speeches about how to “make it out.” They would come in and spout off a bunch of facts and stats about how black males aren’t supposed to make it to eighteen and at best twenty-five, or the correlation between high school graduation rates and prison rates and how we better straighten up (which means pursue white middle-class interest) and if not, we weren’t going to make it out the hood and would end up dead or in jail. Looking back, what I find funniest about these speeches is that they were supposed to inspire me!1

 

chapter four Storytelling to Build Trust and Community

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Standing in my power, affirming self in stories.… Shifting mind states, I conceive new narratives seeing clearly, singing boldly: I am the change I’ve been waiting for.

TAIJ KUMARIE MOTEELALL

One of the key first steps in the deep work of collective visioning is storytelling. This is because, for many people, the hopelessness, anger, and hurt they may have experienced in the past gets in the way of visioning; these feelings have to be acknowledged and healing needs to occur. In the last chapter, we saw how personal visioning can help people prepare for collective visioning. Storytelling is a powerful way to do that, too.

Why is storytelling so important to visioning? Visioning is a form of storytelling—creating a story of the future we want. Our own stories ground us in the present while empowering and motivating us or, in some cases, providing healing and connection. Unless we connect with our own stories and truly listen to those of others, we won’t be able to vision collectively into the future.

 

chapter five Same Vision, Different Strategies

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The miracle is this: the more we share, the more we have.

LEONARD NIMOY

Groups usually come together in agreement on a collective vision. But they have a tendency to disagree on the way change happens. People often believe that their own way of working is “the answer.” I once believed that, too. But I’ve come to learn that we need many different approaches to creating change. What is most important to creating the world of our collective vision is that we work together in our different ways—an approach that is collaborative rather than divided.

Starhawk says in her book Webs of Power, “Sharing information, sharing skills, supporting the creativity of others, networking, and communicating spread power throughout a group and therefore increase its effectiveness and intelligence.”1

People come from different experiences and beliefs about how change happens. Understanding how we work for change in diverse ways is important because this difference is where people doing the work for justice and sustainability often split apart. If we look at these diverse ways to see how they complement each other, we can help people connect to their collective hope for the future and affirm each other’s ways of working. This can make the difference between a group that grinds to a halt, stuck in frustration and tension, and one that connects to collective hope, drawing on the strength of each approach.

 

chapter six Creating a Road Map: Vision to Action

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If it can be imagined then surely it can be created, too.

DAVID HICKS

A vision works only if we create a plan for how to accomplish it—a road map to get to our goal. Because we know the place we’re moving toward, we have more patience if the road detours or if we encounter flat tires, dead batteries, or other stops and starts as we move toward our vision.

Vision grounds and leads our work for change. However, without action it stays “just pretend,” as one of the Rethink kids said. The kind of action that comes out of a collective vision is different from the reactive or defensive action we too often see. It empowers people to have hope and to take action together. It takes people beyond what they might think of if the action is grounded only in current reality. With vision, we tap into intuitive, creative knowledge that allows us to think outside of the box. It allows us to think of new ways of working, create inspired solutions, and be more open to opportunities that arise.

Sometimes people are resistant to making long-term plans because they think doing so locks them into one way of working and does not leave the flexibility to change in the moment. This is not true: we can respond to urgent, unexpected emergency situations while moving toward our vision. I often answer this concern by asking folks to think of the analogy of creating a personal budget. We need to know we have the money for our mortgage or rent, utilities, food, clothing, and so on. But having a budget doesn’t mean that we stick to it rigidly. We may decide we need to take an unbudgeted vacation or splurge on a special book or shoes. But by having a budget, we know when we need to juggle or cut back on other expenses because we decided to spend outside of our budget. Creating plans for action works the same way. Of course, sometimes we need to shift in order to respond to a current situation, whether it’s a crisis such as the Gulf Oil spill or the loss of a major foundation grant. But it is easier to make critical decisions like this in the context of a long-term strategic plan based on our vision.

 

chapter seven Grounded in Vision for the Long Haul

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No problem can be solved from the same level of consciousness that created it. We must learn to see the world anew.

ALBERT EINSTEIN

Anyone who has worked for social change for a few years (or, like me, for decades) has heard stories like the one I told about the nuclear freeze campaign in the preface: important groups and movements with many dedicated people working for them passionately become smaller and less effective—or disappear—over the long haul. Actually, most of the leaders go on to work in new or different groups or on different issues. But wouldn’t it be great to have organizations that continue to thrive and grow in capacity to support social change as our movements swell and start to achieve our dreams? I believe that we need cultural shifts about power and a positive focus, broad and specific cultivation of visionary leadership, and strategies for facing setbacks in order to build strong groups that help us reach our collective visions.

In chapter 5, I discussed how shifts in culture and consciousness are a critical way of making change. We also need cultural shifts in how we think about power and how we learn from past experiences. These shifts could strengthen many groups working for change.

 

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