School of System Change - November 1
I knew going into this school that I was going to be the youngest one there, but for some reason I was far from nervous. I remembered to give myself a small pep talk about being extroverted and make the most of my time there, so I launched a confident me into the classroom on day one. Each day was long and the students and teachers were more than kind. The majority of the class were from corporate sustainability backgrounds and everyone was a woman except for one. We had a few ice breakers to describe how we felt being in the school. I picked an image of a grasshopper on a wooden table as I felt both like the grasshopper as well as the piece of wood represented me: grounded and about to take a leap. The school days were a cycling of different teachers coming to us.
Though I was smug from my little research in systems from college, I felt I was also intuitively soaking it all up because of my biology background. I held a minor reservation because the material itself was discussing change, yet not discussing the change of different oppressed groups of people. It seemed to be the reoccurring theme as I learn about this field, but this time I followed what I learned from the Oslo conference and spoke up to the group during one of the activities. I felt nervous as I spoke “I want to acknowledge the people who are not in this room…” but I was surprised at how others responded in agreement. During another early activity we were tasked with explaining our story of how we came here, but not the one that we normally tell.
I dove headfirst into this activity and picked up the pink rather than green crayon and began telling my story. There was no sloth and five year old realization about the environment, instead it became was a story about gender. I felt vulnerable talking about my relationship with gender with complete strangers, but it was also an exercise in how different stories of our past shape our present view of ourselves. I realized I never touch upon gender in reflections of myself and childhood.
Throughout the school I got to work with each of my peers as we practiced applying the theories into practice. I felt right at home among everyone despite the fact that I still did not have job experience. In these moments, I sought advice for what I needed, as I felt I was in a rut in that department, which warped my perception of myself and who I was.
During the last day, we did an exercise called powerful questions, which I have since done with friends over long-distance phone calls with beautiful results. In this exercise, one person would pose their burning question (the question that keeps you up at night), and the other people would offer questions back to them to help them hone their question into their burning question. It was in this activity and those similar to this that I felt the “professionalism” melt away into humanity and vulnerability. Coming out of college having spent time with friends practicing vulnerability this was nothing new, but it was wonderful to hear my peers in this school talk about how wonderful it was to be vulnerable in a professional setting. I was new to the whole concept of professionalism, so my idealism of what should be done would often butt heads with my peers who had lived experience of the economic obstacles. Why would big business change? You need an economic argument. Although I recognize this “weakness” that I needed to learn how to speak the economic argument for corporation change, I also see the economic argument as using the same thinking that created the problems in the first place.
However, am I just using this Einstein quote about how you can’t solve problems using the same thinking that created them to walk around putting in the work to learn those economic arguments? The strange thing is that economics is not my gut. In other words, my intuition (the accumulation of environmental, biology and life classes and experience) does not run on economic benefits, yet I have to somehow explain this “intuition” into economic profits. How can that be communicated, and how can that type of translation help a world that has enough profit though not enough valuation of intuition. Often I find intuition can serve as the compass needle of humanity, as we search for our morality and ethics again. At least ethics and morality is where the Systems Design conference has pointed me.
Regardless, as the class came to an end I felt like I was a part of a beautiful collection of people, and I am excited to see where this ongoing school journey leads us.