framing deep change: essays on transformative social change

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framing deep change essays on transformative social change

center for transformative change

Produced and printed by: Center for Transformative Change (CXC) 2584 Martin Luther King Jr Way Berkeley, CA 94704 PHONE: 510.549.3733

© 2010. Center for Transformative Change. Some rights reserved. ISBN 9780982884508. Creative Commons License This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NoncommercialNo Derivative Works 3.0 Unported License All essays remain the copyright of their respective owners. Compilation: “Muki” Karen Villanueva, RN, BSN Copyediting: “Simha” Evan Stubblefield, Design: Cici Kinsman & angel Kyodo williams Editor / Writing: angel Kyodo williams Many other people contributed in ways known and unknown to this booklet. For this, we offer our sincere gratitude. Funding was provided in part by Seasons Fund for Social Transformation. Deep gratitude to Cici Kinsman, C2 Graphics for design and layout.

Table of Contents Preface: on planting great seeds . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 2 Introduction . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 3 Spiritual Activism & Liberation Spirituality . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 5 Claudia Horwitz & Jesse Maceo Vega-Frey

What is Transformational Change?

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 12

Robert Gass

change vs. transformation . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 15 angel Kyodo williams

Transformative Movement Building: A Framework . . . . . . . . . . 20 Movement Strategy Center

The Five Core Practices of Effective Leadership for Social Justice . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 24 Social Justice Leadership

The Transformative Power of Practice

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 26

Staci Haines & Ng’ethe Maina

by any means necessary . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 33 adrienne maree brown

Closing Words . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 35 Contributors . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 37

framing deep change: essays on transformative social change


Preface: on planting great seeds


erhaps the most pertinent thing to begin with is a question: “What’s missing here?” Most everything, really. This simple booklet was created to meet the need for some kind of frame to understand the emerging field and movement that is becoming known as Transformative Social Change. We all know that the movement towards this moment spans back millennia, to the very first time a human being sought to further develop themselves towards the goal of being in service to all. That act is itself a human compulsion, one that drives us all toward greater humanity as it seeks to interrupt all that is inhumane. It cannot be ascribed or attributed to any one people, culture, gender or creed. That said, there are many voices and even many paths that are equal streams of the great sea of change that are not yet represented in this collection. There are no indigenous voices. Healing practice as a modality of transformation is not here. Faith is mentioned, but hardly represented well. We could go on and lament all that is not here, but instead are choosing to celebrate what is: an inspiring, stirring, informative collection of words, thought and vision offered by people that are deeply practiced and deeply committed to seeing the transformation of our society — into a just, thriving, sustainable place for all — become a reality. The invitation, inherent in the query of “what’s missing here,” is that you — whoever you may be and whatever you may represent — have a place here if the underlying essence of what is being offered resonates with you. To be sure, this burgeoning movement requires all of the vast diversity, richness and complexity of voices we can bring to the table. So hopefully we have begun by setting one. Truly, we look forward to having you join the next wave of Framing Deep Change. For now, suffice it to say that while limited at best and insufficient for sure, what you will find within these pages are great seeds planted in the hopes of germinating a wild forest of hope and inspiration for the future of each and everyone of us.


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magine a world that is not absent of injustice, but one in which the people that are treated unjustly are empowered with such a rich connection to their inherent value and self-worth through their sense of belonging in society, that to address the injustice is seen as a welcome aspect of life’s work. Here, oppressed people are seen as the canaries that help us all to identify unhealthy social structures that we commit to resolve at the root level of the injustice. We can look forward to a world in which people are inspired to be present for their own liberation from oppressive forces, structures and institutions, no longer compelled by anger and separation, but by love and a desire for deeper connection, driven not by their wounds, but by their quest for healing. This new world will find us putting as much value on “recycling” people as we are beginning to put on recycling things. We will recognize that most, if not all, of the discordant behavior of individuals is a direct expression of a larger tear in our social fabric. To weave those people back in strengthens our resolve to address societal ills, rather than weakens us by casting all that is a mirror and difficult for us to bear, aside. I believe this different world is not only possible, but that it can be manifest by achieving a tipping point, one that is ushered in through the existing networks of individuals, informal groups, communities and organizations that are striving for justice in all arenas of society. The momentum for change that we are all suspended in, in this historic chapter in our national and global story, can be carried forth, made unstoppable by a fundamental shift in how we seek that change. In this new world, the role of the agent of progressive social change is one that is deeply admired as an honorable undertaking, regardless of one’s political persuasion. The people who choose to commit their energy and time to hammer out a more just society are supported in equal measure by the individuals who have most benefited from past imbalance and injustice. The relationship of practitioner and funder of social change is best described as a true partnership rather than that of recipient and guardian of resources. framing deep change: essays on transformative social change


“Reaching across the aisle” will be the rule, not the exception. “Cabinets of Rivals” and coalitions of difference will come together to find real solutions to our most seemingly intractable differences. Blueprints for the redistribution of power, wealth and resources will be designed, leaving the humanity of those who would hoard resources intact, while still dismantling the systems that allow hoarding by anyone. One could say the essence of this work is to see the shared teachings of all great spiritual and indigenous wisdom taken both to heart and to the streets: to embrace the path of social change as the goal. To witness the self-declared agents of social change express King’s agape love, both on behalf of those marginalized and towards those who would draw the margins. This, so that our collective love of self and other might truly do justice for all. To have them operationalize Gandhi’s perhaps over-stated, but under-actualized edict to see work that is done FOR change BE the change, such that the application of these tenets become the grounding, the cultural norm and the measure of success of work for justice, peace and sustainability. For these tenets to be actualized we will need to commit to practicing who we want to be; we will need to make a sea change towards working in a way that projects forth what we hope to have reflected back to us in our vision for a just society. This is our best chance to achieve that vision: to practice embodying it here and now. The ends of justice can never be served by the means of injustice, even when the injustice is as subtle as the mental framework instilled by our quest for liberation. Suffering cannot be alleviated by instigating suffering, so even the conditions under which we labor for change need to exemplify the conditions we wish to ultimately find ourselves in. Coarse aggression, unconscious inequity and insidious indifference must all be transmuted into our most resourceful states of compassion, unlimited love and engaged presence. The root causes of injustice are addressed by assuring that unjust methods, approaches and even sensibilities are routed out from the organizations, strategies and hearts of the people that address injustice. This new world is not only possible, but necessary. And we, as agents of that change, will thrive in seeking it. THIS is a Transformative Social Change.


