Giving Compass’ Take:
• Becca Dove and Tim Fisher explain the value of relational activism and offer three ways to engage in the practice to lead social action.
• How can these practices advance your philanthropic efforts?
• Read about building momentum in social change work.
Here are three relational activist values that can be practiced in everyday relationships and workplaces, along with examples of how they can lead to social action.
1. Be Curious and Connect
Certainty can drive a wedge between people. We might presume, for example, that a young person carrying a weapon is dangerous and wants to hurt others. But consciously staying curious about others can help us resist settling into those comfortable, polarizing opinions; by questioning why we think what we think—“I wonder why that young person carries a weapon? Why did I jump to that conclusion?”—we can learn what we might not otherwise think to ask.
The Human Library is a good example of a space opened for curiosity. First developed in Denmark two decades ago, it recruits volunteers with a unique life story to tell to take on the role of “books,” explaining aspects of their lives that might arouse prejudices, such as autism, bipolar disorder, homelessness, unemployment, or refugee status.
2. Examine Everyday Interactions
There is power in the everyday. Relational activists consciously check in on the language we use, whether inflammatory or respectful, and whether the tone of our voice feels challenging or open; simply taking a breath before we respond angrily to a social media post allows us to reflect on why it provokes that reaction and on what other perspectives we might have. Examining everyday interactions helps us become conscious of how our own actions feel to other people, to stay open to more than one idea, and to hold ourselves to account for how we behave.
Interfaith Philadelphia’s The Year of Civil Conversations Project, for example, set out to “plant relationship and conversation around the subjects we fight about intensely.”
Relational activists share stories, something powerful and distinct from storytelling. While telling stories can lead to empathy, the act can also create barriers between the speaker and the listener. Storysharing, by contrast, is reciprocal. We believe that if you want to connect with someone, you have to be open to sharing a part of yourself as well. Making sense of each other by showing vulnerability helps us build compassion and break down barriers, rather than creating new ones.
Take, for example, the “Relationships Making the Difference” event we ran at Camden Council in April this year, which brought together a diverse group to share stories in facilitated conversation.
Read the full article about relational activism by Becca Dove and Tim Fisher at Stanford Social Innovation Review.
Since you are interested in Impact Philanthropy, have you read these selections from Giving Compass related to impact giving and Impact Philanthropy?
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