This morning I launched into the last lap on finishing the first module in my curriculum project — which is on how to catalyze social transformation, how to challenge people and organizations that abuse power, and related topics on making a constructive difference while minimizing harm. Finally!
The first book may be done, reviewed, prepped for print-on-demand and eBooks, and available maybe as soon as next month — August 2014! Would greatly appreciate your prayers for my mental clarity and energy stamina in finishing this last stage well. Also for the preview and review processes needed to get other people’s input for the final polishing of the material. There is a long list of details on the to-do list to get done!
Meanwhile, since this is a milestone day, I’m reciting the history of it as a remembrance of what’s happened and as a reminder of God’s faithfulness throughout the process.
A few years ago, at the church I was part of then, The Hearth, we wrote our own beatitude while going through the Sermon on the Mount from the Gospels. It took months to hone mine down to this: “Blessed are the tenacious, for they shall reach the summit, and be able to see from whence God brought them.” I’m at the base camp to that summit for this project …
This has been a very long haul of a mega-project. I got interested in justice issues, social activism, and investigative reporting at an early age, and started volunteering for non-profits back in high school — and community service wasn’t exactly common for students, 40 years ago. I wanted to make a difference in society, and started out in public administration at college. But when I discovered a fatal allergy to bureaucracy and red tape, I changed majors to linguistics, which turned out to be an amazingly providential shift. Linguistics isn’t just about language learning, it’s about critical thinking skills and pattern recognition so you can go into a situation where there is no dictionary or grammar and figure them out from scratch.
Those skills are what I’ve ended up applying to understanding destructive organizational situations and creating constructive social transformation. It’s not that there aren’t books and training courses on those topics, just that I kept encountering situations and issues that those materials didn’t cover. So, it seemed I was being called upon to conduct “primary” work — record my experiences and figure out patterns for helping people in similar situations navigate through them and then do something positive after coming out of them.
I started the cultural background research on it in 1991 (age 36). I wrote about 300 to 500 pages of material per year from then into my mid-50s. (So, yes, that meant as much as 10,000 pages of writing in 20 years!) The focus of my research writing shifted with new interests or experiences — emergence of new subcultures and social movements, futurist training in strategic foresight skills, social enterprise start-ups and church planting, simulation games for training in cross-cultural encounters, tools for measuring qualitative impact of social change activities.
After losing my job in late 2008 when the economy tanked, I started refiguring what this mountain of material meant, and commenced editing it into something manageable. The target audiences I’d had in mind for the curriculum shifted multiple times over the decades, and ended up somewhere surprising — with people working in social transformation projects, ranging from mobile or short-term ministry projects all the way to church plants and businesses with a social conscience. It was surprising not so much for being new or unexpected, but more because I’d made a 40-year loop of learning through doing exactly where I’d started in high school: Wanting to make positive differences in society that changed the course of the future, and wondering how to do that.
I may be back to where I started, still with an underlying passion for constructive change. But, I’m not the same person. I’ve been tempered by trauma. I’ve endured many situations that were destructive — most in enterprises that were supposed to end up positive. So, I’ve had to create an approach that covers the nasty realities of not merely the usual problems of collaborating with imperfect people in a broken world, but challenging malignant ministers who created self-serving and toxic systems that benefited themselves and severely harmed others.
Which brings us to today. The plan has boiled down to three introductory-level books, all connecting with the theme of “Do Good Plus Do No Harm” in instigating social transformation. The first of these curriculum modules focuses on how and why things can go wrong, and what to do about that. The second is the big picture of how to do things right in setting up safe and sustainable organizations. The third gets to specifics of creating non-abusive teams, partnerships, and projects, for anywhere from a local to global scale.
Each book is heavily illustrated to accommodate those who process information better through images instead of words. The chapters are made of relatively short chunks of text to cover key concept frameworks and practitioner skills. And there are resources for additional exploration — suggestions for movies that show the book’s concepts in action, discussion questions, make-your-own-chart activities, etc.
There’s more history — I didn’t even share about specific people who’ve been influential along the way — but for now, I’m off to edit. And I’ll be connecting along the way to the summit with these friends whose encouragement and support has gotten me to where I am today. Gratitude is an important part of fulfilling that beatitude …