Linda Stout

Feb 262014
 

listening project logo2In 2013, we started hearing from some of our allies in education justice that one of their biggest challenges was that too many people didn’t understand the intensity of the attacks on public education. Although to leaders in education justice, the situation may be obvious, too many adults and young adults have no idea about the scope of the problem: they think it’s a problem just with their school or just their school district or state.

We began a listening project in the summer of 2013, where we interviewed close to 40 leaders in education justice. Based on our listening and other research, we’ve gleaned that grassroots groups, led by people directly affected by the attack on public education, are in need of more training and support to sharpen their communications in the face of well-funded corporate attacks that are well-messaged and otherwise well-resourced.

We’re exploring what form this support can take, and how to use the experienced communicators of the Progressive Communicators Network and the committed leaders of the Education Circle of Change to mobilize skilled support for activists on this issue.

This spring, we’re doing a “test-drive” in providing support for grassroots groups fighting for education justice. If you’re a part of the Progressive Communicators Network or the Education Circle of Change, you’re invited to a conversation within the networks to discuss this further.

The Progressive Communicators conversation will be a Google Hangout on Monday, March 10 at 3 PM ET.

The Education Circle of Change conversation will be a Google Hangout on Monday, March 17 at 3 PM ET.

For the full details about either conversation and to RSVP, please email Kathleen Pequeño and Manauvaskar Kublall. They’re coordinating these calls and will get back to you as soon as possible.

Feb 042014
 

 

linda-school

“Dozens of children at a Utah elementary school had their lunch trays snatched away from them before they could take a bite this week. Salt Lake City School District officials say the trays were taken away at Uintah Elementary School Tuesday because some students had negative balances in the accounts used to pay for lunches”. (CNN Jan 30, 2014)

The students watched as their food was thrown away, many crying with shame, humiliation, embarrassment, and just pure hunger. The school officials justified this action by saying they would never let a child go “hungry,” so each child whose parents were behind in paying for lunches were given a carton of milk and a piece of fruit.

As a poor kid growing up in public schools, I have experienced being singled out and humiliated among other classmates in this way. In hearing this story, the pain I experienced fifty-four years ago is still there. This experience for these children will be a negative life changing event for many of them. The school can apologize, the parents can try to make it up to the child by telling them how unjust it is, but the damage has been done. The feelings of being different, made fun of, or feeling “less than” their classmates can change a life. (To see many other people’s similar stories, go to Class Action’s Blog page on education.)

While not all of the children who had their food taken away from them were poor – some parents just forgot to pay and were not notified – this is a common type of experience for many poor children. I remember my horror and shock when I found out my niece had to sit with one other student in study hall all day, while all the other classmates went on a field trip for the day. I remember the pain of being the only one sitting in the school auditorium while the rest of my class went to the state capital for the day. I could not believe it was possible that my niece actually suffered the same humiliating event some 40 years later! Now, after having worked with many low income school students and activists, I realize that things are even worse for some than when I started school in 1960.

Our public schools are deteriorating quickly and as corporate control are taking over many public schools, things are rapidly getting worse. Corporate control and privatization of public schools is a quickly growing and a very dangerous occurrence happening today that few people know about or understand. It is as horrific as the privatization of prisons and worse as some of the same corporations are behind both. This allows the school to prison pipeline to be even more strengthened and enforced. We see terrible actions taking place that will affect not only our next generation but many to come with things like standardized testing, children packed fifty to a classroom, lack of text books, and teachers being turned into low-paid, under-resourced people unable to really teach critical thinking but instead teach students to just pass the “standardized tests.”

We must take action and Spirit in Action networks – the Education Justice Project with Progressive Communicators Network are coming together to tell the stories of what is happening to develop stories and frameworks along with training for groups working on this issue. Please join us in our efforts by making a donation today for this work.

We are running a series of interviews done with teachers, parents, education organizers and students in our monthly newsletter. Please watch this video of Sabrina Joy Stevens, a teacher and activist, who gives us hope on dealing with the school issues.

