Last month I urged you as an individual to speak up and speak out to end the Silent Revolution. The Silent Revolution exists because well-meaning people stay silent when they should speak up at work, in their communities and among friends when injustice or disrespect is evident. I know this is a scary concept to some, but I encourage you to lean into your fear. When you voice a different perspective in a respectful way, rarely do your fears come true. If Malala can stand up to the Taliban, we can speak up in our safe spaces to just ask, “Why do you think that way? Help me understand,” or “That is not my experience help me learn the facts that support your point of view.”
Individuals speaking up respectfully is a great start towards creating a more inclusive society and workplace. According to Margaret Mead, “Never believe that a few caring people can’t change the world. For, indeed, that’s all who ever have.” It is individuals and then groups that eventually cause institutions to change. Institutional change is what is needed now. Political parties, managing directors and CEOs of organizations, and community leaders need to stop playing it safe—that is just do enough to get re-elected, or secure a substantial income. It is time they tackle the systems that cause or sustain the vast economic divide.
Because we are running out of time. If women wait for equal pay to just happen, if children wait for the opportunity to secure a good education, if global communities without clean water wait for institutions to deliver the mechanisms needed to access and sustain clean water, the world will suffer even more than it is today. That means we all suffer. There are enough resources to provide water and feed the 7.1 billion people on this planet, but the large scale system changes needed to do so, are hindered by selfish thinkers around the globe.
What Can We Do?
First, we can decide to care about the future for our children, instead of just living in the moment. I am child-free but I realize I have an obligation to leave the planet in better condition than I found it, for their good.
Leaders can pause before they make a short-term decision that may look good on the quarterly business results, but will have a long-term negative impact on the community. For example, in my community the City Council was going to reopen a waste management plant a few years ago. It would have saved the city a million dollars a year to do so, but they decided to think more broadly and considered what the impact would be on the people who lived in the area, how it would impact the environment and how it might impact public perception of the city as a whole. Ultimately, they decided to look for a different yet economical solution. And they found one. Had they not paused, the final decision would never have been thought of. How did that happen? A few people, asked probing questions.
Corporate executives can engage their business resource groups (also called affinity groups or employee resource groups) to help them solve critical business challenges that impact market sectors. Merck did this a few years ago, and the Asian Women’s Resource Group helped them develop a culturally sensitive campaign to inform women in the targeted Asian countries about a critical drug that would improve their health.
When political leaders decide to collaborate instead of degrade each other and compete, often large scale systems do change. It is amazing what can be accomplished when the goal is clear for all.
So let’s decide not to take the easy road, because in the long run it leads us to more distrust, more finger pointing and fewer solutions. Let’s decide to take the road not yet paved, let’s ask “why” let’s say “ I don’t understand teach me”, and reach out to those different from ourselves and say “ tell me what you think.” I believe we will all be amazed and pleased with the results. We have to start somewhere, why now here and now?