I was asked one day: why do you talk about a “sense of
connectedness”? Isn’t it about your networking skills? Get good contacts for
your business, know when and where to show up, and grow your business with all
the knowledge, the wisdom and the opportunities you have gathered?
There’s that… and much more.
In 2008, a talk I attended in London during
International Women’s Rights Day totally shifted my views. The guest was Angela
Davis, the human rights and political
activist, a professor in philosophy, and the founder of Critical Resistance,
an organization working to abolish the prison-industrial complex.
Back in the 70s, as a
leader of Communist Party in the USA and the Black Panthers Party, she was
branded a terrorist and was sent to jail, for being allegedly associated with a
crime. Her friends and supporters did manage to keep her campaign in the
limelight, and worked tirelessly through hundreds of committees in the US and
abroad to get her released. This fight became an important milestone in the
fight against racism, which is sadly still largely unresolved.
Why did she touch me?
Something in particular caught
my attention. When Diane Abbott MP, who interviewed her, asked her: “What kept
you going all this time?” She said: “Remember I wasn’t the one demonstrating on
the streets, I was behind bars. What kept me going is knowing that I was connected.
What kept me going, is that our message was out there. What kept me going is that sense of connectedness”.
The penny dropped.
Despite all the tireless Angela Davises in the world, we still have to fight so
many campaigns today, injustices, the regression of civil liberties, the
mis-distribution of wealth, the persistent racism, sexism, the consistent
pillage of resources and the list goes on…
But I understand that if you combat these issues separately, without
understanding systems and connections, you end up like King
Sisyphus endlessly rolling a huge boulder up a steep hill, letting it roll
down, and start all over again. Not worth the back pain.
What do you learn from this and why is it important in your day-to-day
Growing a sense of
connectedness is an act of bravery, humility, and generosity.
Growing a sense of
connectedness is about letting go of your intentions to fix things straight
I am hearing: “How do you measure connectedness?”
Make a rough start by
defining the way you interact with people and
how you build relationships to achieve mutual goals.
Along the way, you will
identify people/organisations that have mutual goals.
You will map the activities
you need to design or engage with to meet with these relevant
You will decide how you effectively
engage with relevant people/organisations
And collect evidence of how
relationships have been built to progress work or enhance your impact.
And you will put together
the evidence of change that has occurred as a result of people coming together…
But don’t go yet. That
was the easy part.
Here’s what I learned
from Dr Davis:
When you work to solve a social issue, you have to understand the complexity of that ecosystem. Remember that you are often seeing an issue
through your own internal filters. And as good willed as we might be, we are
all heavily biased.
The minute your campaign gets out there, any people involved
closely or remotely, will carry the message based on how it resonates with
them. The campaign, the cause, doesn’t
belong to you anymore. (A bit like an art work, when it is out there, you
have to accept that its meaning, and interpretation, is not locked and cast in
Immerse yourself: invest some time in exploring the problem you are trying to
resolve. Start by shadowing as many people in their environment as you can.
Listen to them, read about their issue. Investigate the issue without
interfering, without judging, without blaming. And if you are touched by the
problem, seek support to deconstruct and articulate the circumstances you are
in. It can be a non-judgmental friend, a coach, a mentor or a therapist if you
can afford/access one.
questioning: open questions, non-judgmental questions,
silence! This is where your coaching skills can be very valuable!
At every step of the way, you have to accept that your biases and your background are heavily
filtering your understanding of the situation. You will NEVER know how it
feels to be homeless, unless you have been homeless. You will never know how it
feels to be attacked, until you have been attacked. You will never know how
humiliating it can be to be given charity, until you have been in a situation
of mental or physical deprivation. And these are only a few examples.
Growing a sense of connectedness is accepting that you don’t know and being in a perpetual mode of
searching, challenging black and white solutions, or half-baked study
headlines. It is about accepting that solutions are never perfect and the
closest they can be to perfect is limited by time and space. However growing
your empathy is a key to reach better connectedness. Listen to Brene Brown
explaining her definition
A sense of connectedness is seeing
patterns and relationships before they even take place or where they might
have been “misplaced”. It’s being pulled by the final desired outcomes and
capturing the tiniest details that can trigger the wildest change! Cassi
Robinson, co founder of The Point People, explains it beautifully here in an
article about the “networked
It is about opening
yourself to your deepest vulnerabilities and starting from ground zero. (Read
how I did it here,
page 26-27) Can you look into the mirror and say: how
about I start doing what I am preaching? How about I practice self-care in a
way that will make me less of a jerk with others, less misaligned, less fed up,
or less overwhelmed? How about I start to be more like the person I want people
to enjoy being with and learning from. How about I get things done in a way
that is good enough and inclusive enough, and totally connected with the rest
And finally, how about
knocking on your neighbours’ door?
Ogunte can work with you around connectedness
We help women in social enterprises map
and understand the complexity of their ecosystem, form quality and relevant
knowledge, and power networks, and address personal sense of connectedness
along the way.