“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful and concerned citizens can change the world; indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.”-Margaret Mead
As people watch one problem morph into several more, they start wondering what they can do. Try working in small roup ( 6-8) people team.
Some people feel helpless and just get stuck. Others try to keep the “status quo” in place by sabotaging change efforts. Some look around and try to fix blame. Others become dependent and just wait for someone like government to tell them what to do or look for someone to safe them. And a small number try to figure out solutions to improve their situation. Coming up with constructive ideas and programs instead of waiting for “George to do it” takes courage and structure for effective action. One solution in community organizers toolkit is the forming of community action teams. I call these change structures ” Peer to Peer” change teams. These teams focus on ordinary citizens becoming diagnosticians. These teams focus is on dialogues which energize citzens to develop a more trustful and productive environment for identifying and solving problems.
These problems may be in joblessness, physical or mental health, education, housing, or the environment issues. These citizen action teams must become organizations who apply knowledge and skill to diagnose both healthy and pathological conditions and relationships between peer to peer advocates and larger society. This approach provides the opportunity for constructive team problem solving and personal action. These local “grassroots” teams are not a social club, therapy or venting forum; their purpose is to put in place an effective political advocacy organization that can design and implement change initiatives at the community, family and individual level.
The positive trend toward activism by citizen groups must be met with a corresponding education and skill preparation for developing impactful intiatives for change. A Peer to Peer change team leader must understand interpersonal relationships and skillfully utilize the dynamics of group processes to facilitate an adequate and effective performance of the members of the team and of yourself.
What mentalset, skillset and toolset do teams need to be effective change organizations.
1. Your team must learn to look directly without defensiveness at the nature of services that agencies are offering citizens and ask how it meets and responds to the needs of the public. Your team must have the skills to gather data and and translate it into relevant knowledge and concepts that will describe the functioning state of agencies in relation to their stated goals and objectives.
2. Your team must learn to understand local agencies as human organizations –do you have the relationships necessary to influence policy; is the team able to identify and remedy friction points between goals and actions; and locate pressure points where there is the greatest potential for accomplishing new and better delivery of services.
3. Your team will need an expert diagnostician who can deal effectively with elected officials,agency public administrators and bureaucrats. Who many times are satisfied with the status quo.
I never cease to be impressed with how great an impact a small group, like Habitat for Humanity, Sierra Club, National Alliance for Mental Illness Illness, and other “Peer to Peer”change teams can have. And yet, I am equally impressed with how little impact most people think they can have. What are you doing to make a difference?