Tag Archives: community

Visibility and Invisibility 2022 #35

I do love campaigning and especially doorknocking and meeting people. When you greet them at the door, they are generally happy you aren’t a religious caller or trying to sell them something. Over the years doorknocking on various campaigns, I have always been surprised about the number of people who are genuinely open and willing to say hello. This simple act of trust of opening a door to someone seems to be what community and living together is all about.

Every now and then you find a little pocket of deep community. Several houses or even a street where the level of community goes beyond a common fence, and into sharing lives, meaning and interests.  It might have started with a simple walking to school together, or maybe minding a garden when someone was on holidays and then has extended into friendship, caring, and kindness that overflows into lending a car or sharing a spare room when a family member comes to visit.

Also, there are a few neighbourhoods where fear is writ large with big go away messages signalled by signs announcing surveillance cameras and security alarms, high fences and padlocked gates. The fear of loss and invasion of privacy is high. There might be dogs whose barks herald harm awaits you should you take another step forward.  I wonder often what they need to protect and what has happened for them to feel anxious and protective of what they have.  These places have community too and their common vision of being in a safe place unites their neighbourhood.

The door mats are instructive. Messages I’ve seen this week include – Go away, Welcome, Darth Vader lives here, Oma and Opa live here, Aliens Welcome, Wipe your feet, Dog lovers welcome and a few more relating to favourite football teams, celebrities and types of flowers! There are more welcomes than go aways and more invitations to come in than don’t knock.

A couple of little stories of trust on the doorstep this week. On Friday afternoon in Seaford, I was doorknocking a street and a young student perhaps in Year 5 or 6 appeared to be having trouble opening the door to his house with a key.  I stopped and asked him if he was alright. He said no, he was struggling to open the door. I asked him if he had the right key and he said he did, then I asked him if he would like me to help him. He said yes please. I was immediately impressed he was trusting me and together with some jiggling and holding of the door knob a certain way and tickling the key into the right position, we opened the door. He said thanks and scurried inside quickly shutting the door in a drill I expect the grownups in his house had instructed him to do. It seemed such a little thing, but I felt so pleased that I was there, randomly doorknocking and he was relieved to get home and inside to leave his school week behind.

Another tale from the pavement was with a young mum probably in her 30s also in Seaford who has a sign in her front yard that the house was for sale. She opened the door to me, and we talked about being a renter and how she is now searching for a new place to live for herself and her two young children. She is grateful she still has a few months left on her lease, but she knows from the market and a few friends that finding somewhere to live that is affordable and still in the area is going to be difficult. She is deeply worried about a move and how disruptive this will be to her children and if they will be able to find a place that will keep her connected to the community, she now feels she is a part of. This is a story that has been replicated in every neighbourhood I have been visiting. The housing crisis is deep and often invisible, behind closed doors and for sale signs.

While at a local community auction marketplace, I heard the same story from stall holders who are worried about the number of holiday homes, caravan parks and Airbnb’s that are all intertwined into the housing mix. Given I am deeply into my campaign for Mayor, I am looking at all the ways in which local government might contribute with solutions, and how a council might be contributing to the problem. The invisibility of the plight of renters, greed of some landlords, inflexibility of policies and regulations, compassion of neighbours, kindness of council rangers all come into play.

I am taking to heart the act of trust it takes to open a door to a stranger and hoping this is the kind of community that will want to elect someone like me to be their mayor, one who is ready to listen, meet them where they are and support their neighbourhood to be the best community, they can be for one another and the world.

Photo by Joshua Hoehne on Unsplash

Visibility and Invisibility 2022 #11

I’ve been asked to be a referee for a few people lately and it is the trust of a trusted person that does the invisible due diligence in this process – a kind of reverse gaslighting. I really love being given these opportunities as I know my reputation means something and therefore my endorsement might be truly helpful in getting a person over the line. I get the pleasure of seeing them move to into a role they want and then they are in a place that might extend their reach as well. It feels like an expanding universe.

I was surprised on Friday at the national impact and innovation festival, SouthStart, by what I am going to call the boomerang effect! My ‘show not tell’ lessons came back to me and the one I am sharing in this year’s blog of invisibility and visibility was made tangible. In what could only be considered a supercharged quickly assembled campaign was underway right under my nose for the past ten days. Communities of communities were linked together through the leadership and due diligence of a group of friends, who don’t actually know each other that well, but they all know me, and one way or another have been connected through me. They generated a crowdfunding campaign to make visible their support for my voluntary contributions to filling in some of the infrastructure gaps in our impact enterprise ecosystem. This is work that rests on the apex of equity and inclusion. It is systems work, it is not reform or renewal. By definition this is working in sets of interactions and where people, activities, tools, technologies, places and networks intersect and influence each other. It requires an ability to morph and move with agility and intention in both visible and invisible ways.

