Trans4mind Home Page
~ A Journey of Self-Discovery ~

Community Building: Facilitating Connection

By Martha Lasley
Share on Facebook

Originally Published in Facilitating with Heart

How do we build thriving communities? Anke Wessels, the executive director for the Center for Transformation at Cornell University, actively supports transformation in her local community. After years of debate, community opposition, protests and legal wrangling, Wal-Mart opened a store in Ithaca. Members of the Religious Task Force for a Living Wage were outraged by unreturned phone calls and wanted to write an op-ed piece condemning the low wages paid by Wal-Mart. When Anke asked the group to look at what they wanted – to ensure a living wage for workers – they determined that an op-ed piece might not be the best way to achieve their goal. Here’s how Anke describes what they did instead:

We wanted to discuss the high cost of living in Ithaca and propose a living wage. The Ithaca Wal-Mart general manager, Dave Jacobson, agreed to meet with us because he saw some value in reaching out to the community. Instead of condemning their corporate wage policy, I asked Dave what he’s already doing to contribute to worker’s well being. As a single dad, Dave was aware of the stress of single parents, so he goes the extra mile and cares about each employee. During a snow storm, he gives stranded employees rides to and from work. He knows every worker by name, as well as their spouses and children. He’s proud of the health care offering. Eventually he disclosed that he doesn’t think it’s fair that protest groups are only targeting Wal-Mart, since their pay scale is based on what local retailers pay.

Meeting every couple of months, we got to know each other, and we learned what it was like for Dave to receive horrible letters about the evils of Wal-Mart, deal with a bomb scare, and feel unsafe when so many people in the community respond to him with disdain. Dave also talked about Wal-Mart’s community efforts, but some organizations refused to accept money from Walmart because it would look bad.

When we told him how the living wage of $9.17 an hour was determined, Dave explained why he thought that was far too much to give to someone with no experience. In the next meeting, Dave revealed that it makes him mad when employees work fewer hours just so that they can get government assistance. I responded, “Let’s take $9.17 off the table. If I came into your store, willing to work full time, but had no work experience, do you think I could afford to live in our community if I worked 40 hours a week?” Silence followed. Finally Dave said, “I never heard you say it that way before.” He agreed that people cannot live on that wage. In that pivotal moment, liberal and conservative politics came together because we cared about the same thing – that people could live on what they earned. In that moment of quiet, we were on the same side.

After that, Dave invited other managers from the community to join the next meeting. I was touched by Dave’s words of introduction, where he discussed his initial fear of the task force, how he’d brought in someone from outside for protection, but he’d come know, respect and trust us. We had started out as enemies, but now we know each other’s families. Dave told the group of managers, “We don’t always see things the same way, but the conversations are meaningful.” At that meeting Dave announced that Wal-Mart was considering a new pay scale system based on the local cost of living. Most of the managers present don’t have a lot of power; the pay scale is determined from above, but they all agreed to explore the options. The process is continuing.

When I tell this story, many people are skeptical. They say, “Yes, but Wal-Mart is evil. You’re collaborating with the enemy. You can’t really trust them.” For us, Wal-Mart is no longer the faceless enemy. We don’t demonize the opposition. Conversations are a slow process which activists find very frustrating. It feels better to write a scathing letter to the editor, but that changes nothing. People need another framework to encourage understanding and explore ways to find common ground. They’re so used to us vs. them, that they have no way to address challenges.

To really champion the rights of the poor or the underprivileged, we need respectful transformative dialogue. That means we talk about what we’re for instead of what we’re against. We use vision as a guiding principle. Instead of thinking about humiliating or ousting someone or making a person see how horrible they are, we look at how we can inspire people. So the transformation occurs internally. I ask myself, what am I really looking for? How do I see the humanity of this person? In that way I can shift out of angry resistance, move toward uncertainty, and liberate myself to look at what we’re working toward collectively.

 Taking on Wal-Mart, the largest retailer in the world seems daunting, but the persistence of a few people inspires me. They embody a living example of Margaret Mead’s directive, “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.” Instead of choosing hopelessness, they continue to work on the most pressing problems, and their influence stretches way beyond their local community.

In American culture where almost everything is reduced to its commercial value, we assume the economy and the market are beyond our control. We’ve come to expect economic institutions to make decisions for the benefit of the privileged, not for the downtrodden. In a world where the market rules, we start to believe there is no alternative. The most harmful aspect of unfettered capitalism is that we’ve lost our capacity to imagine humane economic and social relationships that benefit all the people. We’ve lost our sense of hope that we’re all in this together. CEO paychecks are on steroids, even when their companies are hemorrhaging from losses. Pay for performance has opened the floodgate of accounting discrepancies, but the beat goes on. Do we watch helplessly as globalization undermines local communities that result in food riots? Passivity and protest are not the only options. But what are the viable alternatives to an unfettered market economy that widens the gap between the rich and the poor?

