After the US election in November of 2016, a collective sense of surprise quickly coalesced into distinct patterns of behavior, and the next few days and months brought introspection, strategic responses, plans for protest, and a swell of political and scientific activism on a scale not witnessed in recent history. Overnight, otherwise politically disengaged individuals became invested in our shared future in ways they had never been before.
But as we’ve dialed in, we’ve also experienced new divisions—An increase in action hasn’t translated into the emergence of a single road map to a stable future. The issues that have both awakened and divided us are complex, and even if we’ve become armchair experts on the details of the Iran nuclear deal, we don’t necessarily understand the rise of the emerald ash borer and what this pest foretells for our economy, changing climate, and future food supply. From Medicaid expansion to Syrian refugees to net neutrality, it’s more important—and more difficult—than ever to follow the intersecting events and histories around us, and our ability to stay in control of these events carries an unprecedented sense of urgency. The outcomes are personal and the stakes are high.
Our issues are proliferating, but we can only address one problem at a time. So what now?
Here at Just Atonement, our best response lies in one word: teamwork. When complex problems require expert input from multiple disciplines, we reach for the most important item in our toolkit: the phone. We seek support from those who know things we don’t know and who see things we can’t see. This makes our shared future look like a shifting blueprint; instead of one or two people consistently leading the way, we see millions of engaged citizens leading in some moments, following in others, rallying those around them when they can, and stepping to the side when their silence can accomplish more than their words. Some days we’re experts, some days we’re novices, and most days we fall somewhere in between. We apply our unique skills to the challenge of the moment in the role that feels most natural for the circumstances.
With that in mind, we’d like to help individuals-- like you-- become an organizational force in your specific area of expertise. Can you take the knowledge and insight you have to offer and distill it into concrete actions that others can understand? If so, you’re on your way to becoming a leader and a force for global change. If you aren’t quite there yet, or if you’d like to leverage your leadership potential more than you currently are, consider these moves.
1. Make the most of social media. Social channels may not be perfect, but they provide a stage and a powerful tool for would-be community organizers.
2. Don’t fear logistics. Starting a group that meets monthly to accomplish a goal may seem like a heavy burden or a lifelong commitment. It isn’t. Start small. Move at your own pace. Stop when you want to. Trust others and delegate tasks so you can keep your to-to list manageable.
3. Give clear instructions. Tell people exactly what you want them to do. Be specific, focused and reasonable.
4. Offer thanks. When people actually do what you’ve asked them to do, from reading your article to joining your protest, thank them.
5. Listen. If you want others to follow your own instructions regarding your own area of expertise, give them the same respect. When an expert friend speaks, listen and learn.
6. Ask questions. It’s okay to not know things. Asking takes courage, but it’s also a path to new wisdom, new connections, and stronger relationships with others.
When you’re ready to step into a leadership role—or just become a more effective follower on the path to a sustainable world—contact Just Atonement to learn more about the basics of community organization and action. We’ll help you do what you can, when you can, with what you have. Together, we’ll make our way forward.