The following sample comes from the piece I wrote as the opening in my forthcoming book, Do Good Plus Do No Harm, to summarize the book’s purpose and share my overall point of view. Editing continues, and I am now on the second Section of chapters, which deal with paradigms, perspectives that cause a lot of conflict among people (learning styles and cultural background issues), and trajectories toward transformation.
Change is inevitable, but transformation is intentional. This book shares the tools I’ve come to or created through the years, for navigating between what we can affect and what we can’t, when it comes to personal and social transformation.
All of us are on a journey to make an impact through our lives. We’re change agents by design, but that only takes place when we connect with other people – which means we have to be open to being changed by their presence. And if we’re fortunate, we find ourselves in a situation to determine for ourselves a way forward that is comfortable enough to pursue, yet challenging enough to spur growth. Not everyone has that opportunity, and that hope I hold for all people to thrive is part of what motivated me to produce this book.
The journey I’ve chosen for myself has had its own share of difficulties. I’ve tried to fit it to the “DNA” of my cultural background, learning styles, and experiences. That means I’ve traveled a route torn between various polarities: liberal/conservative, creater/sustainer, rational/mystical. It’s been a frustrating pathway forward, because so many people wanted me to choose between either this option or that one – usually to follow their path. Meanwhile, I found I kept wanting some third option that didn’t always require me to split myself by being only one or the other.
And I seem to meet more people like me these days. I’m writing this book for us. We haven’t always fit in, but that doesn’t mean we’re all outcast clones. We may like a more simple lifestyle, but are okay with needing to navigate cultural complexity. We participate and produce, not just consume and cast aside. We’re a holistic bundle of paradoxical opposites, but that doesn’t mean we’re always opposing everything.
In fact, maybe we’re beyond being categorized, except that we’d like our life to count for something toward improving the common good. We care about the integrated quadruple bottom line of community, ecology, economy, and spirituality. We’re dissatisfied with the status quo and left longing for something better. And that desire drives us to engage in respectful means for doing good in serving others, plus doing no harm.
This book distills what wisdom I’ve gleaned along the way in thinking about and living out that both/and option, especially when it comes to interpreting my 40 years of involvement in social activism. I’ve observed too many enterprises where malignant leaders and team members created toxic strategies and structures to achieve self-serving purposes. They harmed the very people they said they wanted to serve, plus those they recruited to help in their endeavors. So, maybe the reason behind this book is best expressed by the subtitle of the “final exam”/example chapter: “The Constructing of Crowd-Sourced Service and a More Humble Humanitarianism.”
These days, if we want to have a positive impact on our world, we have to grapple with the realities of a multicultural context. How do we find – or create – common ground for the common good when people groups come from such diverse cultural backgrounds? And when that diversity normally leads to cultural distance? And cultural distance inevitably leads to confusion and conflict?
The task may seem impossible. But did you know that most world religions and philosophies have some form of the Golden Rule of “Do unto others what you would have them do unto you”? Do Good Plus Do No Harm is my version of this saying for this era of social enterprise. [SEE NOTE AT BOTTOM OF ARTICLE.]
As best I can understand from my faith and my philosophy, all of us are designed to desire making an impact in our world. But sincerity is not enough when it comes to constructive transitions. This will always be a journey filled with questions. For instance:
- How do our mental models and cultural perspectives affect the direction of our trajectory toward health or toxicity?
- How do we make a safe space for all people to be where their paradigm is currently at, but also free to choose a more positive and preferable course for their life?
- How do we learn to listen well in order to be relevant while being helpful, yet be open to challenging personal and cultural practices that are harmful?
- How do we create enterprise teams with the capacity to survive unavoidable changes in the culture around us, and the flexibility to stay sustainable beyond two generations?
- How do we discern the impact we’re having and measure it in both qualitative and quantitative terms, so we can work together to make things even better?
I designed this book to offer an integrated system of intellectual, organizational, and relational tools for making a constructive impact, especially through quadruple bottom line endeavors. It provides the base for training next generations of transcultural team members – especially cultural interpreters, futurists, and sustainable organization developers.
I also hope it helps you find answers to the core questions you already have in your own travels of transformation, and even anticipates that that may likely emerge. Meanwhile, I wish you well on your individual and community journey to make a difference as you Do Good Plus Do No Harm.
* * * * * * *
NOTE: Sometime in the middle of the 2000 decade, I ran across the Scarboro Missions’ compilation of Golden Rule variations across religious traditions. I remember thinking how this would make a reasonable way to find or forge common ground for respectful interfaith and cross-cultural dialogue – and potentially even for collaborative efforts for the common good. The problem then became how to include those who claim no faith, especially those from Western backgrounds of humanism, agnosticism, and atheism. Eventually, two relevant sources for these newer philosophical traditions came to mind. The first was the Hippocratic Oath, which has been woven into Western civilization for over 2,500 years. In some ways, it could be seen as a philosophical underpinning of the human rights movement in the 20th century. The second was the 12 Step recovery movement, with its unspecified Higher Power but many principles – such as self-evaluation and reparations – that fit with “do good plus do no harm.”