People who believe that a more humane world is possible are creating alternatives. We’re hungry for new ways of establishing an economy based on reciprocity and cooperation. When people decide to exercise their own economic power they turn abandoned factories into employee-owned factories, run collective farms, reform health care enterprises and create cooperatives. When investors don’t get the huge returns they expect, viable enterprises shut down, but when workers take over, they revitalize their communities by providing jobs, goods and services. Owned and operated collectively by workers and consumers, these enterprises contribute to the economy and meet the human needs of sustainable communities.

Coaching is life-changing, world-changing work. The coaching programs at Leadership that Works go beyond theories and models and work with clients on a deeper level. You learn how to coach the whole person: physical, mental, emotional and spiritual. Whole person Transformation.

Leadership that Works

Transforming the world.
One heart at a time.

More articles from Coaching for Transformation

Out of the box
PODCAST: Peter Shepherd about Transitions in Life
Learn more   Download MP3   Trans4mind Podcasts

Looking for a better life?

Our online, interactive video workshops present the most effective methods of holistic personal development, covering the full range of challenges all of us inevitably meet in life.
Start off with a Free Life Assessment and a Free Intro Session...

Have a question about Trans4mind Training?

Frequently Asked Questions
What Are Our Fees?
Email Peter Shepherd
More personal development articles at the Counterpoint Article Library

Good info on many topics:

Support your personal development with these popular and effective hypnosis downloads...

  • Sweet Tooth ~ Train your brain to lose your sweet tooth.
  • Finish What You Start ~ Sprint all the way past the finish line.
  • Do It Now ~ A hypnosis audio to trigger deep, emotionally driven activity.
  • Life Priorities ~ Hypnosis can help you clarify what really matters to you.
  • Stop Thinking About Someone ~ A session to help you move on from thoughts that have been constantly pestering you.
  • Public Speaking Fear ~ Banish speaking anxiety and nerves with hypnosis.
  • Motivate Yourself to Exercise ~ Build a powerful exercise habit that you can't break.
  • Get Rid of Fear & Anxiety ~ Stop worry and apprehension wrecking your life.
  • Self Esteem ~ Break the negative trance of low self esteem and give yourself a chance in life.
  • Create Your Own Reality ~ Use the power of your unconscious mind to transform your life.
  • Deeper Self Respect ~ Use hypnosis to connect with your true inner worth.
  • Detach From Fear ~ Tune out nervousness and anxiety with hypnosis.
  • Improving Concentration and Focus ~ Learn how to discipline, direct and command your mind to improve your performance.
  • Exercise Motivation ~ Give you powerful keys to getting back on track with your exercise - and staying there.
  • Overcoming Shyness ~ Provides an invisible security blanket allowing you to develop social ease and overcome shyness.
  • Quick Confidence Booster ~ An audio hypnosis session that's specifically designed to get you (quickly!) back on track.
  • Stop Negative Thoughts ~ Learn powerful hypnotic techniques to stop negative thoughts before they start.
  • Overcoming Procrastination ~ Let hypnosis help you get on with what you need to do, when you need to do it. Let nothing hold you back.
  • Think Thin ~ Use hypnosis to re-train your brain and lose weight naturally... that's how to get and stay slim.
  • Fall Asleep Fast ~ Relearn how to fall asleep fast and enjoy a good night's sleep.
  • The Next Level ~ Designed to radically boost your performance in any field. It's based on a technique used by top athletes and other successful people to help them make a big stride forward.
This is our selection of favorites, but there's a session for every need! Choose from over 800 Hypnosis Downloads...
Search now on an issue that interests or concerns you...

View all the Hypnosis Downloads here

Get a free Hypnosis Download at Facebook

Hypnosis is the key to unlocking your creativity, focusing your energy and understanding yourself

Hypnosis has a long history of helping human beings be the very best they can be. It can be used to control anything controlled by the unconscious mind - pain, blood pressure, fear, confidence levels, mood, sex drive... the list goes on:

  1. You'll become highly productive without getting stressed
  2. Tap into your creative energies instantly
  3. Really understand yourself and others
  4. You'll learn how to stay calm in high pressure or uncomfortable situations
  5. Develop laser-like levels of focus and concentration

Lean more... Uncommon Hypnosis Course

Copyright © 1997-2017 Trans4mind Ltd