Inside-Out Engagement

We have to get engaged within ourselves to be successfully engaged outside ourselves.

A lot of people are concerned with thrusting individuals from moving past themselves towards only seeing the worlds around them. I’m concerned this approach only keeps us stuck in the trap of doing for others what they could be doing for themselves. In a similar way, this approach also keeps organizations doing for individuals what individuals could be doing for themselves. I’m not talking about feeding the poor, planting trees in ecosystem restorations, or shoveling old folks’ sidewalks, either.

Instead, Heartspace is about supporting, sustaining, and expanding the critical understanding individual people have of engagement. The old model of community engagement relied on people being the passive recipients of external attempts to draw them towards a particular topic, action, approach, organization, or idea. The Heartspace model activates the innate capacities all people have to take action within themselves, and in the world around them consequentially. But as a consequence rather than as a cause.

Ironically, it’s by focusing on personal engagement that we can meet Dr. King’s edict that, “An individual has not started living until he can rise above the narrow confines of his individualistic concerns to the broader concerns of all humanity.” We engage in the world by engaging within ourselves. The people in our lives who are most richly, authentically, and meaningfully engaged in the world are deeply engaged within themselves first- not coincidentally, not subsequently, but first.

By going inside before we go outside, we can live in society without letting society living within us. Urged to engage from the outside in, society surrounds us with pressure to live externally, motivations to self-isolate, segregate, and alienate. Heartspace is the place where the disparities between our inner- and outer-lives can end. Living the Principle of Engagement and consciously activating Heartspace is the way we can “let there be peace on earth, and let it begin with me”. Are you ready to get real about nonviolence?

CommonAction is available to train on personal engagement, Heartspace, and much more. To talk about the possibilities call Adam Fletcher at (360) 489-9680 or email

Written by Adam Fletcher, this article was originally posted to Learn more at!

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