 

Dec 102013
 

In-These-Times-01linda-blog-imageFor In These Times’ December 2013 cover feature, “Generation Hopeless?”, the magazine asked a number of politically savvy people, younger and older, to respond to an essay by 22-year-old Occupy activist Matthew Richards in which he grapples with what the movement meant and whether Occupy’s unfulfilled promises are a lost cause or the seeds of the different world whose promise he glimpsed two years ago. Here is Linda Stout’s response.

After reading Matthew Richards essay, I was disappointed that he felt hopeless and felt he had to wait until the United States was “far less hostile to change.” He says “Now that I’ve already done my best to fix the world and it didn’t work, I am at peace with the fact that it is no longer my job and won’t be again for a few more generations to come”. Richards hated the song, “Waiting on the World to Change,” by John Mayer, but that’s exactly what he’s decided to do.

Having been involved in activism for more than 40 years—one of the old guard of activists—and having spent most of my life working for justice, I think we need to look at history. The United States is not going to get less hostile if we sit “waiting for the world to change.” Corporate control will become even stronger than it is even today.

I don’t know if anyone who has experienced a period of “normalcy” in U.S. history. From the time this country was invaded by Europeans, we have been a country of repression and violence; against Native Americans, women, people of color, non-Christians, etc. In the Labor Movement of the early decades of the1900’s, many people were killed, shot down by the military and others, while working for a better life for all. Military tanks rolled thru our streets in the small mill towns throughout the south, shutting down protesters thru intimidation, repression and killing massacres. In spite of that, the movement continued.

During the Civil Rights era, repression was at its worst. Churches used as organizing space were blown up, one with four little girls in it. Leaders were shot, jailed for weeks and months, and attacked by mobs, FBI, military, police, dogs and fire hoses. Meeting spaces like Highlander in Tennessee—–a center for labor unions and later for the civil rights movement—was confiscated by the state of Tennessee and later burned to the ground. More than 40 deaths were attributed to the repression of civil rights protesters, but people continued to work for civil rights even when as late as 1979 five more people were massacred in Greensboro, N.C.

During the VietNam protest people were jailed, tear gassed, and the Ohio National Guard shot and killed four unarmed college students and wounded nine, one permanently paralyzed.

Occupy was a positive event, even though it didn’t turn into a full blown, sustainable movement. As a multi-generational movement, many young people became involved and have stayed involved through other organizations they connected with in Occupy. My organization, Spirit in Action, worked with thousands of people to learn how to use “collective visioning” to dream of the world they wanted to create, look for common ground and then create a long term—3-to-20-years—strategic plan to move toward their positive vision. Collective visioning is a positive, solution-based focus that advances our goals. And yes, political strategy, organization and discipline are key to building a sustainable and lasting movement.

As for 99% being the perfect message, it was a message that got a lot of media attention. But it missed reaching some of the most important potential allies we needed to understand the message. In my conservative, Tea Party family reunion, they were all talking about the protesters (Occupiers) who were tearing America apart. When I asked if they understood what 99% meant, none of them did. As I explained and told them this was how people were fighting for our own self interest as poor people, my aunt looked at me, and said, “Well, it’s not a very good message if no one understands it, is it?” I had to agree with her.

Hopelessness is our biggest enemy. It causes people like Richards to give up and think they’ve done all they could. To hold a vision of the future and work toward that vision step by step, even when it’s one step forward, two steps backwards sometimes, is the strongest, most positive thing we can do.

I spend most of my time working with young people to help them become the future leaders of our movements for social change. I see so much potential, determination, strength and most of all hope. This belief in the younger generation is what gives me hope for our future.

This article was reposted from In These Times.’ To view origional posting click here- http://inthesetimes.com/article/15926/hopelessness_is_our_biggest_enemy/.

Sep 242013
 

linda with drawing of her journey

I was blessed to learn from one of the greatest women of color who taught me my first baby steps into organizing. But it didn’t stop there. This is the beginning of my own cultural shift in how I understood and thought about things. In this blog, I tell this story and progress to the now.

I first began organizing in Charleston, SC when I was living in a Black community which primarily consisted of low-income apartments and projects. At my bus stop, I was always the only white person, and kept complaining to other bus riders about the fact that the bus didn’t take us down to Broad Street where I worked. Many of the folks that I rode the bus with worked even farther away.

