I mentioned in earlier posts that I changed the audiences I was writing for – multiple times, in fact. When I began the cultural research parts of this series in the 1990s, I intended my audience to be primarily people who were “planting” faith-based organizations – churches, ministries, non-profits. The original title was, Will Wearing a Nose Ring Make Me Relevant?
That expanded to what I then called “culturologists” (what are more often called “cultural geographers” nowadays) and futurists. Back then, I also planned to write separate volumes for those dealing with recovery from victimization via spiritual abuse of authority/power in religious settings. The revised titles referred to esoteric identity subculturology or subculturanean systems. Definitely more theoretical than practical.
A final, and surprising, shift came in 2015, after I’d been diligently boiling down hundreds of pages of preliminary work. I felt I should target the material to broader categories of social entrepreneurs, not just the limited subgroups doing church-related work.
I resisted that redirection at first, eventually sensing the wisdom in it even if I wasn’t all that excited about what it meant for rewrites. I had to revise the order of the volumes, adjust the language so it wasn’t limited to religious audiences, and integrate the series in ways that would amplify the benefit to all of my former intended readers – if they worked together to develop common ground for the common good. That reordering and rewriting process took two full years, but what is now Field Guide #1 is done! Watch for the publication date. Meanwhile, here is how the final mix of expected audiences turned out for the series, and what I concluded were central principles around which all three groups could integrate collaborative efforts.
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Who Will Benefit From This Training, and How?
Three Target Audience Groups
Here are three distinct groups I believe can benefit from the courses on deconstructing toxic systems and (re)constructing healthy ones – and especially by working together to make a difference. In terms of their interest in systems, the groups are these:
Group 1: Survivors – survivors of abuse, those who support them as personal advocates, and those who take up their cause as social activists. Personal experiences and relationships networks motivate them to expose and challenge toxic systems, and hold accountable those who are responsible.
Group 2: Investigators – students of history, culture, and strategic foresight (futuring). Students of the sources and pathways of systems, and how actions toward transformation affect their potential trajectories.
Group 3: Builders – change agents: social entrepreneurs (issue-oriented), community developers (place-oriented), and help/health professionals (people-oriented). Project and organization designers, implementers, evaluators, and revisers who facilitate dismantling systemic abuse and replacing them with constructive social systems.
The training series is not geared to any particular issue of systemic abuse, but shares concept frameworks and practical skills that provide an overarching strategy for action. And some field guides in the series may present material more directly relevant to this or that group’s experiences and expertise. However, when all three groups collaborate, their synthesis amplifies the possibilities for transformation of systemic problems. So – what might these very different groups likely draw from the series, and contribute in turn to the whole as participants in social transformation efforts?
Group 1: Survivors. This series helps them understand what happened to victims of abuse/violence, why it was even allowed, how people were conditioned to let it happen (or make it happen), how it was covered up, and how to help survivors recover. As insiders to the impact from systems of abuse, their narrative helps the Investigators discern patterns, and they can help Builders as witnesses about what happened and as consultants about culpability.
Group 2: Investigators. This series helps them study the cultural, organizational, and spiritual “DNA” of healthy versus toxic individuals and institutions. They interpret this information to figure out the parameters (degrees of freedom or restriction) for transformation of those individuals/institutions. This helps stakeholders (Survivors) and shareholders (Builders) on social enterprises discern their preferable pathway forward, out of many plausible scenarios.
Group 3: Builders This series helps them apply principles and practices – often distilled by Investigators – to prevent agenda hijacking and organizational toxicity in their own projects, challenge systemic abuse toward transformation, and facilitate individuals toward recovery and flourishing. And, if they’re addressing systemic abuse, they’ll need to include the insights from Survivors, since they are insiders who’ve survived misconduct in particular systems.
All three groups benefit by working together on issues involving systemic abuse. In fact, I believe we’re not likely to succeed in dissolving such systems unless we collaborate. Then it is far more possible to take down systemic abuse and replace it with systems of justice that support victims, protect the vulnerable, and face agents of damage with consequences for their actions and inactions.
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Seven Core Ideas/Elements of “Common Ground for the Common Good”
What Do “Robust/Healthy” Systems Look Like?
Seven Layers of Essential Elements
I mentioned earlier that Course #1 focuses on deconstructing how things can go wrong. I did this intentionally because I’ve found that those eager to get on with their start-up typically don’t want to hear about “the negative” when they’re eager to engage in “the positive.” So, even though getting healthy and staying healthy are the bottom lines of the Course #1 – and replicating constructive transformation in Course #2 – Field Guides #1 and #2 are pretty much all about defining what “unhealthy/toxic” systems are and how to deal with them.
