Out of Hibernation into the Heat
There is no denying it. The senseless and brutal killing of George Floyd has prompted a long awaited and much needed re-evaluation of far more than the character of policing in the USA. Combined with the laying bare of structural inequalities by covid-19, which Arundhati Roy likened to a kind of X-ray revealing deeper truths about our world, from our hunger for a better way of living on the planet our era is in the process of birthing a groundswell of enthusiasm, activism and creativity that seeks to make live connections between the great issues facing the human race – the crises of climate and environment; the urgent need for social, economic gender justice; structural racism; and the unprecedented numbers of humans fleeing from one to another part of the planet because of these foregoing issues, in the hope of a safer, better life. Ours is an era in the throes of a perilous and difficult labour. It is an era demanding re-evaluation – at a personal and professional level, as individuals, families, organisations, communities and citizens of the world.
Our period of hibernation at the Equality Academy could not, in retrospect, have been more timely. Amidst the hardship, horror and devastation suffered by so many, we were privileged to be safe and comfortable enough to discover anew the value of family and of friends near or far, of digging and planting in the earth, baking bread, enjoying the simplicity of connection and deeply appreciating our access to the internet. We also knew that things would never be the same again, and that the transformation of Equality Academy we had been planning for the previous year or more was but a shadow of the actual transformation which has been happening in real time!
We could not have foreseen the explosion of interest in equity, inclusion and diversity – the racial dimension in particular – which would emerge at this time. However, all the ground we have laid in recent years stood us in good stead for stepping out into the heat of the summer of 2020 and preparing for a fruitful autumn.
Here are the principles upon which renewed Equality Academy is being built:
- Living Systems – we are concerned with living wholes, whether these be individuals, relationships, teams, groups, communities, organisations, societies – or the ecosphere of which humans are a part. We are interested in the cultures and environments that support them, their health and sustainability, and by implication with the sicknesses that afflict them, their root causes and treatment.
- Consciousness – all systems of which humans are a part involve consciousness, with its surface appearances and its murky depths. Leadership is primarily a work of consciousness, starting with awareness of self – what we call the ‘inner track’. Consciousness is also the lens through which the world (our ‘outer track’) is perceived, experienced and understood. We are interested in the power of consciousness – at the surface, the depth and all layers in between – to transform individuals, collectivities, whole systems. This means attending to what is happening here and now in us and around us – not just to ‘the task at hand’ – and it requires a whole repertoire of competencies that the transformational leader simply cannot be without in today’s world.
- Intersectional equity, diversity, inclusion – these are not just buzz words, but deep life and death questions which go to the heart of what it is to be human. They speak to the interwoven fabric of inequity, exclusion, homogeneity – of deep, long-standing patterns of hatred and violence which are enacted in very ordinary ways every day by well-meaning people. They speak of the reality and potential of emerging from these afflictions and evolving to a better future of wholeness. All forms of oppression act upon and through us together – reality is intersectional, and our response to it needs to be to.
- Trauma and its trace – systemic inequities leave the trace of trauma in the body – whether the individual or collective body. Much of this trauma is generational. Our ED&I work has matured with a trauma-informed approach to what has often been dealt with predominantly as a problem of law, legislation and attitudes. All of these are important, but without understanding and attending to the trace of trauma in the mind, emotions and body, decisive change cannot be achieved.
- Roots – all systems honour time and place. History and context give meaning to nearly everything we do. Understanding the origins or causes of a sickness helps us address and treat it. Understanding our place in the ‘field’ helps us locate our power and leverage.
- Global perspective – we can no longer keep ED&I or OD work within national or local boundaries. The world is globalised, and so is intelligence and wisdom about the world and our place in it. We are increasingly seeking to take a global perspective on everything we do, with the understanding that the some of the greatest inequities, such as that between the global north and global south are on a planetary scale – and our quest for diversity and inclusion must take this into consideration.
- Embodiment – our lived experience is an embodied one. There are no disembodied minds floating around and having a gender-, class- and rac- neutral experience of what it is to be human. We have particular experiences and learn particular unconscious habits based upon our embodiment and others’ perception of it. Our bodies are from, of, and return to, the earth. They are our foundational connection with the home planet. There is great wisdom in embodiment – in and through the body, its sensations and the emotions it throws up as we make sense of our experience, we can find the answers to so many of the problems our minds are grappling with. All our work is increasingly embodied, calling attention both to the body and the skills required to make use of its wisdoms in addressing our greatest and smallest challenges.
These are exciting and challenging times for us. We want to plant and grow in good garden – to work with friends, new and old (see later in this newsletter) and to bring on transformational leaders with holistic inner and outer awareness, knowledge and skills. It is our aim to be a part of the wave of consciousness and practice sweeping the planet in search of a better way of interbeing. We hope you will want to come along with us on this journey in one way or another. We will all be in the most excellent company!
Razia and Jess