Overcoming our passive social conditioning
Throughout your life as an organiser, you will have to deal with a cross section of society- people who are at various stages
Society as a whole is paralysed- especially people who have not yet gained confidence in the 'do-ing process': to DO is to
learn and to gain confidence. To do is to replenish one's confidence in the possibility of winning- just like how a car battery
is replenished through the car's movement.
But how do we get the starter motor going?
In conventional jobs, that motivation comes from an external authority, like a boss, combined with the incentive of money.
Many people do repetitive and boring work just through knowing that somebody follows what they do and makes a judgement on
whether the 'doing' was successful or unsuccessful. A person knows he/she fits into a specific place. She may even feel important/gain
self esteem by knowing that she have completed a day of such a job.
In social change work, we have neither of these forces... our authority is our peer group and ourselves (depending on the
power relationship) and the motivating force is the hope that we are changing 'things'. (which under bad circumstances can
degenerate into an unhealthy guilt)
But where is the follow up, and where is the follow through?
My friend's mum resigned from an activist job in frustration recently, exasperated at the 'lack of follow through'. People
would commit to tasks and then neglect them. She sadly viewed this as an inevitable problem of volunteer labour.
Perhaps those people didn't feel democratic ownership over the tasks- or the goal setting, contextualising the project in
a bigger picture vision of their actions' significance. Perhaps they didn't get into a regular pattern that could enhance
their self esteem. Perhaps they wanted to be 'spoon-fed' or followed up.
When you are an organiser, you will find this paralysis problem disheartening. It is especially difficult to deal with in
People like us are too often so close' and yet so far; we care about an issue more than anything in the world, yet do not
have the confidence to imagine winning. we would sacrifice anything (including our sanity) to win, but we are too confused
and unmotivated to take the little steps needed to get there. These people get burnt out easily, because they do not have
a sense of their own progress and power.
So my advice comes from a bit of blood, tears and a little sweat.
-A great art in delegation/ empowerment is to make it easy for people who are beginning. Offer to work side by side
with them (eg in preparing a presentation together, or handing out flyers together). Break a process up into easy steps. Unfortunately,
many organisers internalise the process of DO-ING in their minds so it seems mysterious and difficult to other people.
-Spiral- (from John Croft) Before a group takes on a project, go around the circle and each person says what would need to happen in the project for
it to be worth their while dedicating a lot of their lives to the project. For example "It would have to have specific goals
and a clear way of achieving those goals", or "It would have to have lots of parties" (You will hence discover the different
purposes, values and different standards of expectation/ rules that people have in order to choose to spend their time working
with a group.) Keep going around the circle until everything is exhausted. Have a scribe take down notes.
-After doing this, Map the steps out, in the four stages of 'Imagining, planning, acting, celebrating' so we know how to get
from 'Here' to 'There'. Draw it on butchers paper. Each step has to be linked with the step(s) before. Each person needs to
visualise how they fit into the journey to There. Write their phone-number in their step. Put the map up on the wall and colour
in the steps as you start and complete them. Decide when the follow -up will happen for each step. E.g. a person could be
delegated to be the 'motivator' and ring each 'do-er' 3 days before their step is due....