By Ayusha Mahajan
Ayusha served as the Transformation Storytelling Fellow for Community Foundations of Canada for a six-month experience with a portfolio exploring societal transition. A story would never achieve its potential without the means to make it heard. This story is made possible through the support of Canada Life, the RBC Foundation, and Social Innovation Academy.
Make the possibility a reality
Futures have been imagined. By having their complexities and challenges acknowledged, they have also been believed in. Now that the blueprint is laid out, how do you mobilize change? The courage to imagine is directly linked to the ability to execute the imagination, and the most fundamental resource for actionis people with a purpose.
The great thing about traversing water is that no path is rigid, and individual drafts of wind can collectively change the direction of a sailboat. What does that mean for society? “Mostly it’s people that transform things and institutions” says Andrew Chunilall, Chief Executive Officer of CFC. Transformed minds have potential for new ideas, individuals, and their perspectives, have the power to make profound change.
How do we then mobilize purpose for transformation? There are several ways:
If transformation is a flash mob of individual dancers, the Movement of Movements project aims to organize the mob by coordinating dancers of different experience levels and physical capacities. Movements are effective on their own, but their collaboration could maximize impact through sharing resources and working on filling in the gaps instead of reinventing the wheel. Movement maps can be made to connect movements of similar underlying focuses, such as: geographic location, focus, Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), strategy, stakeholders, and target population.
“It would be easier if we just said, ‘Okay, we are going to try to tackle one issue.’ But the intersectionality of all those issues and the complexity of what is needed right now,” says Michelle Baldwin, member of the Transformation team at CFC. “To me the transformation work is more about figuring out the levers for change, as opposed to only trying to create the change itself.” And philanthropy is simply “one sector of this movement building, and we need collaboration across sectors.”
Another relevant concept is that of the “deep narrative,” introduced by UK narrative strategist Ruth Taylor. Deep narratives reveal the conditioned ways of perceiving, thinking, and acting that lie underneath the rigid paradigms and systems that govern our society. This psychosocial approach to collective thought bases narratives on inherent human traits, such as stereotyping being a result of pattern recognition, and anti-migration sentiments as unfamiliarity and the “fear of the other.” Like fish not recognizing their ways of living are governed by water, despite, and because of them being surrounded by it, we can be oblivious to how deeply culturally embedded these narratives can be. In other words, as David Foster Wallace famously quoted, “This is the water we swim in.”
Taylor suggests three ways of conducting deep narrative change: “thinking across movements” by groups forming around function and moving away from entity thinking; finding a common cause and aligning against an issue; immersing the public within the right deep narratives through social and cultural means such as art and community. Web3 and DAOs (decentralized autonomous organizations) can be seen to be holding the potential to be doing all three via cross-DAO collaboration, purpose-driven identity, and decentralized organization that supports creation and participation.
Finally, minds can only be transformed when there is a purposeful goal, and community members can visualize themselves as part of something bigger. Participation is contagious, and purpose can be a powerful force for development, however it may take place. Soul, soil, oil – whichever analogy you use, no system, be it a body, tree network, or rocket, can function without fuel. The future is not a single destination. We are bound by the present, but conditions in the future can mean different things for different people, and thus create a spectrum of futures. How we decide to act now will determine what each destination will look like and how many of us can afford a ticket to the one we desire.
“The question is,” Chunilall asks, “How do you stay at the front end of the change so you can influence it for good?”