The campaign conspirators want this work to be recognised and rewarded by the people who benefit from this and those who want to see more of it. One of the secret squirrels told me ‘well we’re only doing what you’ve taught us to do – we’re making all your invisible contributions, visible!”  This past 12 months I have taken a personal stand to do less paid work and concentrate on contributing into the spaces that I know I can leverage and shift with my time and talents.

I was lured into story telling some of my invisible acts over the years before the campaign was publicly revealed to me. On reflection I have considered the power of story, yet again as truth telling and a way of leaving a trail of crumbs to discovery and transformation.

This past 12 months I have taken a personal stand to do less paid work and concentrate on contributing into the spaces that I know I can leverage and shift with my time and talents. I am focussing on ways to distribute power and bring my creativity to make this revolution, irresistible. The gender gaps are foundational for me and patriarchy as a system just has to go, for all of us and our planet. It is toxic and is killing us all.

I am so deeply humbled and moved by the 86 early adopters who made a contribution to the crowdfunding campaign before Friday when the cat was let out of the bag! They have since been joined by more over the last couple of days. I love the genius of the whole approach, to have the community who see me doing what I do at systems level and are now asking that I do more of it in their name with their financial support, this is the best kind of reference I could ever have.

Those that know me deeply will know, I would never have agreed to this approach if asked, as I see so many women in particular, who constantly give to their communities with little or no recognition or reward. I think of the Aunties and Grandmothers in many Aboriginal communities, of the mothers and sisters holding on tight to cultural knowledge in the face of violence and displacement. I feel so privileged. As a tertiary educated white woman of settler stock, living on stolen land, I am not part of an oppressed minority. I do try to understand my privilege and use my power responsibly.  I think of myself as a creative and a pilgrim.  My privilege is a responsibility and I promise to accept your gifts with the love you have given them and I see you for your contribution to my life, however humble or grand, I cherish it as sincere and generous.  The dollars turning up on the page are no measure of the love and trust you put in me. I am excited about the model this has created and support it 100%. I am inspired to more of this for others and with others.

My inability to notice an army of schemers, is testimony to the trust the organisers imbued in each other and my focus being elsewhere.  I have missed a few things over the years, a couple of giant ones, causing surprises that delivered trauma because I had my attention averted away from myself. This time I am glad my predisposition, was at work, allowing me to have a wonderful surprise and to feel all that it meant to me and to others. I can claim that part of myself back, that innocent, empathic self, and this is an unexpected and very welcome by-product of such an extraordinary event.  Healing created by friends, delivered by community, received with love.

Here you can see me being surprised!

_SOuTHSTART

PS Now that the secret is out there are a few more days left in the campaign if you want to make a contribution https://startsomegood.com/equity-weaver-fund

Year of activism #27

Spent some time wandering around my local regional shopping centre yesterday. I haven’t visited more than a couple of times this year, which is not particularly COVID19 induced, it is more that I have not had a need to shop there or meet anyone there. Everytime I go I am struck by the energy of the place, lonely people wandering around to be in a place where they feel connected, families of Dads with their weekend access to their children stocking up on fast food credits to build favour with their kids; elderly people hooning around on their gophers; shop assistants doing all they can to smile and get a sale from customers who are really there to window shop. There is emptiness and fragility clinging in the air. I remember the main reason I don’t come often and that is it is not the kind of market place that draws me into the kind of community that will sustain me. Now I can see it is sustaining some of the people around me, but it is not for me. I notice all the plastics, the labels of Made in China, the disconnect of food from place, the eyes of children who seem to long for sunshine and impromptu surprises of adults who can co-create fun unenhanced by salt, sugar or technology.

It might sound like I am being judgemental and I am, I am judging the planners who thought enclosed malls were a good idea and the investors and shareholders who saw cash cows in retail laneways under one roof. I know that there are mini-communities hidden in these places – I have seen them too over the years. The group of walkers who meet and wander around to get their steps in together and then have a coffee at one of the chain coffee shops; the young shop assistants who befriend one another and have each others back when they take their first adventures into leaving home; the women in the clothing chain who have found a way to get the support they need for their fellow worker so she can leave her violent partner; the cleaners who get to laugh and talk in their first language and tell stories of their homeland. Yet, for me, these places are dying, they are signs of a used future, despite tiny attempts to bring a preferred future to birth with the red, yellow and green recycling receptacle choices in the food hall.

I love the market places that can be found outdoors or under tin roofs, and the shops that not subject to high rents and surrounded by acres of car parks. I love the places where the people where the people who work behind the counter live locally and can tell you the name of the place around the corner that sells what you are looking for. In this globally connected market, where online and fintech creates web-based shopping and community experiences, getting community to show up in the online economy and I noting down the cost of living in these spaces. Those words cost of living have been hanging in the air for me this week.