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Spiritual Activism and Liberation Spirituality: Pathways to Collective Liberation Claudia Horwitz & Jesse Maceo Vega-Frey


here is a new culture of activism taking form in the world — a new paradigm for how we work, how we define success, how we integrate the fullness of who we are and what we know into the struggle for justice. Activists are being asked to examine our current historical moment with real intimacy, with fresh eyes, fire, and compassion. Many of the once-groundbreaking A new philosophy methods we know and use have now begun to rot. and practice of Many of our tactics are now more than simply social change is ineffective — they are dangerous. For agents of emerging, one change, and all those who we work with, the that grows out detriment is two-fold. We are killing ourselves of an ethic of and we are not winning. A life of constant conflict sustainability, and isolation from the mainstream can be exhaustspirituality, and ing and demoralizing. Many of our work habits are a broader unhealthy and unsustainable over the long haul. understanding The structures of power have become largely of freedom. resistant to our tactics. Given the intensity of our current historical circumstance it would be easy for us to rely on what we know, to fall back upon our conditioning and our historical tendencies, in our efforts to create change under pressure. Many lessons of the past carry wisdom; others are products and proponents of dysfunctional systems and ways of being in the world. A new paradigm requires a complex relationship with history; we must remember and learn from the past, but we cannot romanticize it. Neither do we presume that the answer lies only in the new, the innovative, and the experimental. We carry the hearts and minds of the ancient ones of many traditions, across time and continents, while also framing deep change: essays on transformative social change


connecting to the resources that surround us. Our intention is to survive and flourish in the landscape that we find ourselves living in. A new philosophy and practice of social change is emerging, one that grows out of an ethic of sustainability, spirituality, and a broader understanding of freedom. We are weaving old threads together in new forms and new ways of being.

Spiritual Activism and Liberation Spirituality At its best, this new paradigm, which some of us are calling “spiritual activism” or “liberation spirituality,” is revolutionary. It provides us with deepened competencies and tools to go forward in this tangle of conditions history has prepared for us and to assume the roles we’re being asked to play. While the field growing up around this new paradigm is varied and vast, we are beginning to see each other and understand what we share: • a deep commitment to spiritual life and practice • a framework of applied liberation • an orientation towards movement-building • a desire for fundamental change in the world based on equity and justice. We are moving toward a doing that grows more deliberately out of being; an understanding that freedom from external systems of oppression is dynamically related to liberation from our internal mechanisms of suffering. It provides us with a way to release the construct of “us versus them” and live into the web of relationship that links all. Instead of being limited by the reactions of fight or flight, we encounter a path that finds fullness in presence. The humility of not-knowing allows truth to appear where fear once trapped us. We recognize the pervasive beauty of paradox, the dynamic tension between two simultaneous truths that seem contradictory. We enlarge our capacity to hold contradictions and to be informed by them. And our movements for change are transformed as a result.

Swimming in the Dominant Culture The culture of activism in the United States is like a fish swimming in murky waters. It lives and breathes in the dominant culture and it is greatly impacted by its nature. Even as we are attempting to change this culture, we easily overlook how it has impacted us and 6

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how we recreate it. As we begin to understand and reckon with these attributes, we start to unravel their influence. Like anything, the more we invite and allow ourselves to notice and name what is, the more space, opportunity and permission conditions have to change. All too often we are limited in our capacity to connect deeply with ourselves, with each other, and with reality because of deep instability in our being. We are knocked around by the tumult of our daily lives, battered by the constant barrage of bad news, of overwork and despair. We work more hours than our bodies and psyches can stand. We may deceive ourselves about the very nature of possibility and the openings for change, get stuck in postures of despair and cynicism or find ourselves caught up in a rigid relationship to time, task, and relationship. More is more, more is better. Long-term vision is sacrificed for immediate and inadequate gains. Opportunities for collaboration become mired in competition. Our anxiety around scarcity and the sense of a world on the verge of collapse disables us and disconnects us from our own internal sources of wisdom, vision, and spaciousness. None of these If we’re not healthy, tendencies is inherently wrong, but each is we can’t think as limiting if not balanced with a more holistic clearly. If we’re and revolutionary approach.

From Suffering to Liberation

only working out of anger, we reproduce the energy and momentum of destruction. If our visions for the world tend toward the fantastical or the apocalyptic, they cannot act as good guides for action.

Because the ups and downs can be unbearable, many of us learn to intuitively disconnect from our bodies, our environments, our emotional worlds, and other people around us. We feel incapable of functioning in a world of deep intimacy and so we protect ourselves with the armor of anger, denial, self-neglect, and abuse — all in an effort to shield us from the depression, disenchantment, and discouragement we fear would overwhelm us if we gave it space. Our strategies often emanate from this place of suffering, forged of anguish and a polarized understanding of the forces at work in the world. It’s vital that we learn how to see our own suffering, to have some ongoing relationship with the internal pain that has immeasurable impact on the people around us, the work we do, and our own happiness. If we’re not healthy, we can’t think as clearly. If we’re only

framing deep change: essays on transformative social change


working out of anger, we reproduce the energy and momentum of destruction. If our visions for the world tend toward the fantastical or the apocalyptic, they cannot act as good guides for action. We can look around the globe today and see how individual suffering comes to life in collective forms and how society is a manifestation and projection of our own internal turmoil. Individual hatreds lead to violence of all forms — state-sanctioned oppression, violence, war, domestic and sexual abuse. Greed leads to unjust economic system, distrust of others, the construction of individuals as mere factors of production, non-livable wages, exploitation of natural resources and the insatiable desire to consume regardless of cost. Delusion in the news, media, and advertisements promote a sense of individualism and isolation, over-consumption and hubris on an individual and national level. We’re familiar with these forms of collective suffering because they are much of the motivating forces behind our quest for justice. And yet we know it doesn’t have to be this way. We know human beings have access to a wellspring of wisdom, good will, and compassion. So, how do we begin to change our selves, our organizations and institutions, our society, our world? What are the tactics that lend themselves to the kind of transformation we are seeking in the world? We desire freedom. We desire a way of being that expresses the best of what we have to offer as human beings — our truth, our joy, our complex intelligence, our kindness. For some, freedom comes when we experience ourselves and the world around us as sacred, when we have a consistent awareness of the divine and our embodiment of it. For some, freedom is paying attention to what is and accepting it, even as we also want space to dream about what could be, without censorship. Freedom thrives in individual wholeness and in strong, flexible relationships with others. We want to see deeply and we want to be seen. We want to remember, over and over again, how our destinies are woven together. We want a spirituality that holds the liberation of all people at the center and an activism that is not void of soul. A liberated society and person is one that can hold the truth of different ways, perspectives, and mind states at once, where there is a complete acceptance of the way things are that also holds a prophetic vision of how things could be. We want collective liberation and we get there through spiritual practice, liberatory forms, a liberatory relationship to form, skillful group process, and embracing difference and unity.