People would mostly just smile, chuckle, or shake their heads at this young, naive white girl and tell me, “That’s just how it is.” Some were more direct: “’They’ don’t want busses full of black people coming into their neighborhoods.” And so we continued to ride on the bus, then get off and walk several blocks into those white neighborhoods where we worked.

But several people told me that if I wanted to do something about it, I had to go talk to Mrs. Clark. I walked by her house several times before getting the courage to knock on the door. A young person answered the door and took me to Mrs. Clark, who I immediately fell in love with — an elderly, caring, strong, and wise woman. It was almost a year later before I learned she was a very famous leader, Septima Clark, often referred to the as the “Grandmother of the Civil Rights Movement.”

Mrs. Clark wanted to know my own story and then asked me to join them for dinner. After dinner she asked me why I was coming to visit her. When I explained what I thought was the unfairness of the bus system, she perked up and started telling me what I needed to do.

First, she told me to knock on all the doors of the community and to ask them how they felt about this injustice. Intially, this was difficult, but quickly became easier as I told people I was sent by Mrs. Clark.

Next, she helped me put together a proposal. She informed me that I would need to go to the NAACP to present it to them and see what they suggested.

This was in the 1970s, but I had no idea what the “NAACP” was. I grew up in the rural south and segregated schools. We never learned anything about civil rights. When I first went to the NAACP meeting, I was mostly ignored and felt too intimidated to ask anything or speak up. I went back to Mrs. Clark, whining, saying “I was the only white person there. They didn’t like me; they don’t trust me.” She quickly responded, “Well of course they don’t, what did you expect? Now, next time you go back….” I went back three times before a gentleman finally asked why I was there. When he heard Mrs. Clark had sent me, I immediately had the platform to present our proposal and eventually, a few years later after much hard work, we won – the busses began to run all the way past Broad Street and beyond.

It was one of my first steps in learning to be a white ally. I learned that I could not walk in immediately expecting people to trust me and waiting for them to show me that they liked me. And being a better white ally was essential to becoming a better leader.

Just as Mrs. Clark taught me, I have continued to learn a different way of working and of organizing from strong women of color leaders. It has been a wonderful, challenging, and joyful life-long journey.

After hiring a young, powerful woman of color leader to work as a program director at Spirit in Action, I continue to be challenged to go even deeper in my understanding. Taij Moteelall is an experienced leader and the founder of Standing In Our Power, a project of Spirit in Action. As a white Executive Director of organizations for thirty years, I still have privilege and power in my position and even while I try to “share power,” ultimately I have the final power in decision making. As I move into a time of transitioning into sharing leadership, Taij is stepping into a more powerful place of leadership within our organization. And while there have been moments of challenge, it has mostly been an amazing gift of love, learning and support.

siop group in circle of appreciation

The leaders emerging from Standing in Our Power are creating a new paradigm of leadership that is holistic, healing, and practical. It is more inclusive, loving, and powerful and will allow us all to move toward a truly inclusive, love filled and joyful movement.

As a white ally, I am called to act in a new way forty years after my lessons learned working with Mrs. Clark. As I stand in solidarity with the women of Standing in Our Power, I continue to be challenged in the way I think, to look at other ways of doing things that are outside of my “norm” only to learn a smarter, more effective, way. As a supervisor, my privilege and superiority sometimes let me say to myself “well, let them [a staff person] do it their way and when it doesn’t work, it will be a lesson learned”. My lesson is that instead of finding it doesn’t work, I find new ways of accomplishing the same goal – better than the way I might have done it. This helps me understand that the way I do things is not the “only way” or even the most successful way. It makes me begin to look at other approaches and understand new ways of doing things.

That is why I’m so proud that we can support women of color to come together and bring their amazing wisdom that has often been ignored or seen as “not the right way to do things” by white culture. I am standing with these powerful sisters and ask you to join me. I hope you will consider supporting this network as they get ready to kick-off a 10-month Transformative Leadership Institute.

Standing In Our Power will give us a new way of thinking that will help all of us: men, women, different cultures, ethnicities and colors. The way members of Standing In Our Power are recreating leadership is inclusive, healing and powerful. As we learn from this group of women new ways of leading, we will also be guided to build a movement based on peace, equity, and love that will allow all of us to move forward together.

