The past 16 months have been pretty heavy, and many of us have been re-examining different aspects of our lives – from personal values to relationships, to work, to our own spirituality. Some foundations have been shaken, and others have withstood the test of time. I think there are very few of us who can honestly say we have not gone through some kind of change or transformation.
Now, we have reached the summer of what I like to call “our great unburdening:” throwing off the shackles of the past year (and almost a half). We are leaving our homes, heading out on the highways and airways, socializing, eating at restaurants, going to ball games and concerts, etc. Almost a frenzy of release as we charge forward – and it is invigorating. Many of us are also returning to our offices, some more slowly or quickly than others.
In the nonprofit sector, the work that we are returning to – problems that existed pre-covid – have not disappeared, but they have morphed. They have evolved into issues that are more complex, requiring further examination and exploration. Many requiring a systems change approach.
I have been processing this from my own personal and work perspective, doing a lot of reading. As I have been doing this, I came across an article and a book caught my attention. Both were discussing systems change through the same lens: a spiritual lens.
I had not necessarily thought of systems change from a spiritual perspective until I read the article written by Sheryl Petty, Ed,D. and Mark Leach, MPPM, DBA on Systems Change and Deep Equity. They describe how systems change must flow through the personal, interpersonal, institutional and societal needs for deep, transformational change.
The book I picked up next, Emergent Strategies, by Adrienne Maree Brown, also applied a spiritual lens to systems change insisting we work collaboratively, dismiss the competitive edge, and look deep within ourselves to make meaningful connections across the sector. Only through this more holistic approach can we realize a different outcome than those we have been aspiring to previously.
As I consider systems change from these perspectives, I realize we must look at the systems we have created and how those systems will impact our world, and the people who live in it. How do the systems through which we function perpetuate existing problems – through history and habit? How can we reconcile the need to re-examine systems, without understanding our own personal values and beliefs? This impacts everything from the environment to childcare to housing to food insecurity to domestic violence to health care, to juvenile incarceration to racial inequity in all of the above. The list goes on and on. We, sadly, are all very familiar with these lists because they are the underbelly that COVID-19 laid bare.
The intersection of spirituality as we look at racial equity, social justice, and transformational change of the systems we have created is palpable; especially as we begin to emerge and engage in discussions in and of the communities we serve. I feel like this lens is constantly being turned inward and if we can look more closely, we will be better able to engage with each other and the communities where we live. Then – and only then – real change can begin to take place.
For now, and a bit into the future, the joyous frenzy of being “freed” may prevail. But, as we get back to work, I hope we all do so with a renewed perspective, and hopefully through a more spiritual lens.