Through the Prism

After passing through the prism, each refraction contains some pure essence of the light, but only an incomplete part. We will always experience some aspect of reality, of the Truth, but only from our perspectives as they are colored by who and where we are. Others will know a different color and none will see the whole, complete light. These are my musings from my particular refraction.

7.19.2013

The Power of Conversation

"This is the reverse of the usual top-down strategies, and it worked."

If things go badly for me tonight, I want you to stay with Mr. Wynter; he will pay you a decent wage."

"Will he make me bathe?"

"No, he will debate the matter with you until you decide to wash."

"Ah.  One of those."

 ~ Eoin Colfer, Airman
It's certainly the case in my work world, and I would guess it's the same in most, that talk of change is common.  How to embrace change instead of fearing it, how to help employees deal with change, etc.  Whether in the workplace or anywhere, I've always believed the most important ingredient in any change effort has to be open, honest conversation.  Sharing stories and hearing each other.  Expressing concerns and anxieties, feeling understood, and exploring different perspectives.  For a bit more on these ideas, see what I think of as part of my statement of purpose as a librarian, "What Is Your Perspective? (Part II)."

For an example of the idea in action, see this excellent article about conversation bringing about radical change in Africa:

Talking Female Circumcision Out of Existence

A study (pdf) done for the Innocenti Research Center, a research arm of Unicef, found that cutting had only 3 percent support in 2008 — down from 97 percent in 1999. This is a remarkable achievement. There is nothing more difficult than persuading people to give up long-held cultural practices, especially those bound up in taboo subjects like sex. . . . 

KMG relies on a method called community conversations. It was developed by Dr. Moustapha Gueye, a longtime organizer of anti-AIDS community networks in Africa, who then took the idea to the United Nations Development Program (pdf). But it is built on the ancient African practice of talking things out — community elders gather under a tree and discuss a problem again and again until they reach consensus. Gebre was the first to apply community conversations to the issue of cutting. . . . 

All of the successful methods have one thing in common — a factor that is also responsible for the success of the Positive Deviance strategy I wrote about in February: “You must allow the community to decide for themselves rather than condemning,” said Gebre. “To make people understand the harm that comes to their children you can’t come in and tell them ‘you are doing bad and must stop.’”

Changing the law is a step, but only one step. In many places where cutting is outlawed, it is widely practiced in secret. “It doesn’t stop when they superficially raise their hands, or when religious leaders say ‘we declare it will stop,’” said Gebre. “It has to come from inside the community. It has to be discussed over and over again, in the African tradition. That’s how change comes.” . . . 

Eventually, 85 percent of people in Kembata-Tembaro joined one or more community conversations, and participants were encouraged to discuss what they had heard with family and friends over coffee or during long walks to fetch water. . . . 

This is the reverse of the usual top-down strategies, and it worked. Unicef found that by 2008 circumcision had been almost completely abandoned. Government enforcement helped — but probably more important was that social stigma against uncut girls had vanished. Remarkably, Haile Gabriel Dagne, the Addis Ababa University professor who wrote the report, found that some families “unwillingly tolerated that their daughters remained uncut to improve their daughters’ marriage prospects.” . . . 

Community conversations are now spreading through Ethiopia in areas of all religions. Gebre said KMG was reaching six million people in southern Ethiopia. The conversations range more broadly than health and gender violence. “We use it for everything – governance, social empowerment — anything we do, community conversation has become our tool,” said Gebre. . . . 

Found here

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