I have been blessed to have many women of color in my life who are leaders and who sometimes harshly, but mostly lovingly, taught me what it means to listen and to follow. It has been the most valuable lessons I have learned and has taught me to be the kind of organizer and leader I am today.

This is the ultimate cultural shift we must make: learning to listen to those whose shoulders and backs we have often stood on to have the privilege and benefits as white leaders is a struggle that we need to embark on in order to be transformative leaders and true allies; learning to listen to the varied and often enlightened voices of women of color who can shed new insights and cast great light upon our vision for a more equitable and just future for all I will continue to share my journey of learning in future blogs. I hope you will join me in that journey.

If you are interested in supporting Standing in Our Power, please use the link below:

 

Jul 282013
 

making a cultural shift2

I just wrote my new 15 year vision.  I had created a 13 year vision back in 2007 for the year 2020.  But, now I need a new one because almost everything in that vision has been accomplished.  My new vision begins with “it is July 2028 and I am 75 years old.”  I went on to say what I was doing currently, what I had accomplished in the past 15 years and how I was doing it.  I am excited to begin this next journey by reflecting on my accomplishments, and with a renewed vision in partnership with my Spirit in Action team.

I want to share a story of visioning with a group I’ve been involved with since spring of 2006.  The most exciting thing about this work is that it has been with young people.  This month, at a national education conference, several young adult leaders came running up and hugging me. Only after looking at their name tags did I recognize them from the young people I had lead visioning with back in 2006.  The first year working with Kids Rethinking New Orleans Schools — the summer after Katrina — we began with a vision of the schools and world they wanted to create 25 years into the future.  One of the young boys said “this is only just pretend!”  I agreed.  It was just pretend, unless we created a roadmap and action plan to get there.  Now, that young man is one of the leaders working with the current group of “Rethinkers” in developing this year’s curriculum and co-leading the 6 week program this summer.  The dreams the young people had that first year, and subsequent years have been astounding.  They have had victories around every annual visioning project they have done.  Last year they made a video about visioning and the impact it has had on their work.

Has their collective visioning worked?  They have had multiple victories.  One such victory around changing the cafeteria food policies in their schools is shown in an Emmy nominated HBO documentary called “Weight of the Nation: The Great Cafeteria Takeover” starring the Rethink students.  They were able to take on Aramark, a multi-national corporation that serves cafeteria food to two and one half million children across the United States and the Rethinkers succeeded!  They have not won everything they want, at least not yet, but they now have their foot in the door and are holding these powerful people accountable to what they promised.

rethink draw

What does all this have to do with cultural shift?  First, the idea of beginning with a collective vision – focusing on what we want to create rather than what we are against – is the most important step in creating real, successful, and sustainable change.  Second, strong voices and accountability can make change – even with large multi-national corporations.  Three, sitting in circle and building relationships are a critical part of developing trust, hearing each other and creating change.  Four, taking action on the vision we create leads to victories.  Five, giving young people the knowledge and empowering them to speak for themselves create our leaders of the present, as well as for the future.

So, visioning has everything to do with creating cultural shift.  Starting with vision provides us a positive grounding to work from.  It supports us to look for solutions and ways to get there.  It also inspires ourselves and others to keep motivated toward that vision even during times where we feel hopeless and ready to give up.  In a society where we’ve grown up focusing on the problems and what’s wrong, shifting to a positive vision approach can be challenging at first, but once you have participated in this process, you will never want to go back.  It builds trust, collective power, hope, and joy.  It sets us on a path toward winning on the issues we are working on.  Collective Visioning helps us create a different culture in the way we do our work that is sustainable, supportive, and achievable.

To learn more about how to lead a collective vision process within your own group or organization, go to http://spiritinaction.net/toolkit/   to download a free copy of Occupy the Present, Change the Future: A Collective Visioning Guide, or if you prefer a full  understanding of how to set up diverse groups, prepare and lead collective visioning with exercises and examples, order a copy Collective Visioning: How Groups Can Work Together for a Just and Sustainable Future.  Feel free to use the comment section below for any questions or ideas you have (we would especially like to hear your thoughts if you have participated in collective visioning in the past).  We would love to hear from you and will respond.

