The teacher in question was very polite about expressing his concerns. Put simply he felt the values and practices of some of my clients from the corporate world were at odds with his own. In considering this reasonably put challenge I reflected that the values of many of the individuals in the corporate, educational and healthcare sectors that I work with are not totally in alignment with my own and sometimes in direct opposition.
However, more importantly to the process of developing as individuals and as teams, I would suggest that when we seek to engage only with people whose values are in line with our own we run the risk of creating closed tribes and not open communities. The potential for learning and growth is then significantly minimised.
Enjoying your tribe: acknowledging the challenge
We all enjoy the reassuring rituals and practices, ideas and opinions of people that see the world like us. Whatever that world looks like. The benefit of finding your ‘tribe’, if open and healthy, is that it provides support and guidance when needed. The ultimate tribe is a loving family. Whatever that means to you.
My role when working with organisations is to explore the shared goals (purpose) and dreams (passions) of the tribe (team, department or group) and how this fits the needs and aspirations of the wider community (organisation, school, location, country or world). And here is where the challenge lies and the need to find points of contact rather than points of conflict.
If we assume that everyone has the potential, individually or collectively, to create value then all will be well. However, if we assume that a particular group, class, gender or social group all think and act in a particular way then the problems begin. There is little point in engaging with a challenge if the parties involved in that challenge are convinced of their own superiority over others.
When someone is so closed as to dismiss whole sections of society based on the actions of some within that social group then it is difficult, if not impossible, to create any real and lasting change.
Working within a community of learners: We are all human
Back to my teacher. We (me, said teacher and wider school community) are involved in a social enterprise programme supporting some of the most vulnerable and challenging young people in a school to make effort in their own lives to manage their personal sense of purpose and passion as they prepare for their GCSE exams.
The teacher, who has huge compassion and concern for the pupils and the project is, in principle, totally committed to offering whatever practical support he can.
We are using the same value creating processes that we use on all our programmes*. We are using digital learning tools to support them and provide them with learning links and resources directly to their phones and on the school learning platform. They can text or post their thoughts and feedback and we will respond quickly to adapt to their needs. We are also linking their own personal challenges to a shared social goal.
By this I mean that they, as part of the project, have to raise awareness of as well and money and teaching resources for children, young people and adults who are attending makeshift schools in ‘the jungle’ in Calais^.
The teachers initial commitment to the programme cooled off when he perceived that if I work for corporates then I could not really have the same level of commitment to the needs of the students as he did associating, as I was, with money grabbing, socially irresponsible corporates.
What I find interesting is that when working in the more global commercial arenas when they see that my CV includes education and social care they perceive that I’m some kind of undercover hippy that wants to bring peace and love to the world. Neither are correct, and lack a basic truth: we are all human.
*The is the P.U.P.A.E. process: 1 Passion and Purpose 2. Understand roles, responsibilities and rewards 3. Plan 4 Act 5. Evaluate and Embed.
^For more on this approach to project based learning go to www.realprojects.org
If you are not for us, you must be against us
The closed mindset from an individual or institutional habit can manifest itself as excessive or destructive. Put bluntly, it polarises and oversimplifies the reality into a binary ‘us and them’. From this position it is very easy to dismiss the other and difficult to establish a productive learning community. At worst it is directly confrontational: If you are not for us you must be against us as one G. W. Bush once said.
The drive for commercial success, as we are seeing in our current financial crisis, leads to profit at any cost. Exploitation of the poor and vulnerable for the benefit of the rich and powerful. Individuals here too, like the social minded educators, can and do, reject the possibility of creating more secure, successful and sustained models of wealth creation by falling into the simple trap of only wanting to work with people that they can see reflect their own drives and practices.
Moving beyond conflict
The challenge for these two tribes is to see the point of contact not conflict. To focus on the possibilities of the future not the legacy of the past. To prove the theory by taking action. To shape a new more complex, compassionate, secure and successful world by celebrating the points of contact between others not just the points of conflict.
All of us will continue to meet passionate resistance from people we work with, from people who have convinced themselves that they know what you do, what you stand for and will not want you to be part of their tribe. And there will be people with whom you can easily form a tribe.
Today: recognise who the people around you are, the assumptions we all make and the challenges we all face in moving beyond your tribe to engage in the community. When you do this take note of the the long term benefit to them and others, it will be significant and it will be worth the numerous rejections and failures on the road to that one victory.