Why Change Is Needed Now
Economic Pressure on Families
Since the mid-‘70s there has been a gradual but devastating trend that has led to enormous economic pressure on ordinary families today. Shifts in the global economy, policies that favor the wealthy, and other similar realities have led to a massive erosion of economic security for families across the nation. This creates time pressure, geographic dislocation, and more generalized fears and anxieties that undermine our communities.
Social and Cultural Changes
The marketplace’s powerful influence and its promotion of a culture of individualism have also weakened the fabric of community. A generation ago, families felt a responsibility for all the kids in their neighborhood. Today, that sense of communal responsibility is rare: lack of stability has eroded the bonds of trust that are needed to support this sense of mutual concern.
A new culture of “mind your own business” seems to have replaced the “it takes a village” ethos. Technology also has had a massive impact, to the point where connections that used to be sustained in backyards, community centers, and front porches are now mediated through email, texting, and tweeting. Finally, markets have managed to invade every aspect of our lives. Many services used to be facilitated voluntarily within communities, creating opportunities to build community connections. Now, these same services have been replaced by market-driven paid professional services reducing these rich community connections to relationships based on pure monetary exchange.
In the face of these external changes, social change organizations need much greater skill and capacity to affect the kind of change they seek.
Previously, organizers and movement leaders could tap into existing networks of communities and then bring them together for larger social change purposes. Now, they’re faced with having to build the very fabric of community at the same time they’re trying to spur communities into action as cohesive constituencies for change. It’s no surprise that change leaders end up burning out and feeling like their work is never enough.
Organizers and movement leaders are also affected by the same trends hammering their constituencies. This translates to their work in many critical ways:
- Many emerge from the very communities that are organizing for change. Often times, especially in communities of color, these are the same community leaders counted on to support those bearing the brunt of today’s extraordinary economic pressures. Many struggle to balance their desire to develop professionally with the demands of leadership they need to provide in their own families and communities.
- They need to be able to synthesize massive amounts of data and stay focused on what’s important at a time when circumstances change rapidly and they are constantly flooded with information.
- Leaders must understand the complex ways people have been impacted by these economic, social, and cultural changes.
- They must maintain self-awareness, perspective, balance, and groundedness.
- Leaders also have to be able to maintain hope, optimism and a sense of humor amidst today’s immense challenges.
Looking at the above challenges, you might think that organizations would need huge reserves of money and other resources to tackle them. Immanent Leadership has a different take.