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Collective Liberation through Spiritual Practice Spiritual practice builds a reservoir of spaciousness and equanimity that can provide us with access to our deepest capacities in the midst of great turmoil and difficulty, tension, and conflict. The key is in the ability to deeply and compassionately connect with our experience in any moment without clinging or rejecting, allowing for what is to arise and be engaged with wisdom without friction or resistance. Real, meaningful change can only happen in these places of compassionate and powerful acceptance of our own capacities and our personal and societal limitations. When we clearly open to what is, we gain the ground to imagine what might be possible. And in the places where we cannot be as breezy as we want to be we try to develop compassion for ourselves and each other, gentleness with our learning edges that allows us the space to grow where we can. We can create communities of practice, where ancient and traditional wisdom and practices are made relevant and current; they are shared in community. We can bring a depth of practice and learning to our spiritual path, and a strengthening of our own emotional container. Attaining some level of mastery in our own tradition or practice accelerates our learning and enhances our ability to experience and receive the wisdom and gifts from other traditions.

Collective Liberation through Liberatory Forms How do we embody ways of being and create ways of working that make real freedom possible? We do it by creating forms that lean toward freedom. We live in a world of form. Institutions, buildings, bodies, ideas — all are the forms which we use to negotiate and navigate through our interrelated lives. There are certain forms — institutions and practices — that function to quash, limit, or undermine our freedom. Some of the more obvious, all manifestations of collective suffering, include prisons, slavery, and totalitarian regimes. Some forms tend to promote liberation: • collective struggle in the form of grassroots movements, unions, and locally based organizing • farms, food cooperatives, and community supported agriculture models • religious and spiritual communities that call forth ecstatic expression, nurture contemplative refuge, and build strong community • justice-centered retreat centers that offer an oasis for incubation

framing deep change: essays on transformative social change


• creative protests that convey urgent messages in unexpected forms • experiential and direct education that values students as experts of their own experience • artistic venues that capture reality in compelling and uncharted ways • forms of communication that leave us feeling animated and inspired rather than drained and beat up • local merchants founded in an ethic of fair economics and community interest • communal and intentional living experiments

Collective Liberation through a Liberatory Relationship to Form New, innovative forms that aim for justice and lean toward freedom do not guarantee true liberation. We know the depths of suffering and oppression that can be found within our so-called revolutionary institutions — from unions to collectives to communist systems of government. This is because form itself is not freedom. Our willingness and ability to develop a revolutionary relationship to forms, to institutions, to ideas, to practices is equally important to our success as the forms themselves. There are numerous examples of physical, mental, and spiritual liberation occurring within the confines of oppressive forms such as prisons or slavery. Nelson Mandela, Malcom X, Aung San Suu Kyi, and Victor Frankel all had profound experiences of awakening while in the confines of prison walls. True freedom is realized when we develop the internal capacity to not be the victim or captive of any form, of any experience, of any condition. This means deeper understandings of who we are and what is needed in a given moment are based on realities beyond the conceptual, the intellectual, the known. This depth comes through contemplative practice, through worship, through communion with the divine, through ceremony. When we act out of faith (not necessarily in a divine being or external force) and align fiercely with what is, we gain power, strength, and presence that enables our actions to be driven by wisdom and compassion rather than craving, aversion, and delusion.


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Moving Forward... Spiritual activism and liberation spirituality are ways of being and acting that encourage an intimacy that retains discernment. With ease and with care, we can find ways to link the powerful urges for freedom inside ourselves with the collective urge for freedom that humanity has known since the beginning of time. We can commit to ongoing analysis of and consciousness around our dominant culture, its forces of oppression and how these affect our work. We can develop a nuanced understanding of what it means to live and work across multiple lines of difference. And we can create the conditions that allow us to move from suffering to collective liberation.

x Complete version originally appeared in Shambhala Institutes’ Fieldnotes, September/October 2006.

framing deep change: essays on transformative social change


What is Transformational Change? Robert Gass


n recent years, many social change activists have been exposed to principles, tools and practices loosely referred to as “transformational.” Numbers of trainers, facilitators, consultants, coaches and other intermediaries use the word in their work, and there is a growing field of “social transformation.” This term and field actually encompass a wide range of approaches, and there is as yet no agreement about what is and what is not “transformation.” This brief paper is an attempt to initiate conversation about what our various efforts might have in common. It is useful to think of transformational change as profound, fundamental and irreversible. It is a metamorphosis, a radical change from one form to another. Transformation is an approach, a philosophy and a methodology. The following is an initial attempt to articulate some of the key principles that seem to underlie much of the work being done in this field.

Transformational Change is Holistic Transformational change is a systems approach, deriving its power by attending equally to hearts and minds (the inner life of human beings), human behavior, and the social systems and structures in which they exist. It therefore tends to be multi-disciplinary, integrating a range of approaches and methodologies. By dealing holistically with all elements of human systems, transformational change aims to be irreversible and enduring.

Transformational Change Involves Breakthroughs Albert Einstein said that “problems cannot be solved by the same level of thinking that created them.” Transformational change is distinguished by radical breakthroughs in paradigms, beliefs and behavior. In transformational change, what were seen as obstacles may morph into opportunities, apparently irreconcilable opposites may come to be seen 12

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as creative tension, and change that seemed improbable or requiring long development may quickly come into being.

Transformation is About “Being the Change” Many practitioners of social transformation embrace the quote of Gandhi: “We must be the change we want to see happen in the world.” The process of transformational change must always mirror what it seeks to create. While In transformational honoring the lessons of the past and planning for change, what were the future, transformational change has a strong seen as obstacles focus on what’s happening right now, in the presmay morph into ent. For example, in individual change processes, opportunities, while appreciating the impact of our past and apparently irreconestablishing goals for the future, the power of transformational change is in actually becoming cilable opposites the fullness of who we are right here, right now. may come to be Or if we intend to create an organization culture seen as creative with greater ownership by stakeholders, we must tension, and change “be the change” right now by initiating an that seemed inclusive process of change.

Transformational Change Accentuates the Positive

improbable or requiring long development may quickly come into being.

While honoring the importance of squarely naming and facing what’s wrong, what’s not working, and in need of change, transformational change is grounded in the power of a positive vision and focusing on what we want to create. While acknowledging the importance of critical thinking, transformational change balances critique with the power generated by an appreciation and honoring of what is already good and useful, and the hope inspired by focusing on what’s possible.

