My Role in a Social Change Ecosystem: A Mid-Year Check-In

At the beginning of 2019, I shared a reflection about how to move off the seesaw of outrage and numbness that many of us find ourselves on these days. To my surprise, so many of you resonated with the image and guiding questions in that reflection, and used it in your own work and at your organizations. I’ve edited the image and guiding questions in light of conversations I have had and the helpful feedback I have received. I hope that this framework continues to be useful in your mid-year individual and organizational check-ins. (November 2022 Update: For the most recent updates to the framework, please read this article and visit www.socialchangemap.com).

In our lives and as part of movements and organizations, many of us play different roles in pursuit of equity, liberation, inclusion, and justice.

November 2022. All rights reserved. For more information and usage guidelines, please visit www.socialchangemap.com.

Some of us are frontline responders who quickly and ably transition into rapid-response mode instinctively and organize resources, networks, and messages.

Some of us are healers who tend to the individual and intergenerational traumas of white supremacy, racism, colonialism, capitalism, patriarchy, and nativism.

Some of us are community storytellers and artists, binding the past and the present, channeling the histories and experiences of our ancestors to shed light on what is possible today.

Some of us are natural bridge builders who can work across divisions with patience and compassion.

Some of us are proud disruptors who speak up and take action — especially when it is uncomfortable and risky.

Some of us are caregivers who provide nourishment to organizers, exude concern and love, and create a community of care.

Some of us are visionaries, with the ability to find, articulate, and reconnect us to our north star, even when we cannot clearly see the sky.

And others of us are builders who are actively developing the ideas, the structures, and the scaffolding for our organizations and movements.

Not all of us can (or should) play each of these roles. We might also find ourselves falling into different roles depending on personal and external circumstances. Or, we might be observers and supporters from the side from time to time. An effective, healthy, and sustainable social change ecosystem requires different actors to play these roles, and often, at different times.

Here are some guiding questions to use along with the image above.

Organizations could answer the same questions with an eye towards understanding and assessing how they function as part of a campaign, coalition, network, or ecosystem, and how they can course correct or deepen their impact.

People and groups, from non-profits to teachers to students to “professional” activists, have used the image and guiding questions at staff meetings and retreats as well as to aid with your own personal reflections and check-ins. I hope you’ll do so as well! And, if you have feedback, I’d love to hear it. Please drop me a line at deepa@deepaiyer.com.

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Deepa Iyer

Social change movements & Solidarity. Work at Building Movement Project. Writer, Social Change Now; We Too Sing America. Host, Solidarity is This podcast.