This Isn’t An “Ah-Ha” Moment

In the last few weeks, the United States has seen a resurgence of interest in youth engagement. Young people from Parkland, Florida, have led the charge and created a stir among the media by calling out politicians and pundits in public forums, including social media and press events. They’re advocating sophisticated responses to the violence that tore apart their school, and demanding people pay attention. Its working.

However, this isn’t an “ah-ha” moment. Despite how the media is treating it, this isn’t a glorious revelation about the power of youth or the need for systems change. Instead, it’s the continuance of decades of youth-led social change across the United States. This article highlights how that’s true, and what we can do to KEEP youth changing the world!

 


 

Youth having been changing and challenging the United States to change for more than a century. From the newsboys’ strike of 1899 to the anti-gun activism enlightening the nation right now, young people have led the way for a long time. Here are a few issues they have covered:

Child Labor—In 1903, a few hundred children marched from the coal mines and textile mills of eastern Pennsylvania to Washington DC to demand politicians take action for labor laws. Led by Mother Jones, an infamous suffragette, the group shook Congress to the bones, leading to the passage of the first national child labor and compulsory school laws in the country.

Youth Rights—In the 1930s, a group of high school and college age students formed the American Youth Congress to lobby for recreation, education, food and work rights for their generation. They presented the The Declaration of the Rights of American Youth [pdf] to the US Congress in 1935. Working with Eleanor Roosevelt, in 1936 their work led to the formation of the National Youth Administration. Although it was dismantled shortly after, the American Youth Congress launched campaigns for racial justice, increased federal spending on education, and an end to mandatory participation in the college-level Reserve Officers Training Corps (ROTC).

Cultural Diversity—During World War II, racial hatred and white supremacy led to the Zoot Suit Riots in Los Angeles. During these terroristic battles, Hispanic and Latino young people led cultural battles to express themselves, while white supremacists beat them down and stripped children and youth of their clothes to suppress youth voice. This kind of cultural activism serves as a strong call for the rest of us.

Civil Rights—Nine months before Rosa Parks, 15-year-old Claudette Colvin became a pioneer in the civil rights movement when she refused to give up her seat for a white woman on a segregated bus in Montgomery, Alabama. Not prepared to capitalize on the moment or recognize her leadership, movement makers didn’t promote Claudette’s actions. However, Colvin testified at the US Supreme Court trial that ended with a ruling against segregated busing and the end of the famous Montgomery Bus Boycott.

Self-Expression—The stories continue after that, too, with Students for a Democratic Society, or SDS, leading a generation towards activism in the early 1960s; the teen-led organization Youth Liberation Press in Ann Arbor, Michigan printing radical tracts about youth rights, freedom and justice in the 1970s; and the emergence of hip hop youth activism in the 1980s.

Global Youth Action—Youth engagement in social change has increasingly gone global, too. In the 1980s, the student-led movement against South Africa apartheid was openly credited by Nelson Mandela for contributing to the end of the regime of terror that segregated that country. After the turn of the century, the United Nations recognized the essential nature of engaging youth in international development plans. Youth in Australia gained a massive footing in their state educational decision-making around 2003 with the implementation of the Victoria Student Representative Council. Their actions created a foundation that’s still being built on internationally.

I have researched and written about dozens of other issues too, sharing examples and more, as well as actions taken and strategies employed to foster social change. THIS IS HAPPENING NOW.

 


 

Today, we’re seeing a shift in the battle over guns that has gripped the American soul with the murders of thousands of children and youth in the last 25 years. Whether shot by gangs, parents, stray bullets, police, or mass murderers, young people today are faced with increasingly hostile learning environments, with politicians who are seemingly intransigent to the threats they face. Luckily, they aren’t standing for it.

Inspired by activist youth from Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, where the latest mass murder happened, young people across the country are organizing on-the-ground, practical campaigns to end gun violence forever. They’re confronting politicians, partnering with parents and teachers, and planning massive school walkouts, rallies and demonstrations.

Like others before them, this generation is calling the American soul to the carpet. Young people today want us to feel their anguish, understand their suffering, acknowledge the collective trauma facing them, and to take action and make change.

However, there can be more to this moment than ever before. Rather than being a flash-bang instance of youth-led activism and instead of a media-driven hysteria focused on the appeal of middle class white suburban youth screaming for change, we can transform the very perception of young people in society in three ways.

