Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Sifting (short rant on ineffective framing)

I'm sifting.

Websites, reports, presentations, information to help move forward the dialogue in my country about how we want to be. I'm looking for useful data and I'm finding a lot of...words.

Here is what I am coming to in all this sifting. The people who control policy, and in fact most tax payers, care a great deal about cost and ROI. Yet as I sift through all the reams and reams of "data" and reports from people concerned with advancing the case of social equity and inclusion, hardly a dollar sign do I find. Eventually, I simply started doing a search for "$" before even starting a scan of the 64 pages of well-argued rhetoric I knew would follow the convoluted introduction. Rarely were the few dollar signs I found attached to useful ROI information. They were usually an expression of dismay at the plight of the disadvantaged, or a cost.

I think we are answering the wrong questions first. We seem to be jumping to how to solve problems that we have not all agreed need solving, without really talking about where the money will come from. And as a result, we are building in assumptions that do not serve us. We end up talking with each other, whining about how to get "them" to our table. What are we serving? What aroma might catch "their" noses?

Even if we weren't producing too much of our information in daunting reports and complicated frameworks, even if we were shoveling it out in exciting bite-sized chunks, we would not be successful. Because we are answering the right questions in the wrong order, then answering them with answers that require a level of agreement we have not achieved because we skipped over that sticky, fundamental First Question.

What are the rights we accord each other, and the responsibilities we owe each other, in this relationship which is community?

Or another way...

What is the minimum a person is "owed" and the maximum a person (or corporation) should be expected to "give"? And conversely, what is the minimum a person must give, and the maximum they are owed?

The answers vary wildly but we pretend there is a right one and it's ours. Can we try to grapple with the questions together, instead of working around the big, fat, elephant butt on the table? The elephant that keeps us talking to ourselves on opposite sides, trying to catch a peek of what's going on over there, yelling to get our point across.

Can we start to converse about rights and responsibilities, and the heartfelt beliefs people hold around these elusive and demanding concepts? I have a feeling everything else rests on these conversations we have among ourselves, every day, where we live and work and play. So how do we get the conversations going and make sure they are informed, when most people would rather talk about almost anything than what they really believe and how acceptable that is to others?

This is our work, my friends. I am preparing to join the fray.

(PS: If this post seems a little different than what you're used to, you won't be surprised to learn that this is the first post for my new blog which doesn't exist yet, on holdonhope.ca, which I haven't created yet. For now, I am housing this post here, though I realize that the rhythm isn't quite the norm for this space.)


  1. Marvelous post...

    Intriguing questions...

    Bravo :-)

  2. Things I wonder about often but never know how to articulate...you amaze me.


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