Top 10 Dimensions Our Systems Need to Equip Participants and Counteract Abuse of Power
I served a total of nearly 20 years of my work life at two universities and one seminary. I spent significant amounts of time in roles where I wrote up processes and procedures, edited catalogues and manuals, researched institutional history and governance, planned conferences, transitioned departments to digital systems, and created visual aids that captured school statistics and data. All of this gave me an insider perspective on many aspects of how educational institutions run their business – for better or for worse. That was complemented by my years of collegiate studies and many practitioner trainings on “recovery ministry” topics, learning styles, futurist skills, and start-up theories and skills for social transformation enterprises and church planting.
These experiences uncovered many gaps and excesses in our conventional systems for equipping people for both vocational and volunteer work. Since the mid-1990s, I have spent a lot of time reflecting on the problems I’ve observed and experienced, trying to figure out practical ways to upgrade such systems to make them more holistic and more relevant to the changing times in which we find ourselves. I was particularly focused on approaches that promoted volunteer workers as guests in a host culture rather than as dominators, and relied on intercultural teamwork to get things done.
The following list shares my top 10 list of concepts and components to accomplish that task. I designed this list originally for faith-based trainings, because that has been the majority of where I’ve done most of my work. But, I’ve adapted it here for broader audiences who want to do good plus do no harm.
The items that are ideas generally are interwoven throughout this curriculum. Others require larger components to be added in forthcoming modules as time allows. For instance, plans for the larger Opal Design Systems eventually include the following elements:
- Field Guides (curriculum for social transformation entrepreneurs).
- Personal Profiles (assessment tools for self-discovery and team building).
- Organizational Profiles (evaluation tools for identifying overall “health” of an organizational system, plus pinpoint problem areas that need to be addressed).
- Cultural GPS system (for dealing with cross-cultural communications and culture shock issues).
- Group simulation games and practice projects (to apply ideas with teamwork in a more monitored “laboratory” setting where it’s safer to make mistakes).
- Case studies (media, historical, and quadruple bottom line).
Not all of these elements can be presented in the text of a curriculum, because they require a relational context – teamwork, internships, mentoring. But some such elements can at least be simulated, through case studies. Altogether, these create the Opal Design Systems. I will also recommend other well-developed systems that have compatible approaches. These include assessment tools, organizational systems development, project planning and evaluation tools, and systems of indicators for qualitative measurement of project impact. Continue reading