Introducing Futuristguy’s Field Guides – Post #1 of 3

This post launches a set of articles that overview my forthcoming Futuristguy’s Field Guides Training Series on practical concepts and skills to “Do Good Plus Do No Harm.” It will have four volumes. The first two explore how to deconstruct toxic systems that cause harm, and the last two explore how to (re)construct sustainable systems for personal and social transformation. Here are the themes in each volume:

  • Field Guide #1 – Identifying systemic abuse, malignant individuals, and toxic institutions.
  • Field Guide #2 – Recovering from abuse, removing perpetrators and enablers, and repairing damage to/by organizations.
  • Field Guide #3 – Engaging in transformational paradigm shifts and cultivating transcultural teamwork.
  • Field Guide #4 – Setting up projects, organizations, and partnerships that simultaneously benefit community, ecology, economy, and spirituality – and do no harm.

Many of these issues have been on my radar for decades, since I started working with non-profits in the early 1970s, and have also endured six situations where leaders abused their power/authority. In developing this material, I’ve kept three groups of people in mind that I believe will benefit from it personally—and also in working together with one another on transformative social enterprises.

  • Group 1 – survivors of abuse, those who support them as personal advocates, and those who take up their cause as social activists.
  • Group 2 – students of history, culture, and strategic foresight (futuring).
  • Group 3 – change agents: social entrepreneurs (issue-oriented), community developers (place-oriented), and professionals (people-oriented).

Are you curious to see how these very different groups might collaborate for the common good? I hope so! Field Guide #1 will be released in the very near future—so stay tuned for details! Meanwhile, on with the overview series … and hope you feel comfortable enough to chime in with your comments.

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Introducing Futuristguy’s Field Guides:

The Big Picture and the Backstory ~ Post #1 of 3

First Words: Hope and Change

It is odd that something called “First Words” should be nearly the last thing I wrote for Field Guide #1. But it’s because it may be the most important thing I say, and it just took a long time to distill it down to this one theme: hope.

As a futurist, I think about hope a lot. Hope alters the course ahead into a more positive, preferable, and sustainable direction. This forward-looking orientation motivates what I do, and infuses what I write.

As a long-time worker in non-profits and volunteer in social enterprises, I also think about change a lot: what it is, who can best accomplish it together and why, how to identify whether it will likely take us in a constructive or destructive direction, how to measure what matters in terms of its transforming impact. I’m looking for ways that people of good will can work together for a better future—because, I believe, it does make a difference.

And on that line, here’s an insightful quote I’ve reflected on regularly since discovering it over 20 years ago:

“In the long run, what counts is how the next generation thinks. How far new ideas permeate culture is not measured just by attitude change during one generation, but by what is taken for granted in the next.” ~ Helen Haste, in The Sexual Metaphor: Men, Women, and the Thinking that Makes the Difference (1994, Harvard University Press, page 149)

It seems that hope and transformation are interdependent, and both are what some have called “human universals”—longings that cut across genders and generations, races and places, countries and cultures. Something in us all causes us to long for a more meaningful and productive life for ourselves and those we love, a better world and one at peace for generations that follow.

I’ve come to believe that a crushed spirit often leads to despondent passivity or to violence, while hope activates us to constructive change. Without the hope that change is possible, it’s hard to develop common ground for the common good—and that’s the kind of transformation that Do Good Plus Do No Harm is about.

I’ve also long believed that each individual has something to contribute toward the betterment of institutions—not in spite of our backgrounds, but because of them. So, we need each other, if we’re to composite a team that takes on endeavors that truly transform. Here is the hope that I have for what can happen when we work together for the common good, and mutually mentor one another:

Legacy …

mentors leave a legacy

by gifting opportunities

to develop skill and character

transform our lives from who we were

into the who we’ve yet to be

help us embrace our destiny

to send forth waves on human lakes

transform more lives for goodness’ sake

by gifting opportunities

that re-steer human history

expand the chain of legacy

from mentors to infinity …

© 2002 Brad Sargent

Whether you are a survivor of destructive changes, a student of how societies are transformed, or a designer of constructive changes, may you find help and hope in this Field Guide Series on Do Good Plus Do No Harm.

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What Drove Me to Develop This?