 

How to keep youth changing the world by Adam Fletcher for Freechild Institute for Youth Engagement

 

3 Ways Youth Can KEEP Changing the World

  1. Create sustainable roles—There have to be positions, policies and practices in your organization and community that are long-ranging, impactful opportunities for youth specifically.
  2. Foster lifelong engagement—Engagement must not end at 15, 18, 21, 25 or beyond. Instead, there should be a continuum of opportunities for young people to see themselves engaged and then become that way throughout their lifetimes.
  3. Call forth the positive powerful purpose of youth—Don’t continue to make youth come to adults and insist change. Instead, reach out directly to young people and appeal to their sense of purpose, power and belonging, and then be ready to take action.

 


 

Its already happening. For more than a decade, youth have been fighting for social change in dozens of areas, like local farming, stopping smoking, challenging white supremacy and ending zero tolerance policing practices. Students have been partnering with teachers to improve schools, working with parents to build healthy families, and struggling against entrenched perceptions throughout society. That’s all happening right now, and we need to expand these practices.

We need to sustain and uplift the current actions young people are taking to change the world. Instead of creating more opportunities for involved youth to become more involved, we need to create new spaces for disengaged youth to become involved. Whether youth or adults, we can do this by changing the attitudes of individuals around us by confronting adultism (bias towards adults) and challenging ephebiphobia (fear of youth) wherever we see it.

Whether youth or adults, we can do this by transforming the structures we live in and operate throughout everyday, including families, schools, nonprofits, government agencies and bodies, and businesses, including all of the policies, practices and procedures we follow everyday. Whether youth or adults, we can do this by navigating and negotiating our culture, including the mainstream culture that paint youth as incapable non-adults; traditional cultures that treat young people as sometime to be seen and not heard; or socio-economic cultures that rely on youth repression in order to assure the social orders they rely on.

Ultimately, we must engage every youth and every adult in every community, everywhere, all the time. My own professional experience dovetails with history to show us that we must embrace, sustain and expand youth engagement. In more than 250 communities nationwide, I have worked with K-12 schools, nonprofits, government agencies and other organizations to transform the roles of young people in their programs, policies and operations. By facilitating professional development for adult staff members; training children and youth in myriad youth engagement skills and issues; planning programs and evaluating outcomes; as well researching and writing curriculum, I have sought to move the needle from seeing youth as the passive recipients of adult-led decision-making towards engaging youth as partners throughout our communities. I have spoke at dozens of conferences, providing motivational and educational expert speeches for young people and adults to see each other as allies, not enemies, by breaking down generational assumptions and understanding the power of youth.

Most importantly to me, I have stayed at it: For more than 17 years, I have run the Freechild Institute to share examples and tools for youth-led social change worldwide, while directing SoundOut, which focuses on meaningful student involvement throughout education. Recently, I joined the Athena Group, a collective of consultants focused on systems change nationwide. Our work will continue to move youth engagement into the mainstream today and in the future.

When you see the headlines, experience the momentum and feel the demand for youth engagement today, I hope you consider the history that’s come before, and understand the efforts underway to continue these actions today and beyond. Youth engagement is our greatest hope, and you can help build it right now.

 

 


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Elsewhere Online

 

Adam Fletcher Advocating Youth Engagement in Schools

There is an engagement gap facing every school today, and Adam Fletcher can help you bridge that gap. Based in research and experience, Adam facilitates professional development for educators, training for students, project consultation for education agencies, and much more. He speaks at conferences, writes for journals and periodicals, and has authored several books.

Following are Adam Fletcher’s tools for youth engagement in schools. Contact him.

