The following is a re-post of a recent piece by Frankie Blackburn featured on the Boston Rising Web Site this past week:
At Boston Rising, we think of all Americans as part of a single class. We call it the “Rising Class.” The Rising Class is made up of those who, through their individual aspirations and their awareness of interdependency with each other, are the basis on which we build opportunity and growth.
As a member of the Boston Rising team, I believe that a huge inhibitor to “one Rising Class” or transformative community change is the underlying assumption that power is finite and that in any one community, some people will win and some will lose.
Yes, positional power is finite. And, yes, civil society needs positional power to function efficiently and effectively. But, personal power is infinite and can be recognized and shared on a consistent basis within community systems. A culture that fosters sharing power offers the collective ground needed to support community members in sharing their best gifts and achieving their highest potential. The practice of sharing personal power ensures that positional power is merely a practical instrument and not the dominate frame.
I understand that asking diverse community residents “to share power” seems big and perhaps overly optimistic. So, instead, think of sharing power as a call for you and others to start on a new journey while “carrying” two items with you along this journey. The first item you must carry and use on this journey is a backpack containing your unique kernel of power. All of us are born with unique qualities to contribute. Any time you meet with a fellow community member or hold a small team meeting, make sure you have your backpack with you. Even if you do not fully know or understand your unique kernel of power, remember that you have it to give and it is available to you.
The second item to always carry and use is an empty treasure chest. The purpose of this chest is to remind you that you are on a treasure hunt for kernels of power held by your fellow community members. Again, when you sit with someone for a cup of coffee or hold a meeting to talk about a particular community issue or initiative bring your treasure chest and actively seek out the treasures offered to you through your engagement with others.
Over time, if you repeatedly focus on harnessing your personal power while also exploring the personal power of others, you will begin to uncover new resources and solutions that you couldn’t have imagined. If you practice sharing power repeatedly, then over time in interactions with others, you will begin to see the unfolding of a new and transformed community ecosystem.
If you are still feeling skeptical or uncomfortable with the practice of “power sharing,” think of it in terms of four simple behavioral shifts.
Shift One: Understanding your own unique personal power.