Jun 272013
 

making a cultural shift2

How do we embrace the challenges that we face today as well as tomorrow’s promises? To do this we must lead with hope and optimism, with vision.

If we really want to create change in the world, it begins with “me” — with [insert your name].

We are all leaders although some may be playing many different roles. Some lead in the front, some within, and some lead while following. But unless we are leading in the way that is grounded in our values and leads by the example of what we are trying to build, we aren’t able to create the change we want.

We’ve all heard Mahatma Gandhi’s quote: “We must be the change we wish to see in the world.” But have we truly explored and understand what this means for us – especially what it means for you?

We come from a reactive culture that is fixated on problem solving. We examine problems and work to fix them. What would it look like to live proactively into only thinking about solutions? To live into what we are creating, what we want, being the change we wish to see.

Before you pass this idea off as to Pollyannaish, unrealistic, or just too woo-woo, let me share a recent experience I had. I was accepted and sponsored to attend the Weatherhead School of Management at Case Western Reserve University in a year- long program called “Deep Dive Leadership.”

Out of 60+ people, I am the only social change activist in the group. Others head up or hold high positions within large, multi-national corporations, banks, and hospitals. Many of the companies were names I recognized.

In our first week, we were learning about visioning, mindfulness, and how to lead from a positive, relationship-based place. So why was I in a group of business people learning things that I already knew about, believed in and worked for in my years of training? Because these business leaders have figured out it is the most effective way to lead – to work in balance. To lead with hope has now been “proven,” through years of scientific research and studies, to be the most successful and the most profitable. They have proven that the mindful and hopeful leadership approach is the way to win!

So why should we care about the “proof?” It was interesting and affirming for me to see brain scans and data of leaders who begin to think and work in a different way. It was fascinating to learn about how much more effective you can be by incorporating these practices into your leadership and to hear how companies have been able to turn around and increase their productivity multiple times.

My real interest, however, is how do we start to work this way, to be the change we want to see within the social justice movement? How do we learn to inspire hope and action in the majority of people? How do we reach beyond the choir to create a force of power with which no amount of money can contend?

What I learned in that first week of training is that real change begins with me – with you. Until we can embrace our own visions, our own ability to work from a visionary and relationship-based place, we can’t teach others. And to be successful we have to change the way we lead.

I want to bring you with me on this journey of learning and will continue to write monthly blogs as I dig deeply within myself as a leader and learn how to be more effective and more powerful.

In my first week of being home, I have crafted out time to do a year-long workplan to prioritize and instead of trying to move forward with the belief I have to do it ALL, figure out what I will “Do, Delegate, Delay or Delete”. I am working to assess what I can do excellently, while keeping the balance of health, love, play and mindfulness in my life. This is one step for me to become a better leader. What is yours?

Making a Cultural Shift Exercise #3:

Take time to reflect on yourself as a leader. Are you trying to do it all? Are you working with balance in your life? Are your staff and/or co-workers inspired and excited about working with you? Do you bring the best out of those you work with? Are you happy and inspired in the work you do? If not, it is time to take stock and look at ways to change your leadership.

Below I have listed the first book that we are working from that is about emotional intelligence, relationships, and sustaining your effectiveness.  It is filled with exercises that help you evaluate yourself as a leader from many different perspectives.  It also helps you prepare and develop a 15 year vision for yourself.  I recommend reading and working the exercises in this book as a first step in becoming the leader you want to be.

Becoming a Resonant Leader, by Annie McKee, Richard Boyatzis, Frances Johnston, Harvard Business Press

Becoming a Resonant Leader resonates with the basic leadership truth that when we have the courage to reach for our personal dreams, we also inspire those we lead with a vision of optimism and hope.  There is nothing more powerful than leaders who let their passion shine through.”

Andrea Jung, CEO, Avon Products Inc

 

 

 

May 302013
 

In April we held our first cross-network event in New York City and it was simply phenomenal.  Over 40 women of color spent the day together thanks to Progressive Communicators Network (PCN) and Standing in Our Power (SiOP), who joined forces to organize Women of Color Be the Media.  Here are a just two quotes from the evaluations we received to give you a sense of how the day went:

“This was an uplifting, inspiring, motivating day. I made a lot of great connections, got access to a lot of great information and resources and felt like I joined a community.”