 

Adam Fletcher’s Tools Supporting Youth Engagement in Schools

 

Adam Fletcher’s Books

  1. Student Voice Revolution: The Meaningful Student Involvement Handbook
  2. The Guide to Student Voice
  3. SoundOut Student Voice Curriculum

Adam Fletcher’s Free Publications

  1. The Guide to Meaningful Student Involvement
  2. Meaningful Student Involvement Resource Guide
  3. Stories of Meaningful Student Involvement
  4. Meaningful Student Involvement Research Guide
  5. SoundOut Student Engagement Conditions Assessment
  6. Meaningful Student Involvement Idea Guide
  7. Meaningful Student Involvement Guide to Inclusive School Change
  8. Meaningful Student Involvement Guide to Students as Partners in School Change 
  9. Meaningful Student Involvement Toolbox
  10. Student Voice Toolbox
  11. Student Engagement Toolbox
  12. Barriers to School Transformation
  13. Students on School Boards
  14. United States Student Voice Directory
  15. Canadian Student Voice Directory
  16. SoundOut Lesson Plans for Student Adult Partnerships 
  17. Student Voice and Bullying
  18. Meaningful Student Involvement Planning Guide
  19. Meaningful Student Involvement Deep Assessment

Adam Fletcher’s Website about Youth Engagement in Schools

Adam Fletcher’s Articles about Youth Engagement in Schools

Adam Fletcher’s Services Supporting Youth Engagement in Schools

 

 


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Click here for Adam Fletcher’s resources onAdam Fletcher promotes youth engagement in communities

Engage or Die

Its cliche to say we live in trying times. But suffering is never cliche, and social justice isn’t a fad.

The Challenge

More than ever, people need to connect and make meaning of their own life. If we were merely passive recipients of a pre-made society, we wouldn’t need connections beyond those that are obviously beneficial to us, and any meaning in our lives could be dictated to us from a form.

We’re not just consumers though. Despite what some schools, business leaders and elected officials tell us, our society is not a product for anyone to consume. Instead, we are all actively making our lives right now – no matter what the rat race looks like for any of us.

Unfortunately, that idea of people-as-consumers may be winning right now. We eat food that’s pre-made; memorize lessons from curriculum that’s mass manufactured; follow regulations intended to standardize our everyday lives; and buy things that weren’t made for individuals, but for consumers.

 

Transformation Is Required

More than ever, its become obvious that things have to change. We must engage or die. Over the last decade, I’ve researched engagement throughout our society to learn that the places with the most meaningful, most sustainable connections are the most engaged. I believe we must take action to engage as many people as possible everywhere we can, as often as we can, or we face individual, cultural, and ultimately, social death. The end of our society. The end of our communities. The end of our lives.

Our communities, classrooms, cultures and homes have to be places of active, meaningful and authentic engagement. Our souls must be lifted and our hearts connected through determination and intention, and our volitions need to be called to a higher place. Instead of working from a place of crass consumerism, we should acknowledge the place of movement calling our hands and feet beyond apathy and into action. All of this must be sustained throughout the future of our species.

If we don’t do something different, our hearts will rot on the vine, our muscles will wither from atrophy, and our minds will shrink from starvation. For some people that’s already happened; for others its happening right now. We have to intervene, prevent and empower people to do things differently right now.

Three Crises

There are countless areas where we must connect in our world. Neighborhoods require our attention; governments need us. Faith communities rely on engagement; social change is sacrosanct in my book.

Here are three crises in particular where we face the ultimatum to ENGAGE OR DIE.

  1. Education: If we don’t activate everyoneeverywhere as active learners right now, we face the whole system decimation of education throughout our society. While a lot of attention is given to public schools right now, the reality is that higher education, community centers and nonprofits are suffering right now, and things will only get worse. We must engage in education or we will die.
  2. Family: Our families are suffering for many reasons. A lot of people are talking about the elimination of the middle class and the effects that’s having on families. However, we must also acknowledge the roles of the human family; our larger communities; and the need to acknowledge nontraditional families. We must engage with the notion of family or we will die.
  3. Health: I don’t work out enough. Sure, I walk a lot and eat healthy, stay away from drinking and staying out too late. Our health is a lot more than any of that though: instead, its the ecology that surrounds each of us. Food, water, shelter, sleep and oxygen are essential. The rhythms, cultures, thoughts, emotions and abilities around us are part of our health, too. If we don’t engage in health, we will die.

If you’re interested in having a conversation about what we can do about this, get in touch with me. I would like to facilitate workshops with all kinds of nonprofits, give talks at a variety of conferences, and reach into the hearts and minds of people everywhere who want to engage or die. Contact me for more details.

 

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Why I Think We Should Examine Our Motivations to Help Others

When I was young, I was involved in programs at a church in the low-income, predominantly African American neighborhood where my family lived.

