An essay on collaborative stewardship

This morning, when completeing an application for Heterodox Academy (which was just accepted by the Membership Committee), I was responding to this question:

“How are you fostering viewpoint diversity on your campus, in your classroom, or through your work? What challenges have you faced, and what is at stake? What is an example of constructive disagreement leading to a better outcome as part of a group or project? We want to hear your story.”

Pondering how I might answer this question, it occurred to me that now is the time for me to publish the working draft of an essay I began writing six years ago called “All Shine: How Collaborative Stewardship Built a Vision”. This essay describes the processes involved in collaborative projects and communities and explores the connections between openness to a variety of world views and communication styles, leadership theories, multi-perspectivalism, and the human elements involved in creating something in the world in concert with others.

The essay describes the process of making an album of original music I wrote. The album is called Eleventh Hour Shine. Although most of the project was largely self-funded from savings, our project’s main architects successfully launched a Kickstarter campaign in 2014 to bring the project to the finish line.

The writing of the essay was not easy for me, as it also describes the sudden death of a person dear to me in 2013. As that death involved the shooting of an unarmed person by a state trooper, and due to the heated national conversations around this topic, I’ve chosen to keep the event tucked away quietly for the past six years with only an occasional social media post shard only with friends. Somehow, though, the George Floyd protests and extreme polarization around the police brutality issue and other related issues have given rise to a culture of political extremism and an attitude of contempt towards nuance and thoughtfulness, which I have been finding alarming.

Though it’s clear that it’s best not to “lead” with the story of my loved one’s death at the hands of law enforcement, I think it’s important to provide an alternative model for communicating around this and other issues that doesn’t fall between the hardened positions and hatred towards entire groups that we are seeing on social media and in other arenas of civic like. And, whether I like it or not, this death and parts of this person’s (and my own) life is intimately connected with my work in the education field and cannot be separated from that work. Part of that work involves the advocacy of viewpoint diversity, ideological flexibility and the importance of promoting authentically open communication which requires, humility and empathy -two qualities that seem to have disappeared into the night.

The last few chapters of this essay are unfinished, as I was still reeling from this person’s death at the time and could not find the heart space to bring the essay to a satisfying (authentic and unforced) conclusion. It is likely that some of the ideas explored in the essay are over-stated or incomplete, as my thinking on some of the topics and frameworks I covered in this writing has evolved quite a bit over the past few years.

However, my principles have remained the same, even while the world around me and the people in it have seemingly been altered beyond recognition.

Eleventh Hour, indeed.

Below is the link, which can also be found in the menu heading, “Writings“.