Who is as important as How

Who is the person that I want to be?

I was drawn to this question last January after  listening to Ted Kuntz, author of ‘Peace Begins With Me .’ Ted framed the question within a webinar entitled ‘Who is as important as how,’ which is also the title of the sixth pattern identified by Al Etmanski in his book ‘IMPACT Six Patterns to Spread your Social Innovation.’

In his book, Al suggests that one’s way of being resonates more than what we do, and that while “how” can be a killer question and is a good way to stop someone from pursuing a big idea, “who” is life-affirming. It assumes everyone cares and is capable of making the world a better place. For Ted, the person he strives to be responds to injustice with peace and compassion, rather than despair and anger. Through intention, observation, experimentation, and reflection he has found ways to peacefulness and to being more effective in the work that he does. At the time of viewing the webinar, I felt firmly planted in observation and reflection as a path towards finding new ways to work, but I also recognized a paradox that both Al and Ted alluded to: needing time for reflection is an individual endeavour, yet to do the challenging work of change-making, one needs support from others and  a community of presence. Ted also spoke about his experience of the idea that if we live from intention, resources will flow to support us. So I carried on along my path of being and working as the person I want to be and had faith that I would find my community of practice.

Connecting to what has meaning

In becoming the person you want to be, Ted talks about paying attention to what has meaning – your values and highest aspirations. As most of us have experienced, amidst the demands of work and the complexities of day to day life, values and highest aspirations can easily fade to the background. For me, in deciding to explore different ways of working, I had already made personal commitments: to foster meaningful connections in my work and life –  by listening, by being heard, by seeking to understand, by building a common sense of what it means to be human; to support myself and others in being the best that we can be and being alive to the greatest possibilities in that; to hold loss and to steady myself and others in times of change, disappointment  and fear; and to find new ways forward with love in my heart and optimism on my mind.

Who can help: Finding my Community of Practice

Since seeing that webinar, I have begun working within a group of 6 professionals, each of us having worked in the settlement and language sector in the Vancouver area for several years. Like virtually everyone I have worked with in the sector, these women are hard-working and driven by a real desire to help immigrants and society as a whole. The great potential and privilege I find in working with this particular group is rooted in each of our willingness to set aside time and energy – amid busy lives, some working full time, others raising young children and taking care of parents – for reflection and conversation, and to explore the possibilities that will allow us to make a greater difference by stepping out of existing structures and constraints, and to find spaces that allow us to work with our shared values front and centre. Through sharing our experiences and perspectives, compassion, laughter, honesty, patience and a fair bit of grit and determination, we are carving out new ways to work together, and taking them out into the world.

How are we doing this? (because how is still important)

  • We help deliver programs that provide a wide range of EAL learners with language, information and socio-cultural competencies, we address needs and strengths of marginalized immigrant populations, and we create spaces for immigrants to have a voice in the context of their personal, social, community and work lives.
  • We support instructors and other professionals working with EAL clients by providing training, toolkits and curricula to effectively respond to the increasingly complex dynamics presented in classrooms.  We also support instructors and front-line staff in response to change and other challenges in the workplace by creating spaces for conversations around inclusivity, communication, cultural humility, and supporting one another, as well as opportunities to reflect on personal values, purpose and passion.
  • We work with and for organizations to envision and co-create new models that support integration. Together, we identify innovative niches, experiment, and develop resources to respond to complex learning, working and living environments.
  • We facilitate connections and understanding in the broader community – between friends, family, co-workers, employers, funders, media, policy-makers, newcomers, and the intersectionality of those. We work to grow a collective consciousness through conversations, innovative programs and activities including arts-based learning, community dialogue, storytelling, arts engagement and social media.

That’s a lot of doing for a group that hasn’t yet come up with a name. We are working on that, as well as mission and vision statements. We may have got a little ahead of ourselves in this regard, but, as it turns out, we’re all as excited about action as we are about reflection.

And therein lies some resolution to the paradox of the need for both reflection and community. This group who has yet to be named supports me in the person I want to be. While creating spaces to be compassionate and mindful, my Community of Practice is also effective and action-oriented.

Who is my Community of Practice?

Taslim Damji is Intercultural Specialist at MOSAIC and brings kindness and optimism to places where others might find only frustration and despair. Diana Jeffries is Language and Literacy Coordinator at Diversecity Community Resources Society and infuses honest beauty into all she does.  Marcela Mancilla Fuller is Coordinator of Settlement Services at Collingwood Neighbourhood House and is a courageous sojourner along pathways of understanding and inclusivity. Amea Wilbur is Program Manager at Pacific Immigrant Resources Society and moves deliberately and quietly towards a more equitable, just society. Sara Yuen is a language coach and teacher trainer, building strategic inroads with curiosity and compassion. I am continuously inspired by their insights, courage and ability to transform.

Please contact me by replying to this post or sending me a note through my Contact page if you would like to learn more about the work that we do. Please also feel free to repost.

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