“Our stories are important and must be shared.”

As our progressive movement gets increasingly savvy with communications, we’ve seen that there is still a need to reach out to and support established organizers who are transforming themselves into communicators.  There is something special at PCN that has helped us to develop progressive communicators who have gone on to become leaders in the field. Working with the SiOP constituency, we focused on a population whose voice is the most marginalized in society.  Standing at the intersection of multiple oppressions, women of color leaders are not always supported to share their authentic stories, which hold immense power to transform perceptions and policies.

Beyond providing essential training and fundamental tools, our day-long event has begun building a community of practice here in New York.  We also challenged participants to reflect on their self-limiting beliefs that so often make them “play small” or remain silent, and to step up and speak their truth using cutting edge communications strategies, social media and more.

If you want to see work like this continue to grow, please make a donation today to ensure that we can continue to build this community of women who are interested in becoming stronger leaders and communicators. Your contribution supports powerful networks that are changing how we work for justice and how we communicate a vision for justice.

 

May 242013
 

Workshop Participants at Be The Media - Women of Color NYC

In my first blog about creating cultural shifts, I was adamant about the possibility and the necessity to work toward a cultural shift and my belief it can be done. This includes a cultural shift within ourselves, our organizations, and ultimately our society.

In this article, I want to talk about how difficult this work can be. It may seem contradictory to my first blog but the truth is that to facilitate a cultural shift is incredibly hard work, especially when starting with organizations that already have a deeply instilled culture that shapes every aspect of their work. It’s much easier to create a different culture when you are starting a new entity. Unfortunately, when working with a group that has already established a particular way of doing things where leaders act in a certain way and where trust has not been truly built, the work to change is much more difficult.

Cultural shifts must start with the leadership but include every individual. It can’t be simply one person trying to make changes. It must include ALL components of an organization: you, the leadership, the Board and the staff. And first and foremost, it must begin with love and trust!

“Love one another and you will be happy. It’s as simple and difficult as that. There is no other way.”                       -Leunig (A common prayer)

At Spirit in Action we realize that “spirit” goes beyond spiritual practice. We can all have a wonderful spiritual practice, meditate together, and then still fall into dysfunctional ways of working together. Spirit in action is about our relationships with each other. It is about practicing love with ourselves, each other, and even those who think differently than us. It is how we do our work, and how we strive to build culture from a positive “what’s working well” perspective. It requires time that we often think we can’t possibly commit to, but putting that time in is what allows our work for justice to flourish and for us to successfully implement changes that work for the greater good.

We also have to remember that we all come into our groups with our own baggage: our mistrust, our woundedness and our privilege and/or oppression, and for some of us, a clear understanding that “we know how things should be done”. Often, this is ingrained in us from childhood, and is part of our own personal culture. This limited way of thinking requires doing our own personal work as well as working collectively in order to create a new culture within our work and communities.

In future blogs, I will begin to provide guidance that helps us to look at what we need to change within ourselves, but for this month’s exercise, I ask that you focus on two questions: “What is working? And what are the ways in which we are building trust and love with each other?”

Make a list of all the positive things that you and your group/organization are doing presently. By focusing on the positive, you can build on what’s working and facilitate successful change.

I would love to hear your feedback and your thoughts and questions, as well of some of the positive things you find that are already working for you personally and within your organizations. Please comment below and we can begin to engage in effective and change producing dialogue in order to learn from each other. I appreciate any thing you can share or offer to all of the people reading this today.

 

Apr 242013
 

As I write this morning, I’m struck by the contradictions in our lives.  I look out at the beautiful Cherry and Red Bud trees in full bloom and celebrate with joy the coming Spring.  I look at the news and feel overwhelmed with images of bombs, guns, people hurting, and the ongoing onslaught of violence and hatred in our country.

