Comment on MSC Transformative Practice Survey

Photo by Willie Davis

Photo by Willie Davis

This fall the Movement Strategy Center (MSC) plans to release a report, tentatively titled “Love with Power,” on organizations that are bringing “transformative practices” into their work. I await this report with great interest.

As described in “Tell Us!! Does Your Organization Do Transformative Practice?,” MSC is inviting individuals to complete a three-question survey about their interest and/or efforts with regard to bringing “individual transformative practices, such as meditation, martial arts, gardening, and spiritual practice” into their organizing.

Particularly encouraging is that the survey explores interest in eventually sharing “peer exchange/case studies on how other organizations are actually doing it.” If MSC discovers and shares user-friendly tools that can be easily replicated (without extensive training), this project could help spread (rapidly) the use of methods that nurture personal and collective development rooted in mutual support among peers.

The survey opens with a very helpful definition: “Collective practice is intentional and continuously repeated action undertaken as a group to cultivate new ways of being and thinking in that group and beyond it.” The phrase “intentional and continuously repeated action” hits the nail on the head.

“New ways” strikes me as too ambiguous, however. Some phrase such as “more compassionate” would work better, it seems. “New” is not necessarily an improvement.

As I discuss in “A Meditation on Deep Community,” I believe that if activists really get in touch with their compassion, they will naturally strive to correct root causes by changing national policies. Then we can turn this nation into a compassionate community.

I applaud MSC for helping us move in that direction.

Growing an “Activist Support Network”: An Invitation (3/11/14 Draft)

By Wade Lee Hudson

Political activists need to support one another in learning how to be more effective in their activism. The dilemma is how to do it most effectively. I invite you to help answer that question by participating in the “Activist Support Network Project” (tentative name).

Participants would share the following commitment:
• At least once a month they share a meal with at least two other close associates (perhaps including domestic partners) and conduct a conversation focused initially on the question: How can I help create a society that better serves the common good by becoming more effective in my efforts to improve public policy in the near term?
• After each participant responds to that question, the conversation takes its own course, as determined by the participants, with each participant having an equal voice in that decision.
• Following the meeting, one of the participants posts a brief report on their meeting (as approved by the participants) on the Web to inform other participants about their effort.

Hopefully different groups will use or experiment with different methods for conducting those conversations. By reporting on their efforts, other groups can learn about methods they might want to use with their own gatherings.

Eventually clusters of groups who use the same or very similar method might coalesce to share information and support. And regional and national gatherings of participants in the overall Activist Support Network Project might convene for the same purpose. As people get involved, a process could be initiated to consider re-naming the project and revising its mission.

The word “political” is used in various ways. The (common) definition employed here is “concerned with the making of governmental policy” in the near term. Other approaches are valuable and may be more valid. But individuals who seek incremental short-term reforms share particular experiences is common. That commonality provides them with the potential of offering mutual support to one another.

Those shared experiences include uncertainty, fear, outrage, disappointment, frustration, interpersonal conflict, power struggles, and at least occasional despair – as well as joy, fellowship, deepening friendships, and the satisfaction of knowing that we have done at least our fair share to help establish new policies that alleviate suffering and promote the general welfare. We tend to share certain problematic tendencies, such as being too judgmental, arrogant, and elitist and failing to really listen to others and collaborate as equal – as well as certain positive characteristics, such as compassion for the suffering of others and a commitment to try to help alleviate that suffering.

Support groups for political activists as proposed here would not involve telling any individual how they should behave or how they should experience their life. Those decisions would be left to each individual to determine for themselves.

The only requirement would be that each individual commit to serving the common good to the best of their ability. This commitment would involve constantly asking the question: is this course of action really the best way to “promote the general welfare,” as affirmed in the Preamble to the U.S. Constitution?

By supporting one another in our efforts to answer that question honestly and correctly, we can help this nation live up to its ideals and enable everyone to more fully realize their potential.