Transformational Change Balances Control with Letting Go In most change models, we create a picture of what we think should be, then work hard to make reality fit the picture. In transformational change, we activate the power of vision, yet we are also willing to be humble in the face of the mystery that is life. We understand that the only constant is change. It is less an attempt to dominate life,

framing deep change: essays on transformative social change


and much more a dance of dynamic interaction with life around us. We learn to temper control with letting go of what we cannot control. While we cultivate the discipline of good planning, we also understand change to be an emergent phenomenon. The art of transformation lies in deep attention to what is, and in skillfully working in harmony with what is alive and moving in the world. Transformational change relies on collaboration. Because of its systemic and interdisciplinary nature, transformational work requires from its practitioners a high level of commitment and skill in collaboration. We can do nothing by ourselves. Transformational change is all about appreciating interdependence and working in partnership — with other people and organizations, with social trends, and unseen forces sometimes called energy, the arc of history, or Spirit. Transformational change engages the heart. Progressive social change has often over-relied on trying to engage and mobilize people through facts, analysis, and critical thinking. While embracing the importance of intellect, transformational change equally engages the heart: our deepest aspirations, what we care most deeply about, what we love. In working with groups, transformational change activates not only the power of collective purpose, but also helps lower the barriers that keep us separate from each other, inviting us to greater compassion, trust and care for each other. Transformational change happens at all levels. Many practitioners, for reasons of experience and/or inclination may tend to focus more on change in individuals, in organizations, or in society. This is fine, as all are worthy of attention. Yet the real changes we seek in the world ask that we collectively engage and apply the principles and practices of transformational change to all of this: our work with individuals, with organizations, with coalitions and networks, with social change movements and with society. The Social Transformation Movement is in a phase of emergence, of discovery, of invention. A thousand flowers are blooming. Hopefully, the principles outlined here may be of some use in furthering our collective dialogues and understanding of “what is transformation?�



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change vs. transformation angel Kyodo williams


hese days, people are tossing the word transformation around and pasting it on everything from baby diapers to “How to Write a Budget” workshops as the latest hypnotic marketing voodoo. The same tired products and ineffectual programs are becoming “transformative” this and “transformational” that, hoping to gain the allure of freshly brushed pearly whites just by adding that oh-so-enticing gleaming star of transformation. The result is that in most cases in which we talk about transformation, we’re actually opting for a hyped-up variation on change, or worse yet, a dull and impotent rendition of it. This wouldn’t matter so much except for the fact that actual transformation — otherwise known as “deep change” — happens to be what we really need. There are two recurring themes I carry everywhere I go: 1) The need for a clear articulation of the difference between “change” and “transformation” and 2) distinguishing what is required to have the latter. I point to the metamorphoses of caterpillar-to-butterfly and nymphto-dragonfly to illuminate both the path of transformation and some of the lessons we can take from their journeys to light our own Way. As one of the oldest insects existing, the near-mystical dragonfly once darted where dinosaurs roamed at ten times its current size. But that was when trees were towering and provided more nutrients, cover and oxygen. Since then, dragonflies have downsized from wingspans as great as 20–30 inches to the more nimble 2–3 inches of today. Though dragonflies almost never walk, they’ve reduced their symbolic and consumptive footprint to a tenth of what it once was in response to the decrease in resources. We have much to learn. Just as unique as their ancient friends, butterflies capture our imagination as embodiments of beauty and freedom. Their youth as caterpillars are spent doing nothing but consuming everything they can. Their voracious appetites cause them to shed their skin repeatedly, but

framing deep change: essays on transformative social change


they just end up bigger, stronger, faster caterpillars. That’s change. In order to complete the metamorphosis into butterflies, caterpillars must create and enter the darkness of the chrysalis where they break down into a kind of genetic goop. Special cells, unsurprisingly called “formative,” direct the actual process of becoming a butterfly. Both the seed and evolutionary inclination to transform exists within. Before that happens though, caterpillars must literally experience partial death and a destruction of their current form as they know it. That’s transformation. Like majestic Monarchs, if we really intend to achieve the beauty, power and freedom that is our birthright as a movement of people that seek justice for all, we need to go beyond, or TRANScend, our current FORM as we know it.

Like majestic Monarchs, if we really intend to achieve the beauty, power and freedom that is our birthright as a movement of people that seek justice for all, we need to go beyond, or TRANScend, our current FORM as we know it.

Six Ways to Know Transformation Here are six key points to help you recognize (and influence) when change becomes deep change...when it is transformation:

1. it can’t be undone: Unlike change, which can be undone with a shift in context or the swipe of a presidential pen, there’s no going back on transformation. The depth of change that takes place is so deep, rooted and resounding, that the former way of being is no longer possible. Though our prison system may suggest otherwise, the truth is that our current society can no longer bear slavery as we once knew it. Likewise, while institutional racism abounds, pre-Civil Rights segregation is essentially socially unacceptable. Our society has moved beyond these once common fundamental injustices.

2. it is neutral: As much as we’d like to believe otherwise, the reality is that we can have transformations, social and otherwise, that are neither life-affirming nor progressive. Think war-crime worthy Nazi Germany or occupation & bombing of Palestine. The transformation of those societies to allow heinous injustice to other human beings to be widely and popularly acceptable exemplifies transformation’s inherent neutrality. While transformation can’t be undone, a dangerous new can take the place of what came before without clear intention. The decisive question we must ask is, “Transformation towards what?” If we


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want positive transformative outcomes, we must intentionalize and work toward them. 3. it is rigorous: To the naked eye, transformation often takes place at such a slow rate and on such a subterranean level, it is nearly imperceptible until you’re on the other side of it. But further investigation reveals a consistency and rigor to the process that is undeniable. Deep change requires deep practice. Simply put, we have to stay with it in order to see transformation through. 4. it is whole: Transformation must take place at all levels in order to be achieved. It isn’t enough to transform only ourselves as a slew of self-help and navel-gazing spiritual teachings may profess. People form organWhile transformation izations, organizations become institutions, instican’t be undone, tutions inform cultures, cultures give rise to a dangerous new whole societies. Through and through, we must can take the place weave the fabric of our movement culture with of what came ways of being, knowing and doing that embody before without precisely how we want to see society transformed: clear intention. The into an equitable, sustainable and just place for all.

decisive question

5. it always unfolds in the present: we must ask is, Transformation is both path and goal. While it “Transformation appears that transformation has a beginning and towards what?” end, we are always somewhere in the process of one cycle of transformation or another. But our current shape, where we are along the way, shows up in the NOW. Not in the past, not in the future: How we are showing up right now is the state of our transformation. 6. we don’t know what it looks like: This does not mean without intention. As affirmed earlier, a strong, aligned intention is not only desired, but critical to affecting the overall direction of the process. However, if you can imagine the exact outcome, it’s more likely to be change than transformation because our vision is necessarily limited by our current perspective and conditions. At the point at which we surrender to the process of transforming, even our vision for desired outcomes dissolves into the “goop” which makes room for those formative aspects to direct our emergence into what we will become. So you want transformation, but are hell-bent on control? Um, not so much.

