I particularly appreciate the question that Debbie raises towards the end, one that she says has been an important point of debate and exploration for her organization: Is it possible to create pioneering change within the institutions that we deem to be destructive?
Based on our experience and observations, the answer to this question is ‘yes’, but only if we are seeing the dynamics of social change unfold at two levels simultaneously- form and spirit.
We have come across social change initiatives that are conventional in form, yet incredibly pioneering in spirit. They heal destructive social patterns by moving in the world in a way that is more compassionate, more reflective, more inclusive. People who pass through them are transformed. And although a shift in organizational form could be helpful in further unleashing their potential for even deeper change, the fact that they wear a more conventional jacket in no way lessens their impact on the world.
From this perspective, I think it is also helpful to take a closer look at the organizations we’re quick to label as social pioneers. How much of their pioneering work is happening at the form level (reflected in their structure, their model, or their guiding philosophy). And how much is taking place at the every-day experiential level? To what extent is the organization expressing the change it’s seeking to create in the world? Or is it mostly just manifesting the unhealthy social patterns it is working so hard to change?