Personal Reflections on Building Capacity for Collaborative Inclusive Problem Solving [1 of 10]
Becoming Social Architects: Together, I + U HALT Injustice [3 of 10]
Building Capacity for Collaborative, Inclusive Problem Solving
In discussing this paper and working with people of diverse communities to promote inclusion, I discovered that creating an inclusive space remains elusive, even for people who are committed to doing important work for social good. I offer a framework for building capacity for those committed to cultivating inclusive spaces.
Our well intentioned actions to help those less fortunate, when motivated by an unhealed state, may inadvertently shoot arrows at those we claim to defend from injustice. Though systemically oppressed people may develop the capacity to deflect these ‘second’ arrows and see them as unintended side effects of good intention; at some point, it is our responsibility as those who work for social justice to bring wholeness to our efforts.
Jack joins a retreat planning committee and John proposes that the retreat be located at a beautiful country facility where the group can discuss matters of social injustice and oppression. Jack notes that this facility is remote and expensive, and wonders aloud whether people of limited resources may have difficulty accessing the retreat. John ignores this comment and reasserts his preference for the facility, as a long standing member of the community others do not express different opinions; it is decided that the retreat will be held at the expensive facility. Jack feels sad that those people from his community who may benefit from the retreat likely will not be able to join; he recognizes that he has received an unintentional arrow from an unaware “helper.” He sits patiently and when he no longer feels fear or hurt, he asks John, “Why have you shot this arrow?” And John, who is unaware responds earnestly, “I did not shoot an arrow.” As Jack sits patiently, John, whose identity as ‘good guy’ fighting against injustice, blinds him from seeing himself, becomes indignant and hears the statement of an alternative perspective as an accusation, John responds angrily, “I would never shoot an arrow. I am not an archer, I am a pacifist and I worked my whole life for social justice.” Jack pauses, gently embracing the despair that touches his heart, as he encounters the same difficulty he faces daily this time expressed by the community who purports to ‘want to help’ and include people in his situation, and he says, “Yes, I understand that you are a champion of justice, that is why we are here together.” Will Jack remain open to trusting John? Would you? What effort has John made to bring a capacity for inclusion to his lifetime of social justice work? Until we can fully embrace the truth of our wholeness, we may have difficulty earning trust of those who have been chronically oppressed in order to work together to end injustice.
If we act in haste to challenge injustice, we bring our blindness, (we do not see ourselves in wholeness), deafness (we do not hear because we do not ask/listen) and arrogance (we ignore guidance from those we claim to help because we know better). Let us learn to be social architects, and together, I + U HALT injustice.