It was the end of July 2017 when I finished this particular section that completes the first Field Guide. I began the process of laying out the Do Good Plus Do No Harm training series in 2008. During this decade, it underwent drastic changes in content, length, format, and target audiences. The sequencing of about 75 chapters in four books for two courses took over a year to finalize, and it’s taken me two full years then to complete the editing on Field Guide #1.

You may well wonder, Whatever drove this guy to take on such a gargantuan project?

The deepest answer is, This has been a calling—something I felt compelled to finished and simply “couldn’t not do.” More specifically, it’s an integrating thread that’s clarifies the meaning of my complex life and some significant trauma suffered from spiritually abusive leaders. It also makes the best use of what I was designed for, and it’s what may make the most difference for others as a legacy of what I’ve experienced.

And in my family, we were raised to make a difference. I learned it by osmosis through extended family stories I heard and actions that I saw from my parents, who have a lot of character qualities of “people of peace.” (More on that in a five-part series that starts here, if you’re interested in what that means and what it looks like.)

As I mentioned, I began putting together this training series 10 years ago. But I’ve been thinking about various issues in it for over 40 years. I’ve drawn primarily from my involvement in non-profits and start-ups, which goes back to the early 1970s. It wasn’t exactly usual for a high school student to volunteer with community agencies in those days. But I was involved in high school leadership activities, and also volunteered with non-profits that focused on helping teens find employment and organizing activities for senior citizens. And I covered city council meetings to give input to the local public broadcasting TV station, plus went to school board meetings just to be there and learn about the governance processes.

After a series of childhood goals for eventual vocations (including classical archaeology, paleontology, and biochemistry for medical research), I started my college track in public administration. That’s because I wanted to make a difference, and leave the world a better place for having lived in it. It was the Watergate era, and the challenges to maintaining democracy made this drive even stronger. I added macro-economics and sociology to my course of studies. However, I eventually discovered I had “a fatal allergy to bureaucracy and red tape,” as I termed it, and felt I couldn’t make the impact I’d hoped for while working within bureaucratic systems.

So, I switched to linguistics, which is more about recognizing patterns in data sets than it is just about learning a variety of languages. (Very handy training for sifting through bits of data and organizing them into meaningful categories!) I’m also committed to being a lifelong learner. My main long-time pursuits have been theories of information processing and creativity, cross-cultural communications, and singing. My systems studies have included an environmental internship, a few political campaigns, and strategic foresight training (which dealt with trends and transformation). I’ve also worked in the “recovery movement” of the 1980s and ’90s, where I learned a lot about practical psychology for personal growth.

I’ve fused insights from all these fields into my reflections on helpful versus harmful experiences. And I’ve written extensively on paradigms, systems, culture, social movements, and dealing with toxic people and systems. I’ve organized training conferences, co-authored project planning and metric tools (The Transformational Index, with Shannon Hopkins and Andy Schofield), plus produced and facilitated gamified trainings on cultural research and how to use that information to adapt organizations to the local context.

After college, I continued my work with various kinds of non-profit organizations—churches, community development agencies, educational institutions. Since the late 1970s, I’ve been a team member in 10 church plants and social change start-ups, and served for 10 years total on the boards of two non-profits. My main association for the past 15 years has been with Matryoshka Haus—a social transformation incubator organization.

Along the way, I ended up in six terribly toxic situations. One in the 1970s lasted three years. One in the 1980s was probably the worst trauma, lasting four years with flashbacks and triggers that went on for over a decade past that. There were two in the 1990s lasting several years each. And two in the 2000s. The first of those lasted two years and then it took another three to five years before some of the key broken relationships from that disaster got back to normal. The second lasted five years. So, that’s nearly 20 years total over the last 45 years, being subjected to manipulation and intimidation by people in power—sometimes on a daily basis—and untold years of personal and relational consequences to deal with. The pain got amplified in that all of these were non-profit organizations that supposedly were constituted to make a positive difference. Thankfully, these destructive experiences were counterbalanced by positive ones, either at the same time as a negative one or immediately after.

All of this together, the good and the harmful, focused my thinking with real-world questions about what constitutes healthy versus sick systems. Those reflections framed my efforts to provide practical concepts and skills that lead next generations of change agents toward solutions. This explains why I’ve had to learn a lot about advocacy and activism. Making sense of abusive experiences drove me to figure out how I got manipulated by people, and what to do about confronting those individuals and their network of enablers. I didn’t know what to call it at the time, but what this turned out to be was an investigation into the origins and dynamics of systemic abuse of power.

