I have just finished a ZOOM meeting with Ben, one of the great members of Project CHANGE 2019-2020 and I just want to share the overflow of our conversation so that I do not forget what came out of our sharing.
Ben is serving his second year with MCPS and about to sign on for his third and he is someone we cherish in our team because he is so reflective, always curious to not just understand the actions and choices but the belief and assumptions that underlie most of what we do.
Ben has a number of hunches that he has been testing out during his year of service and he says, they have worked to shift his mindset. Let me try and summarize some of them.
1. Right now, there seems to be something missing in how we experience community and trust and our shared sense of purpose. There are solutions but if we are to get at the heart of this, we need to ask ourselves what builds trust?
2.Ben says that formal meetings driven by time and agenda often never achieve their full potential because people are afraid to take risks. If they experience a sense of friendship, that goes along with the work ethic, that could make a difference, but how does one build more than a functional togetherness?
3. Trust goes along with a sense of possibility, that as we engage with each other, we leave behind our limits and our pessimism and that we presume that if we can connect, there are ways to share and ways to work that could take us to territory that we have never experienced before. Trust feeds on the sense of possibility that it creates.
4. Ben also questions the role that criticism plays and that while we say that constructive critisism is necessary at times, he says that more often than not, it shuts people down and dilutes the trust. He suspects that one can get to the same place that the criticism aims to take us without a conversation that calls out another for what they are doing wrong.
5. Ben has a superb reputatilon at MCPS and when I asked him how he achieved such recognition and affection, he said simply that he has learned to live and work together without using criticism. He has taught himself a way to ask questions and to rephrase what might have sounded like “Do it better this way” into an offer or an invitation or a contribution. He is careful with his conversations and deliberate about the words he chooses to use.
6. Ben is on a mission to find more people who think like this and want to expore the reflective way into more effective practices in terms of how we team together, how we build trust and how we move together toward a more healthy community.
7. One has conversations in AmeriCorps that are usually devoted to the stories of service and the challenges to be overcome, but this conversation is truly fitting for a program that calls itself Project CHANGE.