I got charged up yesterday. All excited. Ignited. Plugged in.
And yup. Those are all words that connect to ‘the grid’. That suggest the analogy of some sort of power source charging me up.
Apparently, here in Alberta we like phrases that denote grids. We’re not enamored with words like prosperity, or reciprocity, but we’re keen on opportunity, progress, interconnectedness.
Well, it may not come as a surprise to social scientists, but there are people who know this stuff. Who research it and then share it with, as in the case of the all-day workshop I attended yesterday at the behest of the United Way of Calgary and Area, not-for-profits looking to affect social change through the expansion of the opportunity grid that makes it possible for every Calgarian to thrive.
Last year I was invited to sit on the United Way’s communication advisory group. It was my acceptance of that invitation that lead me to being at the meeting yesterday.
And I am so excited!
Dr.s Julie Sweetland, Eric Lindland and Alexis Celeste Burten of The Framework Institute lead us on a whirlwind tour of social anthropology, linguistics and research, showing us how the words we use can connect or disengage people from believing change is possible — Change needs to happen here, can happen here, is happening here.
Did I mention it was fascinating?
Their rigorous testing of concepts, analogies, words and phrases provides not-for-profits a framework to move from the ‘symptomatic’ space of individualistic problem-making and problem-solving to the more expansive zone of thematic re-framing of issues to be inclusive of all society — working together we can create solutions for all communities to thrive.
The issues we are dealing with are big. Moving them from the ‘me’ space to the ‘we’ means helping people understand that these are collective public problems which, working together, have a public solution.
I learned a lot yesterday. My mind is still crammed full of ideas, thoughts, concepts. “If you don’t re-frame the story, it comes to you pre-framed, ” said all three presenters throughout the day.
We all have our backstory. Our criteria words that are framed in the social anthropological roots of our past experiences, environment, and encounters. I like the word ‘awesome’. My friend TB prefers ‘wonderful’. Awesome makes her think of circus clowns and ferris wheels. It makes me think of limitless possibilities, the sky, the divine essence of our existence.
Cultures, communities, people have the same preferences. And, if we’re to create a world of possibility for everyone, we need to reframe the issues in language that connects and ignites our collective imaginations and capacity to create change.
Social change goes uphill, said Julie.
I get it — Sisyphus struggled perpetually and without hope of success.
Sometimes, we see social change as a Sisyphean struggle, an absurdly impossible ideal. So long as we believe social change isn’t possible, we’ll continually be pushing a square rock uphill.
And if we don’t strategically frame the issue in language that opens up minds and hearts and bodies to the collective power of our human potential, we’ll keep pushing uphill against fast-held beliefs in the impossibility of our dream of creating a ‘great city for everyone’.
It’s all in our perspective. It’s all in the lenses we use to see our world. It’s all in the language we choose to open up the view of what is possible. Are the issues oriented through…
a focus on the individualistic narrative of ‘you broke it, you fix it’ or the pick yourself up by the bootstraps mentality…
the wide-angle lens perspective of our collective responsibility/accountability/capability to affect positive change.
It was a smokin’ hot day! And I’m kewl with it! All charged up and ready to plug into Radical Creativity!
Link to A Poetry Affair: today’s poem — In This Silent Space