How about if we thought about the benefit of living? What if, we brought the benefits of living in a hyper local, hyper connected way to the fore and costed those into the experience of building community through our spend and economy? The cost of getting some products to market, literally can cost lives (think of the 1,134 Bangledeshi clothing workers killed in Dhaka in 2013), and the lives of other species (see the land clearing due to our chemical recipes for products as diverse as baby formula and toothpaste and impact on 10% of the planets reptiles, birds, mammals, insects). I am not sure where I am going with my thoughts on all this today, but I don’t think the meaning of life and I do think the cost of living is entombed in those western civilisation shopping malls. Finding measures for the benefits of living in ways that support and strengthen what it means to be alive, connected and knowingly held by our common efforts, however imperfect they might be will drive a new narrative. It might be recovering an old one too is going to be the best guide. Where community, economy and place were one, none of the dualism of retail and wholesale, home and away, us and them.

I have a sneaky suspicion that cost of (benefit) living market places might unite a number of activist threads – everything from banning single use plastic, to baby formulas made by local Mums, up-cycled and handmade garments circulating through and community co-op, online stores where the person you are buying from is someone you know or have met in your online community. I am wondering if the Sustainable Development Goals became as second nature to the planners, investors and marketeers we might all take a step closer to being in each others company and on this planet a little longer. Activating for impact one consumption at a time I guess is something the vegans and vegetarians have been doing for a while, I still have a long way to go, and think I will visit the mall once a month as a reminder for me to make better choices for the legacy I want to leave behind.

Year of Activism #10

This quote from Theodore Roosevelt rings very true for me this past week (forgive the lack of gender pronoun inclusivity as a sign of the times it was spoken):

“It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.”

I went back to this quote after listening to the researcher Dr Brene Brown talks about shame and vulnerability and her own experience of stepping into the arena and coping with the consequences. I have been accused of a lot of things this week, being nice, not meeting expectations, failing to demonstrate rage, playing favourites. Keyboard warriors one and all as far as I can tell. In the mean time I have showed up and met with elected officials, debated long and hard with facts and evidence on how some changes can be made with high impact and low action, what levers can be used that will unify and get a result, held myself to account by using non-violent communication techniques, practicing adaptive leadership and trying to have some fidelity to Kahane‘s approach to collaborating with the enemy. I have had mixed results from my practice. It is very hard with the enemy is within, and speaks their own truth from their own arena. One of the reminders for the week is the need for times to withdraw, retreat and indeed cut off supply so that you can recover and stay in the arena you are being called to be in. Daring greatly is the quest to keep showing up in the arena, because as Roosevelt says its not the critic who counts.

While we need the critics to sharpen our senses, help steer a course even sometimes, they aren’t the ones who show up in the doing. The role of the critic maybe akin to the modern day medieval jester, substituting the rattle for a keyboard, ringing to draw attention to arrival and departure. How effective their power is deployed is determined by the amount of attention we pay to their bells and buzzing. Unlike the role of the fool in Shakespeare however not all modern day jesters speak the truth, they often amplify fake news and use their voices not as speaking truth to power or offering up a riddle to decode, they make noise to draw attention to themselves at the expense of the issue. Some of our most famous ones are in the media – think radio shock jocks and columnists, social media junkies.

As we are on the verge the largest shared responsibility action in human history, people choosing to stay home to help ‘flatten the curve’ of the COVID-19 are helping their neighbours, showing care and support acting to support one another and may lead to more community, more safety for all and have the surprising side effect of supporting the aged, infirmed and vulnerable. It maybe a time too for those jesters with microphones and keyboards to have deeper impact, so beware that in times of fear seeds of anxiety can rapidly be watered and grow into out of control weeds. Stay in the arena by connecting and having conversations, give yourself a break if you need to have one, cut of supply if it becomes toxic for you and use that time to regroup before you go back. I have been thinking about what I can do to support connectivity at this time for myself and others. I have decided to do three things: not going to the shops without asking at least one person if they need me to bring something to them, offering up a nightly zoom to anyone who might want to jump on and say hello to others and working from home. I also got a call about a project this morning that I think could be a game changer so stay tuned for that in a future post. This is a time for community strengthening because of social distancing, not in spite of it. The virus might spread community spirit and community responsibility and that may well be its gift to our times – it is bound to be helping out Gaia to take a breath! Such a paradox with so much potential.

The dynamics of a virtual arena are going to take us to new edges and unleash innovation, lets not count the critics contributions, instead notice and celebrate our leadership marred by dust and sweat and blood, and meet the cold and timid souls with warmth and courage. That seems to be the quest: to hold these tensions together without quite falling apart yourself.

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