framing deep change: essays on transformative social change


What’s in a Name? Ideally Everything Finally, I submit that in naming and framing the new social movement that burgeons just beneath the surface of our everyday work for justice from Ithaca to Istanbul, we need a descriptor that embodies the principles of such a movement into the very name itself. More than any other movement that has come before, this one must embody its principles at all levels... including in its name. Thus we need an expression that is as much the path as it The reason for is the goal. A name that is now, not later. One shifting the political that calls for us to be active, rather than passive; landscape must be generative rather than prescriptive; a verb (action in service to the from inside) rather than adverb (qualified from the greater goal of outside). The theory and ideas might be transforshifting our social matIONAL, but the movement and its practice landscape (ways of must be transformatIVE. And more than political, it must be social. being with people) Yes, our politics (ways of governance of people,) so that we can systems, structures must undergo change — they change the fundamust be brought into alignment with the values mental nature of of our heart’s yearning, not our fear’s recoiling. our relationship to Indeed, our government must be aligned with one another, to the our deep need for connection rather than our planet, to the world contempt for difference. and to life itself But the reason for shifting the political landthrough the vehicle scape must be in service to the greater goal of of a deep change shifting our social landscape (ways of being with in relationship people) so that we can change the fundamental nature of our relationship to one another, to the to ourselves. planet, to the world and to life itself through the vehicle of a deep change in relationship to ourselves. In our society and in our hearts, we are still willing to use force — to bomb people into peace — thus empowering our government to do so. This, we must transform ourselves to no longer be able to bear. I often muse that if the aquatic larva knew that it would one day leave its known realm to take to the sky, it would never, ever go, and transformation would be averted. But it is birthright that calls. In this Way, we have to allow ourselves to hear and respond to the evolutionary and revolutionary call that pulls us inexorably forward into becoming our newly formed selves — personally, politically, organizationally, institutionally, across all society — making room for a vision yet to be seen. 18

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Right now, we must actively, generatively, take rigorous, intentional action towards wholly being that which we envision, and surrender to what we cannot. We must be so that we can become. In its new form, the dragonfly can dive breathtakingly into a precipitous vertical drop, become a mere blur as it darts about at breakneck speeds, only to come to an apparent dead stop, hovering magically in mid-air. For the most part, it’s the sun that dragon and butterflies need to fly...but they need the dark to grow their magic wings. So do we. It is only once we emerge from the darkness that we will dare to cast off our hardened shells to truly take flight. Let’s do the darkness so that we can all fly together.

x Originally appeared as “doing darkness: change vs. transformation” in October 2009 issue of transform: vision & practice of transformative social change: /transform/

framing deep change: essays on transformative social change


Transformative Movement Building: A Framework Movement Strategy Center


ovement Strategy Center uses the term transformative movement building as an umbrella to describe the diverse efforts of groups and individuals to fundamentally change our political, material, social and spiritual reality. Transformative movement building links the process of individual transformation to group and social transformation. In this framework, inner change and outer change are deeply connected. Transformative movement builders seek to synthesize wisdom and practice from spiritual traditions (often focused on deep inner transformation) with social change traditions of the Left (generally focused on social analysis and systems change). Transformative movement builders share a deep commitment to holistic individual, group and social change, driven by a connection to something larger than themselves. Transformative practices allow us to tap into deep wells of insight and innovation. They include: • Spiritual practices • Creative practices • Cultural practices

MSC intentionally focuses on TMB in grassroots, frontline organizations. Frontline organizations are groups based in the needs and leadership of communities most impacted by social injustice. These communities and organizations are called “frontline” because they experience disproportionate impacts around issues such as education cuts, climate change, or welfare reform. These communities are most often communities of color and low income. While many of these groups have faith-based counterparts, the groups we focus on are secular. Frontline organizations have a major stake in questions of social, political and spiritual transformation, but they have often been excluded from the formal dialogue on spiritual or transformative organizing. 20

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Stages of Change MSC has identified five steps in this process of cultural change: • Individual change • Leads to change in the organizational community • Leads to change in the organizing model and practice • Leads to greater social impact and systems change Culminating in deep cultural change.

Where Are We Stuck? 1. Operating from a Sense of Urgency — Crisis Mode “Everything is critical, nothing can wait,” explained Jen Soriano, formerly with the Center for Media Justice. “There is a sense of urgency and anxiety about missed opportunities. This makes everything much more high stakes.” “People wear themselves out by just reacting, writing papers, attending meetings. They do a lot without making much occur, except to create outcomes for foundations,” says Norma Wong of The Institute for Zen Studies. 2. Embodying the Dominant Culture “We all hate on each other at some level.” — Jermaine Ashley, Oakland Kids First. 3. Recycling Trauma “We need to rehumanize each other,” said [Mordecai] Ettinger. “This requires a value shift on the Left.” Many of us come into this work because we, or the people we love, have experienced deep injustice. However, if our wounds have not healed, trauma can severely limit our ability to be present with each other. Without awareness, we recycle trauma and create new wounds within the movement. 4. Attachment to Anger and Struggle Our movement culture uses struggle as a word to define itself. We are always struggling against something. The term itself connotes hardship and extreme exertion. While this definitely describes a portion of our work in this movement, it is not and should not be the entirety of it.

framing deep change: essays on transformative social change


5. Maintaining an Exclusive — and Narrow — Movement “In the end, people want to feel safe, loved and part of something,” said Ai-jen Poo. “But right now we lack the ability to make people feel the movement encompasses them.” 6. Ambivalence with Power In our movement work we rarely imagine ourselves as the power holders. This ambivalence is rooted in and reinforced by our movement self-image as “the underdogs” of society. It is also reflected in our relationships with targets, where we have created a rigid dichotomy of good versus evil. To be on the side of justice and good we position ourselves as watchdogs rather than decision makers. While watchdogs are important, their role is to react not to lead or govern.

The New Way 1. Integrating Individual and Group Transformation “The nature of transformation is that is does not happen in the absence of absolute change. It includes you.” — Norma Wong, The Institute for Zen Studies. 2. Big Visioning and Reclaiming Values When we vision what we really want our communities and movements to look like, we tap into a sense of imagination, creativity and hope. What is most important about visioning a new way is that the answers we unearth can inform our present-day work. Furthermore, understanding our interconnectedness means including all living things in our vision for liberation. We cannot be free unless we are all free. 3. Centralizing and Investing in Relationships and Community “If we are going to create any meaningful change, we must model new relationships to ourselves and the world around us.” — Ai-jen Poo, Domestic Workers United. Movements are about moving people. The need to be connected and belong is a basic part of our shared and evolutionary history. As organizers we need to understand and work with this truth of human nature. 4. Evolving Our Understanding of Power “The system creates enemies, opposition and social conflict, of course, but we can’t be prescriptive about it. We have to complicate the 22

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picture instead of oversimplifying it. The power mapping we do is just not complex enough.” — Jason Negrón-Gonzales, Movement Generation Justice & Ecology Project. 5. Expanding Our Idea of Useful Work We need all types of work in our movement to make it successful. We need organizers, strategists, teachers, artists, farmers, nurses, engineers, scientists and politicians. Our goal is not to make everyone into a professional organizer, but to create a movement that is relevant, attractive and accessible to all kinds of people. 6. Building Alignment and Synergy You can recognize alignment within groups by the ease with which decisions are made and communication occurs. It is easy to feel when it is present, and equally easy to feel in its absence. 7. Cultivating Patience and Reflection The enormity of the task at hand requires us to reflect — Why am I doing this? What kind of change do I expect to bring about in this world? What do I need to do to make this change occur? 8. Creating Space to Heal and Transform Ourselves Acknowledging the world as an oppressive place means also acknowledging its negative impact on our minds, bodies and spirits. Healing from this oppression is an important task for activists and organizers. It is essential if we want to successfully change systemic conditions. 9. Expanding Awareness and Agility to Act Through practice we can develop an expanded awareness of our surroundings, the present moment and our power to make change.