One day when I was 16 years old, some friends and I were walking down the street when we came across a couple of shiny new vans delivering a small hoard of white kids dressed in optimistic clothes to the church.

Curious, we we asked some of the youth what they were doing. Nonchalantly, they said they were here to paint this ghetto church, pointing at our fortress of hope.

When we asked if we could help, an adult with the group told us it was their project, and they’d be doing the painting. We brought our concerns to the minister, who explained they were missionaries from another state and this was mission trip, to paint our church.

That didn’t make any sense to me then, and I spent more than a decade trying to reconcile their well-meaning intention and my sense of dejection.

As an adult, I’ve met bunches and bunches of well-meaning middle class people and white people who want to save the world without ever looking at how to empower people to save themselves. These same folks rarely examine their own complicity in oppression and the ongoing slight of snobbery in volunteerism and philanthropy.

With so many people more focused on “changing the world” today, I think it’s high time that we reflect on Gandhi’s call for us to “be the change we wish to see in the world. We each have to examine our motivation.

I’ve been writing about that process for a long time without ever offering rationale for why that matters. The story I share here is meant to show one reason.

If you’re interested, check out my PETS (Personal Engagement Tip Sheets) for practical ways to look inside yourself before you try to change the world. You might also read my poem, Missionary. One of the most powerful pieces I’ve ever read about examining our motivations is a speech given by Ivan Illich called “To Hell With Good Intentions,” where he critically examines what it means to serve others. I also recommend Paulo Freire’s last book, which pushed me to embrace my own assumptions in new ways. Its called Pedagogy of Indignation.

After that, if you want to connect about what to do next just drop me a note.

The Crisis of Disengagement

In places throughout our society, people are wrestling with a challenge that feels insurmountable: People just don’t care, they aren’t showing up, or they’re not doing what we need them to, what they’re supposed to do, or even what they want to do.

 


Causes of Disengagement

First obvious in schools, in the 1970s this was originally identified as a dropout problem. After struggling through early community action agencies, Rock the Vote type projects, and national service programs, in 1999 a sociologist named Robert Putnam put a face to the problem when he published Bowling Alone: The Collapse and Revival of American Community

Putnam successfully diagnosed the problem with society’s social capital, which is a metaphor for the interactive networks people keep with other people who live and work around each other. Since we’re constantly exchanging these visible and invisible gestures in conscious and unconscious ways, social capital is what allows our society to actually work.

 


What Disengagement Causes

Wonder why it feels like our society doesn’t actually work? According to Putnam, its because social capital isn’t being circulated like it used to be. Given the emergence of anarchistic capitalism and hyper-libertarianism, I believe we’re reaching a fever pitch and revealing the real problem, which I am calling the Crisis of Disengagement.

Psychologists talk about this as a phenomenon that needs addressed through intrinsic-extrinsic motivation theory and goal theory, and the need to investigate the gaps between people, as well as what possible ways to maintain or stimulate peoples’ motivations to exchange social capital. They believe environments can be intentionally maintained to enhances the self-concept, social efficacy, and a sense of volition as well as self-determination to circumvent the demise of social capital. And all that’s fascinating to me, and I’m going to continue studying it to learn more.

 


Essential Learning

However, I think we need an accessible approach to the Crisis of Disengagement for everyone, not just academics. So let me name and define what I think we’re talking about here:

  • Engagement is any sustained connection anyone has to anything in the world around them and within themselves.
  • Disengagement is the absence of sustainability in our connections.

That said, the Crisis of Engagement is a solvable problem, much like poverty and war. As Nelson Mandela said,

“Overcoming poverty is not a task of charity, it is an act of justice. Like Slavery and Apartheid, poverty is not natural. It is man-made and it can be overcome and eradicated by the actions of human beings.”

Disengagement is a solvable problem.

My work is about helping YOU solve the Crisis of Engagement. Check out the rest of the Personal Engagement Tip Sheets to learn more!

 


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Adam Fletcher is available to train, coach, speak, and write about Personal Engagement across the US and Canada. Contact him to learn about the possibilities!

The Power of Youth Engagement

Adam Fletcher speaking by Michael Kleven 8
Here I am talking at a youth forum in 2014.

 

Beyond the research, statistics and reports, there’s a simple truth about youth engagement: When young people experience sustained connections to the worlds within and around them, their lives become better, and the lives of those around them improve, too.