I am so excited about work we’ve been able to accomplish in Spirit in Action this past year.  Our dynamic work includes building powerful networks, helping make changes in communities and organizations, building trust and bridges between groups who often don’t work together, and creating leaders of the future.  Unfortunately, such tremendous organizational strides have been counter-balanced with struggles and sufferings of the people we work with, staff overload of work, and the pressure of facing decreasing funding as we try to do more and more work.

So how do we continue to hold hope and determination to move forward in the face of all that is so hard?  How do we counter the huge forces with billions of dollars that are working successfully at undoing the steps we have made toward justice over our lifetimes?

I believe it is possible.  It is also imperative.  And, counter to some thinking, I don’t believe it is too late. 

Although we have many progressive groups actively working for justice, there are an increasing number of people who are disheartened.  This disillusionment stems from a place of mis-information and mis-education in addition to oppression and poverty, which leads to hopelessness and lack of civic engagement that would improve people’s lives.    It is up to us to reach this group of disenfranchised population.  Research shows us that the majority of these folks also share values that coincide with ours.   But to reach these people requires a major cultural shift in how we think about our approach and the messaging in our work.

We must also strive to address the whole:  mind, body and spirit.  This requires holding hope, love, and joy while we work to create a world that is equitable, just and sustainable.  It means “walking our talk” and living into the future we want to create.

Today’s Exercise:

For us to do this work and bring people into our work for positive change, we ourselves must seek balance and joy in our own lives in order to create a future that works for all. 

I can hear some readers asking “how can I do that?  How can we hold that balance?” 

For today, just take some time to be grateful for the beauty around you and to others who support and give love to you.  Take deep breaths and connect to what inspires you on a day to day basis.  Remember when and why you first started working for justice.  Try this practice every day this month for 5 minutes when you wake up.  Notice what difference it makes in how your work takes on new meaning.

In the following month this year, I will include a blog giving ideas and exercises toward making the cultural shift on how to reach beyond the choir and build our base to include others we don’t usually think of as part of our movement but who are natural allies.  You will learn about a new approach or how to do one thing differently that will make your work more successful in reaching others.   

Oct 152012
 

The Progressive Communicators Network (PCN) has been in a quieter phase of reflection and planning. For the first time in twelve years we chose not to hold our annual national gathering in 2012. Originally started as a project of Spirit in Action, PCN soon grew to become its own nonprofit. PCN is a national network of people who work as communications professionals or organizers and are focused on racial or economic justice, and who use communications tools and strategy. We learn from each other, we support each other, and we help each other navigate the tough world of social justice communications. Like many nonprofits, we’ve seen a dip in funding from several long-term sources and needed to reduce staffing and programming, bringing our activity almost to a halt.

Because the network has supported so many of us over the years, PCNers were not willing to let go. In June 2012, the Leadership Council met, with the support of the Spirit in Action staff, to consider our options and look for opportunities where the power of networking can help us to have a greater impact. We explored many options for PCN, and in the end we were delighted to return home. Spirit in Action, in its role as a network builder, stepped up to provide fiscal and organizational support at a time when we need it the most. As project of Spirit in Action we have hopes of again growing ourselves to sustainability and, more importantly, sharing our expertise in media and messaging to our movement. We’ve re-committed to the rebuilding of the network with a renewed focus on supporting organizing. In the immediate future, and hopefully for the long haul, we will be organizing to support civic engagement across communities.

Civic engagement for us is not just communications for voter registration and voter turn out, but the deep work to build political power through ongoing engagement of communities of color and working class communities. We will support communicators who are working year-round in organizing groups that are based in communities of color and working class communities and engage in civic engagement that moves our communities into action.

This fall, we are beginning our work to restart chapters (with work on that front in Boston and New York City), as well as a national conference call on October 17th, Civic Engagement Communications: Sharing Best Practices.

PCN has supported the development of many communicators over the years (take a peek in our Meet a PCNer profiles), and we look forward to continue to support the development of emerging communicators who have a connection to organizing and a commitment to cross-sector work.

If you’re interested in reconnecting with your PCN colleagues, or getting to know more about how strong communications can increase the effectiveness of organizing, get in touch with PCN.

We invite you to join us; by exploring our new website, learn from us by registering for our up coming call Civic Engagement Communications: Sharing Best Practices and let us inspire your work by participating at the upcoming Be the Media Conference in Boston.