x Originally appeared in Out of the Spiritual Closet, 2010. Download full report from “Resources” at

framing deep change: essays on transformative social change


The Five Core Practices of Effective Leadership for Social Justice Social Justice Leadership


ocial Justice Leadership orients its work around three spheres of activity and influence, all of which dynamically interact to contribute to the successes (and failures) of grassroots efforts to create a more progressive set of societal values and government policies. The three spheres are the individual, the organization, and the movement. We view our work as improving the effectiveness and impact of individuals, organizations, and the social justice movement, particularly as they relate to each other. The five practices of leadership for the social justice arena identify core behaviors that can provide an anchor for individuals and organizations amidst the chaos and pressure of organizing, campaigns, and confronting politically reactionary forces in society. The practices, if embraced conscientiously, can make manifest on a day-to-day basis the values that drive social justice work; and they hold the potential to move our individual and organizational behavior into greater collective coherence. 1. Acting from Center Acting from Center is the practice of engaging work and life from the place where we have the most balance, poise, thoughtfulness, and power. Acting from Center recognizes that many things threaten to throw us off balance, but that our greatest strength lies in our ability to return to Center and respond to life with clarity, effectiveness, and precision rather than react from a place of unbalanced thought, emotion, or action.


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2. Interdependence Interdependence is the practice of being in relationship with people and organizations from a place of intent, rather than mere happenstance or habit. This practice acknowledges that we cannot reach success alone, and that all relationships large and small will better meet the needs of the parties if they are approached with attention and intention. Interdependence recognizes that social justice organizations will ultimately only be successful if the broader movement is successful, and that an important component of our work therefore must be movement-building. 3. Deepening Ideology Deepening Ideology is the practice of consciously framing the work in a political and social change context. It is the practice of rigorously vetting and aligning the goals, strategies, actions, and activities of the work against the larger political aspirations and societal transformation that we seek. To practice Ideology it must manifest most sharply in Vision, Purpose, and Worldview. 4. Sustainable High Performance To practice Sustainable High Performance means consistently holding a very high standard for achieving goals and producing outcomes, while at the same time attending to personal and organizational well-being for the long-haul. This practice emphasizes the need for high output and recognizes that a fundamental building block of performance is the health and balance of the people and the organization itself. 5. Building Power Strategically Building Power Strategically is the practice of conducting basebuilding, developing leadership, and building alliances and campaigns in a way that strategically builds power not only for the organization but also for the movement. This practice reminds us of the need to adopt a long-term orientation that moves beyond tactical defensive fights and coalitions, and instead develops strategies and campaigns that build alignment and power across organizations and have greater impact on policy, power relationships, and public consciousness.


framing deep change: essays on transformative social change


The Transformative Power of Practice Ng’ethe Maina & Staci Haines


central component of any change process — personal change or organizational change — is the concept of practice. But what is practice and why is it so important? Practice is simply the act of doing something, whether that something is as complicated as doing a piano solo or as simple as washing the dishes. We call it practice when the act becomes a repeated behavior. Practice can be both distinct and indistinct. We can set aside time to intentionally focus on our practice, such as when we set aside time to practice a musical instrument, practice basketball, or practice meditation. Practice is also indistinct in that we are always practicing something, whether we are conscious of it or not. The ritual of our morning coffee and newspaper, how we behave in meetings, our attitude when it is time to do unpleasant activities — in all of these situations we are practicing how we should be, though usually without conscious intent. This is important because generally speaking the more we practice something the better we get at it. Our experience of course teaches us that sometimes we practice and we don’t seem to get better, but in fact we are getting better — we just may not be getting better at what we want. Each time we practice piano with a grumpy attitude, then we may get better at piano, but we will also certainly get better at being grumpy. Or when we practice meditation and consciously allow ourselves to daydream, then as time passes we get better and better at daydreaming while sitting ever so still. Practice is always happening. It is continuously shaping us: opening us up to new ways of being, or increasingly calcifying the way we think, act, and feel. There are two central areas we need to focus on to understand practice as it relates to how we grow and change: default practices and intentional practice.


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Default Practices Default practices are the deeply rooted behaviors that we do automatically, consistently, and unconsciously in response to any given situation. By automatic we mean that it is the primary reaction that is triggered in us when we are in a particular situation; consistent means that it is the reaction that we engage in more often than not; and unconscious means that we do it without being consciously aware that there are probably other responses that we could choose in the situation. For example, when we feel a conflict arise at work and we find that we begin to start avoiding the issue or avoiding the people involved, then we are probably engaging in our default practice around conflict. The behavior happens before we know it, and when we finally realize the behavior we are doing, it usually seems like we had no choice, or it was the only thing to do in that situation. They are so rooted in us in fact, that often they feel like who we are...”that’s just me, that’s what I do.” This sense of ourselves is natural, we identify with what we experience over time. But where do these kinds of behaviors come from? Default practices are learned behaviors and reactions that are inherited through our life experiences. Our families, cultures and the social conditions in which we live invite and at times demand certain ways of being. Violence, oppression, rejection, loss, or other situations that threatened our safety as children (and as adults) all played a role in shaping our default practices. We have a practiced response to anger or to sadness, a practiced way to interface with power and intimacy, and countless others. These practices were formed at a time when we needed them — they played a crucial role in our survival and our ability to belong. However, because our default practices have often been shaped out of difficult experiences when we had limited means of dealing with and processing them, these practices often don’t align with our present-day values, politics, and/or what we most care about. We can find ourselves acting and reacting in ways that make us more difficult for others to trust, less effective in our work, or more limited in our approaches to systemic change and movement building. Where once they were essential survival strategies, they may now be problematic. Because they are so practiced and have now become unconscious behaviors we can feel like we have no way to change them. The good news is that we can learn to observe our default practices, instead of reacting out of them immediately. We can learn other ways to take care of what they were taking care of — other ways to deal

framing deep change: essays on transformative social change


with conflict, power, our own and others emotions, and need for safety. We can begin to purposefully take on practices that align with our values, to become organizers, leaders, and people who more embody or model the social visions we hold. To become more aware of your default practices begin to pay attention to your own automatic reactions. Do you move toward or away from conflict? Can you feel and tolerate your own emotions (sadness, anger, guilt, joy, fear) or do you need to rid yourself of them by denying them or putting them out on someone else? When you don’t understand or know what to do, do you cover it up, blame someone else, or take more responsibility than is yours? The easiest way to learn about your default practices is to feel your own sensations and emotions and to observe your own thoughts. Meditation, centering practices, and self-awareness are new practices that can help you learn about your default practices. By building awareness of your default practices you begin to uproot them. You stop the automatic reactions and prepare the ground for new ones. You build in time between your internal reaction and your external action. You can feel more without reacting. This allows you to begin to make choices and take actions more aligned with your values and your politics.