 

For a long time, I forgot to say that. Instead, I focused on the studies that said youth engagement improves youth development, helps adults get our jobs done, and can foster social justice in communities. I shared research-proven examples that identified important pillars of youth engagement, identified deep routes for youth/adult partnerships, and showed effective ways to infuse youth voice throughout organizational transformation.

 

But I left out this slice: Youth engagement saves lives. I’m not talking about hypothetical situations either; I’m talking about my own life, and the lives of many young people I’ve worked with over the years. 25 years of experience in this field has shared a lot of learning with me. One of those lessons is that when you’re young, disenfranchised, and growing up in a depressed community, youth engagement can embed three important things in your life: Purpose, Power and Passion.

 

I know that because before I was engaged, I hadn’t experienced those three things in any substantive ways. However, after I became senior patrol leader in my Boy Scout troop, I felt purpose like never before. Spending the decade before that mostly homeless with my family, there didn’t seem to be a purpose to life, a purpose for doing anything, or a purpose for breathing beyond survival. When my dad told me he and I were going to sleep on the roof of an empty Habitat for Humanity house to protect it from being vandalized, I felt empowered to impact the negative circumstances I found myself in. And after I spent three summers working with a mentor to teach drama in public housing projects in my city, I felt a passion for sharing power like never before, and I knew that’s what I wanted to do for the rest of my life.

 

What’s your purpose? Where have you found power? How do you share your passion?

 

Answer those three questions and you will become engaged in what truly matters to you…

51 Ways Employers Disengage Employees

 

From the sales floor to the board room, a growing number of businesses are focusing on employee engagement. After studying more than 3,000 examples of places where people say they’re engaged and reviewing 350 research studies on the issue, I summarize all the various definitions of engagement this way: Employee engagement is the sustained connection a person has to the work they do within them and the workplace around them.

 

Engaging employees often comes as an afterthought to well-meaning managers and business owners. However, the science shows a particular necessity for focusing on it: Gallup’s 2013 “State of the American Workplace” survey showed almost 80% of all employees feeling disengaged from work in some way. That means that 4/5ths of all employees don’t have a sustained connection to their work. That is a massive problem.

 

Disengaged by Engagement

Toward that end, a lot of companies have instituted employee engagement programs designed to address the problem of worker disengagement. However, they generally suck, or as Inc. magazine says, “Most so-called employee engagement programs are misbegotten, unwieldy, ineffective rolling caravans of impractical or never-going-to-be-implemented PowerPoint presentations.”

 

Here are some ways employers fail at employee engagement

 