But, there’s a potential problem in starting out a training series with my approach. It’s exactly what my friend Roger noted. He was one of my beta-readers for Field Guide #1, and he said, “Right off the bat, I have an observation. You start out focusing on the negative and save defining what a healthy system is. I would flip that and get everyone on the same page with regards to what a healthy system really is. It becomes a little clearer then to define who/what is harmful to that.”
Roger is right, and I don’t want the profile of the positive to get lost in all the details of darkness. So, to honor his critique and put the light at the beginning of the journey instead of just at the end of the tunnel, I’ll get the “gold nuggets” up front.
Here is my summation from Field Guide #1 of what robust and sustainable systems look like, both for individuals and institutions. These seven essential elements are interwoven throughout the training series layers, and provide the infrastructure to do good plus do no harm. Each is a type of concept framework that provides cubby holes or slots for sorting through related items and finding a relevant way to differentiate them. No framework is perfect, but I find them helpful for organizing a set of items in meaningful and memorable ways. So, here are seven key concept frameworks I use, and I will unpack them in the series.
The Golden Rule – “Do unto others what you would have them do to you.” – gives us one common purpose that unifies principles and practices related to collaboration. People in a robust system look for what brings us together – human universals, such as the desire for a better life – and then builds on that common ground for the common good. The person of peace embodies this outlook by respecting the dignity of all, hospitable, and advocating for justice and against tyranny.
Two is about maintaining paradox: keeping in dynamic both/and tension as sets those items that seem to be separate. People in a robust system consider the connections between the personal and social/organizational sides of actions. They are able to alternate between the big picture of their plans and the how-to details of carrying out goals. Their conceptual approach leads to concrete action, and their practices can be explained by conceptual theory.
Three is about triads of integrating principles to lead us and free us. The personal side of robust systems is to ensure that only qualified individuals are in roles of influence; and that those who are unqualified (by lack of skills or maturity) or disqualified (by reason of deficient character and harmful behavior patterns) are excluded, in order to protect others in the system as a whole. The social side is to work toward three freedoms that at the core of human rights statements worldwide: self-determination of one’s own direction in life, relational association of those we have friendships or other affinities with, and cultural participation in the economy, society, and state as we see fit and that befits our abilities.
There are sets of four threshold indicators for starting or continuing our involvement. On the personal side are must-have character qualities that qualify those for in roles of influence: clear conscience about right and wrong, compassion for those who hurt, coherence in thought and speech, and congruence in following through on commitments. On the organizational side are mandated realms of accountability: personnel, legal, regulatory (IRS rules), and professional (requirements for maintaining membership in particular occupations or organizations). On the transformational side are optimizing our project goals and products according to quadruple bottom line principles, which have been around since the mid-1990s: to benefit people/community, the planet/ecology, profits/economy, and personal and social transformation/spirituality.
Educator and author Kathy Koch of Celebrate Kids, Inc., has given us a five-part framework for personal health and growth in her writings on “authentic hope and wholeness.” The five elements are security (Who can I trust?), identity (Who am I?), belonging (Who wants me?), purpose (Why am I here?), and competence (What can I do well?). This set of interconnected concepts and questions is central to personal growth and human flourishing.
There are six “S” practices for organizational success: safe meeting ground that prevents a hostile work environment, mission that is suitable for the people actually involved as shareholders and stakeholders, scales of operation that match the resources available in the setting, sensitive messaging that takes into account differences in processing due to learning styles and cultures, methods that can survive global paradigm and cultural shifts that are beyond anyone’s control, and sustainable momentum for the organization to last beyond two generations. The elements in this macro-framework are not mere abstract concepts. Each can be used to lay out specific qualitative indicators for how well we’re doing. A system that does good plus does no harm integrates all six at a high level of function.
Seven gives us a three-layer framework for understanding seven-element paradigms and systems, and without those we cannot understand paradigm shifts for transforming open systems. The way I configure a paradigm system, there are seven interconnected elements in three layers: (1) Processing Information – key integrative style for organizing information, concrete values, and conceptual beliefs. (2) Building Organization – abstract strategies/processes and concrete structures/procedures for running operations. (3) Facilitating Participation – group cultures and inter-group collaborations.
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“Gold Guy” images (c) Scott Maxwell / Fotolia, licensed by Brad Sargent:
- Survivors – #14515100, Gold Guy In Life Preserver.
- Investigators – #6189823, Magnifying Glass frame.
- Builders – #9051761, Labor Union
- Lifting Gold – #665248, carry gold bars.
Mailboxes © verinize / Fotolia #8126243, image licensed to Brad Sargent.
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INTRODUCTION – THE BIG PICTURE AND THE BACKSTORY
- First Words: Hope and Change. What Drove Me to Develop This?
- What is This Series About? What’s a “Field Guide”? Why the Unusual Training Content Format?
- Who Will Benefit From This Training, and How?