Intentional Practices Intentional Practices are those that we choose to do in order to transform the way we show up in the world. Through new practices we increase choice and alignment with our values. When we begin to look at our own practices and then practice on purpose, the first thing we want to ask ourselves is: “What matters to me?” “What do I care about?” “What am I committed to?” The answers to these questions become the guide for taking on new practices. Organizationally we want to ask similar questions: What practices do we need to be in as a staff and organization? What practices do we want to support in our member base to align with our vision and political commitments? There are three key aspects to the transformative power of practice: 1. Practice is organized around your commitments What are you committed to? What practices will help you realize this commitment? The answers, individually and organizationally, act as the guide to developing your new practices. These questions can be answered based on your mission and politics and/or based on what default practices you want to change. For example, if you are committed 28

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to building a strong movement beyond any one organization, then you may consider engaging in a practice of regularly assisting organizational allies, even if your organization gets no immediate benefit from it. Your organization could have a monthly practice of giving another organization five hours of volunteer time, helping them build a skill around something that your organization has expertise or competency in. 2. Practice lays bare all of our resistances to change It is like a backdrop, a canvas against which all of our anxieties, fears, anger, denial are vividly Practice lays bare painted for us to see, if we choose to see them. all of our resistances Each time we do the practice, even if it is a to change. It is like practice we relish, we will find that one way or a backdrop, a canvas another some part of our “selves” will want to against which all of resist it — to find some means of escape and relief our anxieties, fears, from the practice. This desire for escape may be anger, denial are subtle or it may be pronounced. It can become particularly noticeable once the practice moves vividly painted for past the initial novelty stage. The desire to escape us to see, if we the practice shows up in a variety of ways, tailored choose to see them. specifically to our unique persona and hot-button triggers. It can show up as boredom, anger, frustration, discomfort, fear, daydreaming, exhaustion, sleepiness, fake joy (trying to make the best of it), and many others depending on the situation and your personality. And the bonus is, if the practice is sufficiently frequent and consistent, this glorious picture of our resistances, or variations of them, gets painted with startling regularity. They will show up again and again — they are actually there for us to see them all the time if we are present and attentive. You can track these reactions and use them to help you see the default practices you have been in. This can inform what new practices you can engage to shift toward what and who you want to be. You can expect that you will have a complex relationship to new practices. Sometimes you will likely love them and other times hate them. You are purposefully changing yourself, changing your practices, and this involves being uncomfortable. It can feel weird, not like you, or surface old emotions, memories, and struggles that you have tried to stay away from. All of this is normal in the change process. Throughout, we want to keep orienting back to what we are committed to. This mission, this commitment, needs to be emotionally, framing deep change: essays on transformative social change


intellectually, spiritually and politically engaging enough to you to mobilize you through discomfort. Before you begin your new practice, remind yourself of your commitment — why it is that you are practicing. This then becomes a powerful aspect of your new practice and helps build a sense of conscious purpose toward positive change. 3. Practice begins to orient and shape how we show up in the world Practice changes our minds, bodies, and moods towards the new way of being, because we are in fact momentarily living a new mental narrative, a new emotional orientation, and a new physical shape. Each time we do the practice we are spending that moment of time interrupting the old habits and living the new pattern that we seek to put into place. Literally, as we practice new movements, internal conversations (reminding yourself of what it is you are committed to) and new emotional states, we are creating new neuronal pathways in the brain and new muscle memory in the body. So we want to ask ourselves, “What is it that I want to be practicing?” and take this question seriously. If what you want for yourself is being present with yourself while you also listen to others, then this is what you need to practice. If you need to deal with certain emotions, like anger or grief more effectively, you need to practice facing these emotions and learning to feel them, instead of avoiding them. If you need to learn how to give direct and useful feedback, or ask for it for yourself, you’ll need to practice feeling but not acting out of your anxiety, and squaring up to direct conversations with care. Each practice can be built to have you be more present and more choice-full (less reactive). Each practice can be designed to help you learn and then embody a new skill, or way of being. Once you know what you care about and have built a relevant practice for that, you want to practice regularly. You don’t want to wait for the heat of the moment to try to practice something new, you want to practice it like you would the piano or basketball, during practice time, daily. Practice while being present. Pay attention to your mental narrative, emotional orientation, and physical organization of your body as you practice. Feel your sensations and your breath. Watch if you go into default reactions or old practices. If you notice you are there, come back, and make the correction. Move back into your new practice, even if you need to start over. Anytime we slip out of attention and the present moment, we run the risk of practicing unwanted behaviors, and we 30

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definitely practice being out of attention. On the other hand, if we practice with consciousness and intention, we hold the capability of fundamentally changing how we show up in the world. In this case we are. Practice is transformative because you begin to embody new ways of being. Through repetition what was a new practice becomes natural, easy, a new habit. You are, in fact, beginning to become somebody new. You will begin to see more clearly and quickly the choice that opens up in the moment about how you want to be. We are what we practice. Are we practicing what is most aligned with our vision for the world, for justice? This is where we want to continue to hone ourselves, organizations and work.

The Road to Transformation Practice is the fundamental element of transWe may not get formation. If we are going to practice towards there and we may transforming how we are, then we should strive not even ultimately for mastery at the level of change we seek. We may not get there and we may not even ultimately wish for mastery, wish for mastery, but the intention of mastery can but the intention of compel us to put our best effort forward in our mastery can compel practice, to be fully present and committed to us to put our best what we are doing. effort forward in Transformation will always at some point our practice, to be engage our emotions and an emotional process. fully present and Nothing is wrong with this, it is just to be expectcommitted to what ed. As we change default practices and engage in we are doing. new practices the internal terrain of who we are is changed. This often brings old avoided emotions to the surface to be dealt with and healed. Transformation can also bring new emotions that we may be unfamiliar with or not yet identify with, be it compassion, fear, full-hearted commitment, or having to confront the unknown. The more you notice your emotional landscape being changed, stirred, and engaged, the more you know you are on a road of transformation. At the end of the day there are no shortcuts or magic tricks. Practice offers this brutally refreshing reality: practice only puts into place what you practice. If you don’t put in sufficient practice, embodiment of the new way of being simply won’t come. In fact the key to good practice is to accept this fact and to strip away all that is superfluous

framing deep change: essays on transformative social change


and distracting from the bare practice itself. Strip away the stories and narratives about how difficult and punishing the practice is. Strip away the stories about what a great person you are for walking the path of practice. Release the desire to be seen by others as magnificent or as a martyr. Simply practice with intention, and pay attention to what happens. Each period of practice is a flagstone on the path to self-mastery. Self-mastery is a path that we are always on. In fact it can be said that we are never not on a path to mastery because we are always practicing. We may not be conscious of what we are practicing in any given moment, but the fact remains that we are constantly in a process of mastery. The long path to mastery has the power to transform who and how we are. This, ultimately, is the best way to change ourselves.

x Originally appeared on Social Justice Leadership website.