51 Ways Employers Fail to Engage Employees

  1. Managers see and treat employee engagement like a special activity that only fits in a certain place at a certain time.
  2. Managers ask one particular employee over and over to participate in activities with managers.
  3. Managers talk about employee engagement without actually talking to employees.
  4. Managers treat employees favorably for becoming engaged in ways that managers approve of, while employees who take initiative to become engaged on their own are reprimanded for not following expectations.
  5. Managers consistently ask employers to speak about being an employee in manager meetings or at special planning sessions without doing anything about it.
  6. Managers only engage employees for certain issues at work instead of addressing everything employees are concerned about.
  7. Managers will implement employee engagement programs to employees, without letting employees implement programs for themselves.
  8. Managers hold a celebration dinner for managers at the company and invite five employees to join 500 managers.
  9. Employees are only asked about topics that affect them directly, rather than the entire company or industry as a whole.
  10. Employees are not taught about issues, actions, or outcomes that might inform their perspectives regarding becoming engaged.
  11. Managers tell employees they have a voice and assign them the specific ways they are expected to express it.
  12. Employees concerns are listened to specific issues seen as worker-specific challenges like company uniforms, picnic themes, workplace bullying, and technology.
  13. Managers install specific employees in traditionally managerial positions without the authority, ability, or background knowledge managers receive in those same positions.
  14. Managers constantly tell employees about their experiences when they were workers, instead of listening to actual current workers’ experiences.
  15. A single employees’ busiest time of year revolve around the industry calendar—outside regular company activities—because they’re attending conferences, meetings, summits, and other industry activities that require managers to invite them.
  16. Managers don’t tell employees directly the purpose of their involvement in workplace committees or industry conferences, except to say that they are The Employee Voice.
  17. Workers are told that sharing their voice is as good as it cans get.
  18. Employers control who hears, sees, or communicates employee concurs.
  19. When employees walk into a meeting, every manager knows there are employees attending without knowing their names, where they’re from, or what jobs they do.
  20. During a meeting managers expect one employee or a small group of employees to represent all employee and to be fully engaged.
  21. Employees and managers see that employees are being tokenized by management without doing anything about it, thereby undermining employees’ engagement further.
  22. Employees are treated as if or told it is a favor for them to participate in decision-making.
  23. In meetings, employees are given little or no opportunity to formulate their own opinions before speaking.
  24. Employees are not taught about the economic necessity of employee engagement.
  25. Employers invite employees to share their knowledge, ideas, opinions, and more, and then ignore what they say.
  26. One employee is invited to talk at an industry conference, at a board meeting, or in an article written for the company website.
  27. Employees who attend an industry conferences are singled out for their attendance.
  28. Employees only invite workers who are not likely to assert themselves, make demands, or complain, to manager meetings or other activities.
  29. One worker is treated as unique, infallible, or is otherwise put on a pedestal by managers in the name of employee engagement.
  30. Managers take employees away from regular jobs for employee engagement activities without giving workers any recognition in the form of time served during the activity.
  31. Employers only choose articulate, charming employees to inform management activities.
  32. Workers are given representative roles that are not equal to manager roles in employee engagement activities.
  33. Employer/employee power imbalances are regularly observed and not addressed in workplaces, while employee engagement banners and programs hang all over.
  34. Employers are not accountable in any way to employees in employee engagement activities.
  35. Employers refuse to acknowledge the validity of employees they disagree with.
  36. Employees are punished when employer engagement activities don’t meet manager expectations.
  37. Companies use employee engagement activities to address some issues, and ignore it regarding others.
  38. Employers take pictures and videos of employees in the name of employee engagement without listening to what those same workers have to say.
  39. Employers seek out a small percentage of workers for an employee engagement program and claim to engage all their employees equally.
  40. Employees are not given the right to raise issues or share their unfettered opinions with management.
  41. Employee surveys are used to back up management problem-solving without actively engaging employees in problem-solving.
  42. Nobody explains to employees how they they were selected for an employee engagement activity.
  43. Employers allow employees to talk on their company’s Facebook page or twitter account but not to participate in company decision-making or board meetings.
  44. Managers interpret and reinterpret things employees say into language, acronyms, purposes, and outcomes that managers use without acknowledging the validity of exactly what was said.
  45. Employees become burned out from participating in too many employee engagement activities.
  46. Employees are not seen or treated as partners in the workplace by managers.
  47. Employees think its obvious they have a lack of authority or power or that their authority is undermined by managers.
  48. Managers don’t know, state, or otherwise support the purpose of engaging employees and the relevance to organizational success.
  49. Employees are limited to becoming engaged on the local building level, but not in the district, regional, national, or international corporate activities.
  50. Employees don’t understand which whether they are supposed to represent themselves or all of their peers.
  51. Employees are asked to become engaged one time and that activity is never repeated.

 

fail

Why Employers Fail at Employee Engagement

Many of these employee engagement programs lead to a reality called tokenism. While many people associate tokenism solely with gender or racial representation, the term actually applies to any situation where one person has authority over another. In the case of employee tokenism, employers (including supervisors, managers, owners, shareholders, and others) include a small number of workers in managerial, oversight, or similar type activities in order to give the appearance of employee engagement within a workplace.

 

With the increased interest in employee engagement today, tokenism is bound to happen throughout workplaces. Tokenism happens whenever employees are in formal and informal roles only for employers to say they are engaged, instead of purpose, power, and possibilities to create change at work. Without that substance, employee engagement is little more than loud whisper into a vacuum.

 

When managers appoint employees to represent, share, or promote employee engagement, they are making a symbolic gesture towards engaging employees. This step is generally meant to increase or demonstrate employee engagement in ways managers think they need to be engaged through. It can also be meant to appease employee advocates and stop people from complaining.

 

When employees specifically seek to represent, share, or promote employee engagement, they are generally seeking a portion of control over their workplace experience. In many companies, agencies, and organizations, this can look like joining a committee, starting a special activity, or holding an event related to work.

