Curated Story
Sandra Lafleur
Source: Sandra-Lafleur

The Collective Work of Building Individual Agency

This article originally appeared on Stanford Social Innovation Review

Jacob had just told me he wasn’t attending the upcoming weekend’s justice hackathon, a community-wide challenge to improve relationships between communities of color and law enforcement. I had assumed Jacob—one of our founding changemaking student ambassadors—would be excited to attend and get involved in the movement towards justice and better policing.

No way I’m going! I'm a young Black man. Why would I want to be in a room full of police officers?”

“But that’s exactly WHY you need to be there!” I said.

Then we sat in silence, staring at one another and considering the weight of the expectations and experiences coming through our words.

However unintentionally, my first reaction to Jacob was to dismiss his words and his decision. In that moment, I undervalued his understanding of what it meant to be a changemaker. In that conversation with him, my narratives were telling me that changemakers “got in the ring,” and “spoke their truths” in order to “show up for others” and a host of other clichés. But there was a gap in our conversation, and while that silence was only a moment—just an instant in time—it represented that void of understanding, of curiosity, of acceptance for his narrative.

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Ashoka insight

Supporting changemakers is more than just a matter of skill-building and participating in the right opportunities. The collective work of changemaking highlights our shared responsibility to change our own mindsets, too, and to be trustworthy in supporting the entire process.