Creative TensionI often think of a good marriage as a generative balance of creative tensions. Same thing with social change. There’s an art to it – not flopping into the easy answer, the dominant narrative, the usual pattern. And the same goes for roles, actions, contributions in a social change network. We tend to show up pretty certain about what’s needed. And the answer tends to align well with our own inclinations.

But, if there’s one thing I’ve learned in my many, many years is that not only is the answer not residing in any single one of us, the necessary behavior, the useful contribution is also not singular.

Thinking about this recently, I made this list – a riff off of June Holley’s 4 Network Weaver Roles:

When contributing to change and/or community – people like to do the following:

Make stuff –

  • Food, websites, graphics, art, emblems, slogans, the ‘things’ needed (gardens, spaces, etc.)

Plan stuff –

  • Big picture, envisioning.
  • Tactical – make checklists & tick them off.
  • Coordinate stuff – make sure things fall into place on time.

Articulate stuff –

  • Write persuasive stuff.
  • Confront stuff in person.

Learn stuff –

  • Research what’s needed.
  • Analyze findings.
  • Discover solutions.

Get stuff –

  • Find resources like money, space, tools, etc.

Start stuff –

  • Develop the conditions for new things to happen.
  • Initiate change.
  • Jump in first.
  • Proclaim & model new behaviors

Maintain stuff –

  • Keep the ball rolling once it’s begun.
  • Tweak & improve things.
  • Develop smooth processes.

Teach stuff –

  • Skills training.
  • Mentoring.
  • Increasing collective understanding.

Facilitate stuff –

  • Convene conversations.
  • Help guide productive/generative conversations.
  • Help people share & hear across differences.
  • Spark controversies, new ideas.

Play with technology –

  • Create communication/collaboration systems.
  • Use Social Media.
  • Develop surveys, evaluation tools, websites, etc.

Listen to people –

  • Facilitate other’s self-expression.
  • Spread empathy & understanding.
  • Encourage & embolden others.

Connect people –

  • Meet & stay in touch with lots of people.
  • Learn who needs what.
  • Help match needs & offers.

Take care of people –

  • Attend to other’s feelings & sense of belonging
  • Be an emotional sounding board.
  • Smooth ruffled feathers.

Hold collective space –

  • Attend to the field.
  • Notice what’s emerging.
  • Notice what’s missing.
  • Notice where the energy is going.
  • Sense beneath the surface.
    • What tensions aren’t being articulated.
    • What needs aren’t being expressed directly.
    • What fears are constraining people.

Some like big abstract discussions, others prefer to roll up their sleeves & get their hands dirty.

Some people like to reflect on what happened & evaluate stuff. Others want to jump to planning the next thing.

Some of these are skills people want to share, or teach, or learn. Some of these things are natural behaviors.

All of those skills & behaviors have a time & place where they’re needed in any effort to change anything. And too often, it seems, we fall into the belief that getting EVERYONE to do what WE want to do is the answer. But it’s not. I can assure you.

So the creative tension question here is – how do we include, make space for, inspire, and leverage all these different approaches to change & community? What do you think? What have you tried?

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