Everyone wants action – that’s the current business buzzword. Dialogue and conversation seem fine “but they have to focus on action.” It’s almost growing tiresome to hear it.
The problem with the mantra is that people rarely have any idea of what action really looks like. Very few people think through to the personal responsibility THEY might take in animating action. Even less see conversation and dialogue AS action.
But today in my email box, comes confirmation that action is intimately connected to dialogue and when passion and reposnibility come together, real things happen.
Back in the fall, my business partner Lyla Brown and I conducted a series of Aboriginal engagement meetings for the Victoria Urban Development Agreement process (the report is here). As part of the work, we held an Open Space Technology meeting with more than 100 community members to discuss and implement ideas that had been raised in a series of focus groups. One of the conversations at the Open Space gathering was on food security, and the results of that work have now borne fruit. Today, I received a press release in my inbox from one of the community agencies that took up the implementation challenge and ran with it:
Aboriginal Group Promotes Food Security as humble start in reducing Aboriginal poverty as Big Business
VICTORIA – Inner City Aboriginal Society (ICAS), by promoting an aboriginal community dialogue on food security, is actively working towards reducing poverty as big business.
As a reaction to the fact that an estimated 50% of the street-homeless community in Victoria are aboriginal – and that current funded strategies are focused on charity based or service provision approaches – ICAS has organized itself to encourage a move towards a third option. ICAS is facilitating a series of Aboriginal Sharing Groups on Food Security at the end of March to provide information about food security issues, to explore cultural aspects of food security and to set some direction for further action. The discussions on food security represent – for those in the Inner City Aboriginal Society – the restoration of economic justice by transitioning the aboriginal community from victim to dignity status. Bruce Ferguson, one of the founding directors of ICAS expressed his opinion on the Aboriginal Sharing Groups on Food Security.
“Imagine if 50% of the budgets of all the downtown service providers and dedicated funds for the street community went to aboriginal people to empower ourselves….need I say more. Empowerment of the marginalized cant happen over night, but at least with taking back the dignity of feeding ourselves, we can one day reach equality with other Canadians…”
“The work of ICAS in food security dialogue will provide a challenge that moves the aboriginal community away from being objects of charity and-or clients of service providers towards strategies and languages that talk about empowerment and self-reliance” adds Rose Henry, long time aboriginal activist and recent candidate for City Council.
The Aboriginal Sharing Groups will be held between March 22nd and April 3rd.
Action is passion bounded by responsibility. Action becomes easier when there is a strategic architecture for acting. That architecture is forged in the fire of conversations about what matters, where people create relationships, connections and shared vision about what might be. When that action infrastructure is laid down, acting becomes fairly basic. When that architecture can be created from the bottom-up and then used by those who actually created it, then the action becomes both efficient and powerful.
The interesting thing about this series of community conversations on food security is that they have been taking place outside of the official program of the Victoria Agreement. The agreement itself is not yet signed, and there are many planning conversations going on behind the scenes to tranisition the structure of the inter-governmental relationships from working groups to action groups. While this has been happening, Inner City Aboriginal Society and its partners have been leveraging the strategic architecture that was formed in the community Open Space event to put this topic and approach in front of the community. They are seeking solutions to the problem that avoids a dependant relationship on governments and “charities” and in doing so, they are planning, organizing and meeting without government or charitable support.
Leadership, even in business, is about walking your talk and both creating and leveraging the strategic architecture to find a way to take responsibility for what one loves. ICAS is showing the way here.