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by any means necessary adrienne maree brown

“We declare our right on this earth to be a man, to be a human being, to be respected as a human being, to be given the rights of a human being in this society, on this earth, in this day, which we intend to bring into existence by any means necessary.” — MALCOLM X, 1965


oday i am reflecting on the meaning of “by any means necessary.” it’s Malcolm’s birthday today, and i think of his voice saying those words. at the time he said it, i believe he meant it as it is commonly understood — that we [black people] must be prepared to take up arms if that is necessary to defend our communities and liberate ourselves from the weight of white supremacy. for me the meaning has evolved as i experiwhat if what’s ence more and more of this world and its layers needed isn’t of oppression. there are a plethora of internal and sexy, intimidating, external dangers to the soul — it is so hard to violent…what if keep your integrity intact, especially if you long what is needed for change, if the current world disappoints you is forgiveness? or makes you furious. i feel like it has become easy for us to the kind of forgiveoccupy our rage without moving into action. ness that seems and it has become easy for us to get angry and unimaginable, self-righteous without really asking what is miraculous, holy, needed in that moment. unattainable. what if what’s needed isn’t sexy, intimidating, violent…what if what is needed is forgiveness? the kind of forgiveness that seems unimaginable, miraculous, holy, unattainable. like forgiving those who hurt you, hate you, building relationship with those who kill your children?

framing deep change: essays on transformative social change


what if what is necessary is trusting people beyond their mistakes and shortcomings, trusting their best intentions — are we strong enough to default to trust at a community level? what if what is necessary is learning to see family where you have seen enemies? what if what is necessary is not strategy, not plans, not dollars — just unconditional love? are we able to be that militant? i want to be militant enough to admit i am changing and growing and don’t know the answers. my sister is about to have her second child, which has me contemplating and researching birth and labor again. after aiyana’s death i was thinking of how quickly you can violently kill someone, versus how long it takes to create and birth someone. i find a small but awe-inspiring hope in the realization that giving life and love is harder work than taking it. giving life and love and forgiveness and creating family — those are the behaviors to engage in to step into the miraculous. as we strive to free ourselves, to uplift ourselves, to transform ourselves and our communities, let us consider what “by any means necessary” looks like in practice for us now — especially if the outcome is unknown, immeasurable and unconditional; even if the means, at this moment, is militant love.

x Originally appeared in Luscious Satyagraha blog post May 19, 2010:


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Closing Words


uch has been said here about transformation, its processes and practices. Thus, some words of gentle caution may be useful here: Any practices we can come up with, introduce or design are not transformation itself, and we should be wary and respectful of this fact as we try to capture the wind to steer the ship of social change. When these practices are disconnected and uprooted from the valuable guidance of individuals, and the communities that provide containers in which transformation can safely unfold, they quickly become empty movements and gestures that actually serve to solidify self-protection, elitism and separation. Absent the role traditionally held by spiritual teachers, guides, shamans, masters and healers, even greater attention must be paid to not only the practices that are offered, but the method, timing and most significantly, context, of delivery. I’ve learned through collaboration within my own community that if these practices are “working” there will be breakdowns: great openings of people’s hearts, but also revelations of their wounds, confrontations with their traumas. At every juncture, we have to ask ourselves: Do we have permission? Are we the right people and is this the right context? Who will be there to greet folks when they emerge from the dark of the internal metamorphosis that is the hallmark of transcending our very form? Are we prepared to create the containers for these breakdowns to occur? Potentially messy business for sure. But on the other hand, if no breakdowns are occurring, then we’ve not applied transformative practices, after all. In the effort to solidify something that is inherently ineffable, for a culture that views success through the lens of quantifiable measures such as wins and losses, numbers reached rather than depth achieved, and predictability rather than mystery, we risk watering down the very essence of what makes these practices actually work into just another set of tangible techniques and toolkits. I view our own cultural propensity to have our desires — for outcomes, for accomplishments, for measures — driving our efforts, as the single greatest challenge to applying transformative practices towards social change. framing deep change: essays on transformative social change


Finally, in our efforts to distill the practices to make them accessible, we mustn’t make the practices themselves our new Gods. Practices, organizations, strategies — all forms of our collective efforts — are necessary, but insufficient for the alchemy of transformation to occur. If we could predict it all, it would be change, but not transformation. The final ingredient is still a mystery to us all and should remain that way if we are to see ourselves, and society, transformed. Much of what we will miss in our rush to highlight transformative practice for social change is transformative practice for its own sake. Yet paradoxically, our wisest sages, greatest impacts and most profound visions will be the ones that arise from the pursuit of the goalless goal. Those fruits are ones we cannot yet imagine from where we stand and cannot plan. It is the nature of transformation to undermine the form of its container, so we need to leave room for what is, thankfully, as yet unknown.

angel Kyodo williams


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Contributors Adrienne Maree Brown — National Coordinator, 2010 United States Social Forum; Executive Director, Ruckus Society (thru September 2010) Robert Gass — Co-founder of the Rockwood Leadership Institute; Lead Trainer of Rockwood’s National Yearlong Program “Leading from the Inside Out”; Principal, Social Transformation Project | Staci K. Haines — Founder, Generative Somatics & Co-founder Generation Five; Lead Trainer & Developer of Somatics & Trauma and Somatics & Social Justice | Claudia Horwitz — Founder & Director, stone circles at The Stone House, Mebane NC | Ng’ethe Maina — Executive Director, Social Justice Leadership Movement Strategy Center Taj James — Executive Director & Board President Neelam Pathikonda — Former Director, Spirit In Motion Brenda Salgado — Senior Fellow Kristen Zimmerman — Senior Fellow Jesse Maceo Vega-Frey — Program Consultant, stone circles at The Stone House, Mebane NC | angel Kyodo williams — Founder, Center for Transformative Change; Spiritual Director, New Dharma Community; Developer & Lead Trainer, fearlessYOGA |

framing deep change: essays on transformative social change


Center for Transformative Change (CXC) is the first national center entirely dedicated to bridging the inner and outer lives of social change agents, activists and allies to support a more effective, more sustainable social justice movement. We name, frame and advance Transformative Social Change by both developing practices and programs for agents of social change and working in collaboration with leading organizations to help shape this emerging movement. Most importantly, CXC reflects the field and the movement back to itself, strengthening our collective identity, community, and shared vision. This long-term vision for shifting the paradigm of work for justice, changing the WAY change is done, will fundamentally alter broad-based social change at its very core — from inner to outer — resulting in a more just, equitable society for all. 2584 Martin Luther King Jr Way | Berkeley, CA 94704

Published June 2010 US $7.00 ISBN 978-0-9828845-0-8