Tuesday, July 30, 2013

GrayPeace? Try imaging

"Has there been any deliberate dialog about the future?"
--Mary L. Ohmer & Karen DeMasi

The peace movement is old and white. Some might wonder, so how is the next generation ever going to seek peace? They are not involved much.

Perhaps it's time to start imaging.

Invite everyone to a work session that you schedule for two hours. Tell them this is the precursor to the development of a strategic work plan. Schedule the meeting for the convenience of the youth in your group. Seriously. Get as many young people to that meeting as you possibly can. Tell them the truth: A planning meeting for the future of the group is crucially dependent on the young ones who have the most at stake. A two-hour window is not really enough to conduct an authentic imaging process, but for most groups it's often all they can ask of young members.

Before you do this, get commitment from one of your youth to be your co-facilitator. Familiarize that person with the bare bones of the imaging process:
1. guided imagery exercise (5 min)
2. individual imaging of a snapshot of a personal scene in a world of peace in 20 years (5 min)
3. sharing those scenes (15 min)
4. group brainstorm of more details of a world without war that exists in 20 years (15 min)
5. collective production of a vision of that world at peace (30 min)
6. construction of a future's history, working backward (30 min)
7. brainstorm of action steps (20 min)

If someone who is 22 years old is thinking about that world when she is 42, she can come out of your meeting feeling stronger and supported, encouraged and enabled by your group. She, and everyone in the group, will have a much more clear sense of her emerging leadership role. She can see how she can be more effective and self-directed, becoming the point person for meaningful projects that prepare the group for its own sustainable role in promoting positive peace. She can see that her currently defined role is one that has a long-term, morphing trajectory that will be important.
If your group feels good about the process, you can return to it and expand certain portions to help gain resolution of that vision, or you can proceed with the results of your session for a while and do it again after some time has elapsed. Re-visioning can be quite powerful and productive. Choosing a particular piece or person or project and focusing on a more detailed and clear vision of that is also quite helpful. For me, it helped my own strategic set of steps from local community organizer to published academic in the study of nonviolence. I still don't know if that direction is the wisest, but it seemed so to me all those years ago when I facilitated an envisioning workshop at the Sigurd Olson Environmental Institute in northern Wisconsin. No, I did not achieve every piece of my personal part of that visioning session (the most powerful one I ever participated in for me personally), but it did change the direction of my life and created a line of sight that has worked, more or less, ever since.

There is no magic formula for the recruitment and retention of youth in your movement, your campaign, or your group, but imaging the future with a special focus on the individual youth who are participating is a strong step in that direction.

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