Most of these situations involved church, ministry, and business leaders whom I have to classify as malignant. I cannot see that they were innocent of their wrong-doing. That is because all of them were confronted, multiple times, by various people who were directly harmed by them, and yet they were unphased. They did not change their mind or their actions; they did not apologize or make amends of any kind. They kept on pressuring people to violate their own conscience, manipulating people emotionally, co-opting their friendships, engaging people’s compassion with false pretenses, creating confusion and chaos through their control, and telling lies by failure to follow through on commitments.

Ultimately, I wanted to figure out how to redeem these experiences in ways that would work toward prevention, so that what happened to me wouldn’t happen so often to others. Do Good Plus Do No Harm is the result.

This training series is my best effort to preserve for your benefit what practical wisdom I’ve gained from processing the pain of toxic experiences—as well as the joy of the many positive experiences I’ve had through my participation with teams in making a difference. So, this is not some mega book report where I’m synthesizing everyone else’s ideas. This series is based in my own real-world experiences, and the chapter titles are the kinds of questions I’ve had to ask myself because they arose in situations I was actually involved with.

So, there is a lot of primary work in Do Good Plus Do No Harm, with my own original take on how to organize information into frameworks that make sense. Along the way, I’ll share personal anecdotes that help ground what I write about in the realities that I lived through. Secondarily, I’ll use research reading to confirm and clarify the concepts and skills I’ve come to, and case studies to illustrate them. I trust you’ll find a uniquely practical perspective in what I’m presenting, and benefit from our journey together!

Next post: Introducing Futuristguy’s Field Guides, Post #2 of 3 – What is this series about? Why this unusual content format? What’s a “Field Guide”?

As a postscript, I intentionally began this series of articles on the *Field Guides* today, as a way to celebrate my sister, Romae. She began a journey of advocacy for survivors of systemic abuse in the mid-1970s, and was a constant inspiration to me to “do good plus do no harm.” Without her ongoing encouragement and prayer, I know I could never have gotten this far along on this project. She passed away six years ago, and today is her birthday …

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Introducing Futuristguy’s Field Guides – Post #1 of 3: Images licensed by Brad Sargent; (c) Scott Maxwell, Fotolia #5679440 Handtruck Heart and #444324 thoughtful pose.

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Overview Series for Futuristguy’s Field Guides

(Topics/titles are tentative.)

The posting schedule for these overview articles is tentative. The Introduction articles will be posted before the first book is released, and then other articles will likely be posted around when the volume is released that most corresponds to those topics.

INTRODUCTION – THE BIG PICTURE AND THE BACKSTORY

SYSTEMS – TOXIC VERSUS ROBUST

  • Systems and Systemic Abuse
  • Six “S” Elements for Success and Systemic Health
  • Mega-Systems/Industrial Complex
  • Pyramid of Abuse, and Scale of Accountability

LEADERS – MALIGNANT VERSUS HEALTHY

  • Qualified, Unqualified Disqualified
  • Character, Civil/Legal, Regulatory, Professional
  • Conscience, Compassion, Coherence, Congruence
  • Narcissism, Sociopathy, and Predators

SURVIVORS, ADVOCATES, AND ACTIVISTS

  • Recovering Freedom: Self-Determination, Relational Association, Cultural Participation
  • Assisting Survivors and Resisting Pyramids of Abuse [Advocacy, Activism, Resistance]
  • “Organizational HazMat Scale” and Dealing with Malignant Individuals and Toxic Systems
  • Remediation for Moving Toward System Health

PARADIGM SHIFTS AND CULTURAL CHANGES

  • Paradigm Systems and Maintaining Paradox
  • Information Processing Styles
  • Cultural Frameworks
  • Trajectories and Transformation

TRANSFORMATION AGENTS AND THEIR SOCIAL ENTERPRISES

  • For Benefit Organizing and the Quadruple Bottom Line
  • Shifting from Consumption to Incarnation in Humanitarian Endeavors
  • Teams, Projects, Organizations, Collaborations
  • Launching into Our Futures

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