I feel a drumbeat. It thrums in my chest. And it’s getting louder, has been growing for some time. It doesn’t come from within me but from people around me, and I connect it to growing insistence from the community whose previously silenced or ignored voices must be heard. In social justice. In economic empowerment. In equal access to opportunity. Candidly, what I feel in response is generalized anxiety. Because I’m not sure of what to do with all I’m sensing and feeling, and what my role should be in addressing any of it. Also, somewhere inside of me, is an unconscious fear that if I acknowledge and give way to the urgency of others, I will lose. Something. I talk regularly about the need to embrace a “philosophy of abundance,” which speaks to the idea of building more together, making room. I speak it loudly and regularly to remind myself, perhaps, of the need to be free of fear. To embrace new thinking, more equitable ways of doing business. More is better. And yet my unconscious still is reacting viscerally with the “philosophy of scarcity”: there is only one winner, and if it’s not me, then I lose.
I say all this out loud right now to open the window, so to speak, blow out the dark, shine light on my own smallness so it does not hold me captive.
“Transformation” is a big word. I like the sound of it, but I don’t quite know how to create it. And, of course, if I have to give way in any part of my life to achieve it, well, I’d rather talk about it than help create it. That said, on the flip side, my very nature rebels against the talking-without-action. I can’t stand it. The tension, my internal conflict, is real.
Besides, my life is just fine. I’m comfortable. I don’t really want to “upset the apple cart,” so to speak, if change – transformation – well, changes “too much.” How and why does one, exactly, “activate transformation”? I mean, who am I to impact social justice? Or bring about economic empowerment, equal access to opportunity? I generally welcome new thinking, I enjoy learning something new, but how do I know what within me represents the “old” that I should retire or walk away from? And what “new” is worthy of my embrace and advancement? And then, ultimately, what power – or right - do I have to advance anything anywhere?
I met a friend for a walk this past weekend. Because it’s relevant to the conversation, I’ll further share that this friend is a Black woman. We were talking about a development project in Saint Paul that I’ve been wrestling with. In this conversation, “transformation” was in the context of economic development. Our conversation expanded, hence my meanderings today. I’ll share my internal monologue, and my friend’s unequivocal responses:
Me: I’m very uncomfortable. And I’m afraid. That I will lose something. That I will do it wrong.
My friend: “Get over yourself. If you’re feeling uncomfortable, you’re doing something right.”
My thinking: Unfiltered, lol, but ok.
Me: Life is just fine. I’m comfortable (read: I don’t really want to work too hard to change anything, especially myself).
My friend: “Your comfort comes at a cost for people who look like me. And it’s a privilege to not have to worry about it, a privilege to be able to choose whether or not to engage on these issues.”
My thinking: Hmmm… sometimes I am party to the oppression.
Me: Who am I to speak into something as big as “transformation”?
My friend: “Who are you NOT to?”
My thinking: Dang, no escape there. Think Marianne Williamson’s quote, about our “deepest fear”
Me: What is “old” that I should retire or walk away from? You know, I don’t want to be a “radical.”
My friend: “Think about what is in place now that actually undermines true equity. Look around you. Listen to people who talk about the structures and practices that have gotten us to where we are, practices that maintain disparities. We can begin to identify them on many fronts. Start with practices that shape hiring, access to capital, and quality of education.”
My thinking: This is a muscle I’m learning to develop. And it will get easier as I practice exercising it. My perspective continues to change. This is something I’ve got to step into and figure out as I go. That’s the work. Even the parts of myself I don’t like too much. I have to figure out how to stay in this space and work through it.
Me: How do I know what is “new” and worthy of my embrace/advancement?
My friend: “Start with people. Think deeply about who will help you have a better conversation, bring new perspectives, to help us have a richer, deeper, more informed conversation. And who will position you for growth. Choose to hang around those people.”
My thinking: OK, this one really resonates with me. This is something I can do.
Me: What power/right do I have to do or say anything about “transforming” community?
Me (I figured this one out on my own): Actually, in my role, I must acknowledge the great responsibility to activate transformation. This organization has agency, power, to speak into change – to lean in, as it were. In fact, each of us, within our own areas of operation, has the power/right/responsibility to lean into issues of social justice and economic advancement opportunity.
Well, this is me leaning in. Still standing in my slip in front of the room.
See you in the trenches.
Late Friday, MDH published the Covid-19 Employer Toolkit. This is a one stop shop designed to direct employers to the resources they need to help their workforce get vaccinated safely and efficiently and to provide materials to educate employees about COVID-19 vaccines.
COVID-19 Vaccine Connector: COVID-19 Vaccine Connector
Vaccine Info Hub: Minnesota Department of Health’s COVID-19 Vaccine information hub
As of Sunday, nearly 500K Minnesotans have tested positive for COVID-19, 6730 have died. Thus far, Minnesota has administered nearly 2M doses. How has our experience and response stacked up against other states?
Two big moves this past week:
The big news, of course, is Governor Walz’s EO 21-11, “turning the dial” and opening up the economy one more step. The St. Paul Saints, Twins, Wild and other venues are ready. The UofM plans a full return to normal campus operations by fall semester. By mid-April, businesses no longer will be bound by “must” work from home. Instead, we are “strongly encouraged,” and must allow for employees to continue to work virtually as is reasonably possible.
And what’s going on with real estate? I don’t think I’m being naïve when I tell you that I have real optimism for the Saint Paul real estate market ahead. Life – and office space – will be different, no doubt. And yet we have strong pent-up demand. And job growth ahead. We’ve also had some real wins in the past year, along with businesses re-committing. I’m sure you read Target’s announcement last week they are downsizing – significantly – in downtown Minneapolis.
Which downtown restaurants and breweries have opened their patios?
The latest in a speaker series, organized by the Saint Paul Downtown Alliance, spoke on Friday, 3/5, on The Future of Office. If you were not able to make it, a recording can be found here. Especially given the news last week that Target corporate will reduce their office footprint in Minneapolis, I encourage you to watch it. As employers adapt toward more flexible work environments, less physical space may be necessary, but the need and desire for a place for colleagues to gather and innovate will continue.
The pandemic fallout, politics, civil unrest have put the spotlight on how organizations handle the unexpected. Is yours ready? Are you a transformational leader? Korn Ferry Institute published a paper, “Activating Transformation.” Where do you see yourself?
We are delighted to introduce our latest member to the team: Megan Forgrave, our new Vice President of Programming and Member Experience, joined us today. She comes to us from The Bush Foundation, where she was their Communications Program Manager. Welcome Megan!