Last week the theme of trust came up in my work. On two occasions I was asked to comment on engagement in systemic change. One question was framed as, how can I as one individual in a large system contribute to systems transformation?
My response was three fold. I encourage us to think about what it means to have trust in yourself, trust in the community, and trust in the process.
Trust in oneself is about knowing yourself and being accountable for the work that you need to do, be it unlearning, observing and examining biases, strengthening active listening skills or modeling what it means to de-centre whiteness. It’s about cultivating an individual practice and knowing that with each action you take there is a ripple effect. Your actions and behaviours that centre equity in one to one conversations or group dialogue and decision making, and even those actions that you take by yourself at your desk will have an impact beyond those spaces.
Trust that the collective work you are doing with community is accelerating systems change. Anti-racism and anti-oppression work is enhanced by collaborative work that is informed by a diversity of community or team members. When we trust in community and engage with equity deserving groups we have an opportunity to demonstrate trust by our actions and words. We also have an opportunity to create transformative spaces founded on respect, equity and justice. In my community engagement work with leaders I speak about “inviting in community members with care” and what this might look like. Picture a space where the wisdom of the most vulnerable person in the room is prioritized. Picture a decision making process that is informed by the lived and living experiences of community members that are often excluded. Trusting that we can change the system with and alongside those that are historically ignored, and often most impacted by social policies can be a game changer when it comes to systems transformation.
Finally, trust in the process, and this is where the biggest leap of faith is needed. Trust in the process is about recognizing that change often doesn't come fast or easy. While we are working to disrupt and dismantle the status quo, we need to be monitoring the pace of work, the short-term gains and progress as we journey. I often draw upon past examples of systems change to keep me motivated. We are in a unique time post pandemic where we have recent examples of significant systems transformation that we can draw upon. During the pandemic we witnessed systems change at a very fast rate, some of it good and some of it not so good, but it happened, we changed and the system changed. Think about how the way we work has changed, think about how workplace values and priorities have shifted, and perhaps you can identify examples of sector change where leaders and boards have revised policy and processes to be more equitable and inclusive. Remembering our capacity to evolve, and recalling examples of systems change can fuel your energy for existing initiatives that you are involved in.
If you are also wondering how you can make a difference or contribute to systems change, I encourage you to think about how you might build trust in yourself, trust in your team or community, and how you might take that leap of faith and trust that the system can be transformed.
Chanel Grenaway & Associates Inc. is committed to helping leaders, staff teams and boards stay relevant and aligned with their anti-racism and inclusion goals through continuous learning and practice change. Do you need support to start or accelerate your equity practice and outcomes? Happy to hop on a call with you to see how I might help. Let’s chat.