I’ve been thinking a lot about engagement these days. In the upcoming elections in the United States we are seeing a dramatic rise in new political candidates running for office and more voter participation than in the last 50 years. We see more protests and demonstrations of free speech, freedom to assemble, freedom to dissent. Citizens are engaging in the tools of a democratic system that are guaranteed them by a Constitution forged by the vision and principles of those who came before us.
On the flip side there is also a trend towards dis-engagement. The 24/7 news cycle and social media channels produce a fire hose of information that is ever more provocative and overwhelming. If you are like me, you might need to press the pause button or put yourself on a “media diet” from time to time.
It can be challenging to find balance between creative engagement that generates new solutions and connections, and a complete disengagement due to the overwhelming impact of the news cycle.
These days I find hope for the world in examples and models of constructive engagement: people engaged wholeheartedly in the creation of the future of our society, our country, and our world.
This week I witnessed a group of community members, about 150 in all, come together in a day long facilitated summit to vision the future of their region and their county. I witnessed, in my role as graphic facilitator, a group of people turn reality upside down and shift the often heard refrain of: “we don’t know what the future holds,” to something more like, “we create and envision our future together.” In this gathering I saw a group of community members from different backgrounds, ages, occupations, genders and races come together and enact Margaret Mead’s call to action:
“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed it’s the only thing that ever has.”
Engagement—it takes grit; it takes putting down our cell phones; it takes getting uncomfortable in important and challenging conversations. The results of engagement can be an opening to new ways of thinking and seeing, and the creation of a world that we can stand up for and champion—against all odds. Our collective future is ours to create. What future will you stand up for? And what small first step can you take to create that future today in your community?