 

Unfortunately, these approaches to employee engagement actually reinforce employee disengagement. They do this by reinforcing employers’ power over their employees and highlighting the inability of employees to actually change anything of substance within their workplace without their employers’ permission.

 

Tokenism happens in organizational policy and through activities in the workplace every day. It is so deep in business that many managers never know they’re tokenizing employees, and employees don’t know when they’re being tokenized. Employees often internalize tokenism, which takes away their ability to see it, and managers are very invested in it, which takes away their ability to stop it. It is important to teach employees and managers about tokenism in the workplace and how it can affect employee engagement.

Creating Meaningful Engagement, Anywhere, Anytime with ANYONE

Late last year the Mid-Atlantic Network for Youth (MANY) invited me to Baltimore, Maryland, to talk with nonprofit leaders from across the country. I joined a dozen other speakers in talking with these leaders for a day, and MANY recorded what I said.

I would love to hear what you think of this video. Please share your comments here, and PLEASE don’t hold back! Criticism, concerns, ideas, and anything else is welcome!

Race and Responsibility

I live in the little city of Olympia, Washington. Its tucked away at the bottom of the Puget Sound, connected to the ocean but seeming a world apart from a lot of America. That is, until two days ago when two African American men were shot by a white officer.

Suspected of stealing beer from a grocery store, they were identified as suspects and confronted by a solitary officer. He has reported that one of them attacked him with a skate board, and to defend himself he shot the assailant. The second suspect was shot soon afterwards.

Overall, young Olympia regards itself to be a liberal group in a generally progressive town. The incident of a white officer shooting two black men for stealing beer doesn’t bode well, and consequently there was a march within 18 hours of the incident featuring many, many white people chanting “Black Lives Matter” and calling for justice in this case.

Much the same as the protesters yesterday, I am all concerned with the obvious pattern of police militarization, the criminalization of African American men, the school-to-prison pipeline and other clearly heinous acts of prejudice and discrimination against people of color by white people in America today.

However, I think we’re missing something.

One month before he was assassinated, Malcolm X said,

“All my life, I believed that the fundamental struggle was Black versus white. Now I realize that it is the haves against the have-nots.”

Most of us have yet to understand this.

I do believe in the power of Black solidarity. History teaches us through examples like Black Wall Street, Harlem, and my beloved North 24th Street in Omaha.

The fact is that it’s a white power structure that formed, molded and sustained the rotten economy of haves and have-nots in the US, and now more than ever, worldwide. Malcolm X wasn’t releasing anyone of their responsibility for the despicable condition we find ourselves in, and I refuse to as well. My fellow people of European descent appear largely incapable of imagining and implementing a world without inequity and disparity.

That said, the way forward is not based on race, per se. Its based on unity and umoja between races focused on the economic structure enforced by white privilege. Using our hands, hearts, minds and souls, we have to work together to dismantle prejudice, whether it is economic, social, cultural, racial, educational or otherwise.

Just beyond that, all of us everywhere on this planet have to realize that there really is no “them” and “us” – there’s only us. We actually are all in this together, and we are all completely interdependent upon one another.

But between here and there, I don’t think there’s a crime in recognizing culpability, complicity and connectivity. It all started somewhere, its going somewhere and almost all of us are going along with it, until we don’t anymore.

What we’re missing is that each of us, no matter what our race, has a role in doing something right now. If you’re a white mom at home, go meet people of color and introduce your kids to them. If you’re a person of color going to a predominantly white college, go meet some white people you never thought you would and just talk to them without educating them on race or economics, just listen to them. If you’re a Irish person in France go spend your money in businesses belonging to Middle Eastern immigrants. If you’re young, hold a sit-in in your school and teach people about overthrowing the white wealth structure that benefits white people – no matter what your skin color is. If you’re old, listen to some conscious hip hop and really let it teach you.

No matter who you are, DO something. Let’s stop acting so innocent through our ignorance and inaction, and start acknowledging our complicity and responsibility. Only then can we meet James Baldwin’s insistence that we can,

“insist on, or create, the consciousness of the others … we may be able, handful that we are, to end the racial nightmare, and achieve our country, and change the history of the world.”

We HAVE TO change the history of the world. Starting… NOW.