“Chaos is another word for opportunity.” – I Ching
In response to the pandemic and resulting economic collapse, local, national and global institutions of power have reacted with programs and policies to try to keep the ship from sinking: stimulus checks, unemployment benefits, food distributions and small business loans, just to name a few.
While I support a short-term focus on meeting urgent human needs to reduce suffering, the roots of the current crisis go much deeper than COVID-19. The crisis has merely been the shock that broke the fractured social, economic and cultural pillars of our globalized society.
I’m also challenged by the fact that these short-term solutions are primarily shaped and influenced by the dominant culture and institutions of power. While it’s important for these institutions to be in the conversation because of their resource base, their ability to have a scalable impact and their responsibility, this influence often reinforces the systems we want to change. These institutions are often homogeneous along the lines of race, gender, class and cultural values, which leads to the same old ideas repackaged and the same outcomes.
If we’re serious about real change we must take a closer look at community efforts for self-reliance and self-determination and find ways to directly support those innovations with social, monetary and intellectual capital.
This support must come without the institutional constraints filtered through the same biases that will lead to the same outcomes.
In light of the pandemic challenges of the present — COVID-19, economic collapse, climate change, concentrated monetary wealth, global political instability and the resurgence of the white power movement — the need for a paradigm shift in our thinking and doing is paramount.
This moment we find ourselves in presents us with the best opportunities for change. As these old systems collapse more folks will be looking critically at their failure and be willing to look at — and possibly embrace — new ways of living and being.
What can we do?
While the following statements may appear to be small and too pragmatic, they are a critical set of first steps in creating the future we want to see:
Become a systems thinker (see resources below)
Diversify your circle of associates
Read (a lost art form, suggested reading below)
Be courageous and support courageous leadership. If you want to see change, you have to be willing to take steps to bring it about. If you see inequity in the workplace you must be willing to address it.
Seek first to understand and then be understood. This comes from the work of Stephen Covey (“7 Habits of Highly Effective People”).
Identify a project that forces you to grow and engage directly with a challenge of interest
Look for, share and support community initiatives that think outside the box and reflect the kind of world you want to see
Some local examples of include:
This is not an exhaustive list. If you know of others, we’d like to highlight them in the future so please send us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
At the Kheprw Institute while we have launched several short-term initiatives to provide resources to people in our community (kheprw.org), we have remained focused on a long-term mission of building community wealth through the launch of Alkhemy and Cafe Creative to create the kind of community and world we want to live in.
Resources and references
“Chaos Point” by Ervin Laszlo
“Leadership and the New Science” by Margaret Wheatley
“The Power Manual” by Cyndi Suarez
Imhotep Adisa is the executive director and co-founder of the Kheprw Institute, a nonprofit organization focused on empowering youth and building community wealth in Indianapolis.
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