The following is a guest post by our friends at Saybrook University’s Organizational Systems Program (a 3p sponsor) – designed for students who want to understand the nature of organizations, collaborative practices, and transformative change.
By Nancy Southern, Ed.D.
Over my lifetime, I have learned from experience that holding an intention for change can result in creating the desired change. I have seen it work in bringing people and relationships into my life, creating the work I desired, and helping me develop a path forward to create the change. Essentially, I learned that if I could envision it, I could bring it into reality. It has worked so effectively that I know I have to be careful that what I think I want to create is what I really want or need.
It took me awhile to understand why creating an intention and vision was such a powerful process. I learned that once I had a clear understanding and picture of the possibility, I would talk a lot about it. Through sharing it with others and gaining their perspectives and ideas, my vision became clearer. As my clarity increased, I noticed opportunities I might not have noticed otherwise. Sometimes people led me to opportunities once they knew my intention.
I recognize that not everything we want or can imagine can come into being. I continue to be in awe of the magic and power of this process. I have also learned that intention is just a spark for change that is evolutionary in nature. We can’t hold onto it too tightly. We must be able to tap into both needs and opportunities and generate momentum toward a change that is budding and waiting to blossom.
The 99 percent movement could be an evolutionary change that is growing out of the intention and vision of many people to create a different way of being and living together in America. As more people see themselves and their friends slipping from middle class into poverty, facing greatly limited choices, and making tough decisions, the need fuels the intention for change. When we try to envision the world our children and grandchildren will live in given the limitations of our environment and the decline of our social and economic structures, the vision is difficult to bring into focus.
So while the message of the 99 percent movement is not yet clearly stated and the vision of the change they desire is not yet in focus, the intention for change is strong. Those on the streets are willing to speak for the millions of others who continue to work to hold up their lives and support their families, but fear for the future. The intention and action of those who are in the streets are sparking conversations in many homes and offices, coffee houses, and community centers. Overtime those conversations will create a shared vision, one that can be clearly articulated and acted upon.
I struggle with the tension of knowing when to fight against the system versus work within the system. Both are needed, yet we need to determine individually and collectively what actions to take that make sense. I am not yet convinced that bringing down our current financial institutions or the financial system is the right thing to do. Our large institutions hold the possibility for greater leverage for change. We need to continue to better understand the forces that are driving these institutions and how to create shifts in those forces in ways that move them toward greater social responsibility. I see that movement happening to some extent, although, not yet nearly enough.
So, holding the intention for systemic change is important for each of us individually and collectively as a society. The change needed may radically alter the way we live and work, the way we participate in our families, communities, and social organizations. We need to envision a new future for our children and grandchildren—one that provides the opportunities and choices many of us have had and recognizes that meaningful work and life is more important than the acquisition of power, privilege, and material goods.
If you want to view an inspiring film about the power of intention to create evolutionary change, check out Paper Clips. This powerful documentary chronicles a project undertaken by a couple of middle school teachers in rural Tennessee who wanted to teach about diversity and found a meaningful way to honor Holocaust victims. Their intention sparked a community to come together around the project in a way that changed lives and the fabric of the community.
Nancy Southern, Ed.D., is Chair of the organizational systems program at Saybrook University and is a regular contributor to Rethinking Complexity, a blog produced by students and faculty members of Saybrook’s organizational systems program. Read more of Dr. Southern’s work at: www.rethinkingcomplexity.com.