Creating Caring Communities: Blogging 101

Carol A. Hand

“Transformation of the world implies a dialectic between two actions: denouncing the process of dehumanization and announcing the dream of a new society.” (Freire, 1998, p. 74)

This morning I awoke reflecting about the connections among widgets, community building, and political advocacy. What is the purpose for using widgets skillfully or expanding one’s blogging community? What is the reason behind promoting political candidates on the basis of their support for paid maternity and sick leave? And what do these apparently unconnected realms have in common? Widgets, political advocacy, and community building all rely on neutral technologies. Each can be used as a tool to work toward a vision. But what vision should I use my time to pursue? Which technologies should I try to master?

widget

Photo Credit: http://wp-themes.der-prinz.com/clearfocus/

If I dress up a blog with clever, engaging widgets without attending to the content of my posts, what is the purpose? If I work to expand my blogging community and lose my sense of purpose, what’s the point of blogging? In a world beset by so many serious challenges, is the wisest, most compelling focus of advocacy really paid-maternity and sick leave? How does this change corporate hegemony? How can the technological tools of widgets, community-building, and political advocacy be used to further the vision of creating caring communities?

“… it is as necessary to be immersed in existing knowledge as it is to be open and capable of producing something that does not yet exist. (Freire, 1998, p. 35)

My recent excursion into the contemporary world of political advocacy raised many more questions than it answered for me. Yes, I do want to volunteer my skills as a writer to create caring communities, yet I feel out of touch with what motivates people. Expert-driven banking models of working with people are just not my style. Yet these approaches may be more effective for the women who recently attended the event I observed than anything I might suggest. Who am I to critique people who shoulder the challenge of advocating for progressive agendas in today’s political environment? To critique women who show up for an event because they care about issues? Just because I feel a need to focus on root causes and deeper questions doesn’t mean my approach is better or more effective. Yet without a broader and deeper framework, do we really have a way to connect each advocacy step toward a larger goal?

“ … to teach is not to transfer knowledge but to create the possibilities for the production or construction of knowledge” (Freire, 1998, p. 30)

One of the speakers mentioned the importance of stories. Each woman in the room had a story to tell about the specific issues that were salient for her, and the reasons why she showed up to make persuasive phone calls to other woman to encourage them to support “progressive” candidates. Although each woman was asked to introduce herself at the beginning, each was limited to one sentence that described who she was and why she was involved in the call-bank event. Then, each participant was given the script she should read when she contacted potential woman voters – a script that was written by the sponsoring agency staff. Yes, there were forms participants could fill out to record the stories they heard from other women, but what about sharing their own stories in the conversations? What about beginning the meeting by giving each woman 10 minutes to write out her story and reasons for showing up for the event? What about asking each woman to share her story as appropriate during her phone conversations? A voice of experience and passion based on her shared connections with the women she called?

“… the educator who is dominated by authoritarian or paternalistic attitudes that suffocate the curiosity of the learner finishes by suffocating his or her own curiosity.” (Freire, 1998. p . 79)

I was merely a respectful observer until I was asked to role play the phone call recipient. There were no willing volunteers so I reluctantly agreed. I wanted the women in the room to be prepared for tough situations, so I played an anti-welfare conservative. The woman role-playing the caller gave me a “thumbs up” as we sparred in our demonstration. The woman near me whispered – “That’s exactly how some of the people I call respond.” But the supervisor for the sponsoring agency felt a need to say that the scenario I portrayed rarely happened. The message I heard was that my skills didn’t fit with the agency’s agenda. Intending only to be helpful, I felt like I was threatening her control of the event’s agenda. All I did was respond to a request with the best of intentions. I used my education and experiences as someone who taught interviewing at a college level to help people deal with anger, rejection, or tough topics.

“The freedom that moves us, that makes us take risks, is being subjugated to a process of standardization of formulas and models in relation to which we are evaluated.” (Freire, 1998, p. 102)

The organizers of the event knew I was only there to observe to see if there was some way I could write about their efforts for the general public. The message I walked away with as people gathered their phones and learned the sophisticated technological system that would keep track of the calls and responses, was perhaps it’s best to explore other volunteer opportunities. There was no room here to dialogue about root causes and larger visions of creating caring communities in partnership with the women who came to make calls and the women who were called. My values and visions didn’t fit with the approaches I witnessed. I do, however, have another possibility for volunteering that I plan to explore. But I’m still not sure about spending stressful time dealing with widgets or the wisdom of continuing to expand a blogging community that already stretches past my ability to read and respond thoughtfully to the many people I follow and admire.

“The place upon which a new rebellion should be built is not the ethics of the market place with its crass insensitivity to the voice of genuine humanity but the ethics of universal human aspiration. The ethics of human solidarity.” (Freire, 1998, p. 116)

community lakeshore dot wnyric dot org

Photo Credit: http://www.lakeshore.wnyric.org/domain/19

In the spirit of strengthening our caring community, please let me know what you think …

Work Cited:

Paulo Freire (1998). Pedagogy of freedom: Ethics, democracy, and civic courage. Lanham MD: Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, Inc.

Copyright Notice: © Carol A. Hand and carolahand, 2013-2016. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Carol A. Hand and carolahand with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

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About Carol A. Hand

What matters are not the titles I’ve held or university degrees I earned or the size of a house or bank account. It’s really what I’ve learned from ordinary people like me whom I’ve met along the way. They taught me to live with gratitude and give thanks for each new day.
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16 Responses to Creating Caring Communities: Blogging 101

  1. I’m smiling, even though I’m sorry you keep encountering that same wall. This is why tyour best effort is to write your book and get it published, then people will listen to you and you won’t have to volunteer for people who don’t see the big picture. I totally understand what you’re saying about blogging and widgets too. And in a way, my business may seem strange, but it is a vehicle to manifest a vision I have that gets clearer with each blog and each step I take. As part of what I want to do is to create a community of like minded people who can communicate and work together, long distance to support each other, to share each other’s work, to create change in the energy field. You are a great and compassionate mind – you have books of wisdom within you the world needs. Your time and your wisdom is priceless. You’ve paid your dues. Your books will influence millions. Just keep that vision before you and keep on sharing your own knowing.

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    • carolahand says:

      Thank you so much for your thoughtful response, Skywalker. Yes, it is the same story, isn’t it? It makes me realize how little I understand how to engage with others in advocacy forums.

      I suspect you are correct in your assessment that the wisest course for me to pursue is writing. Yet I have already encountered rejection in the peer-reviewed world, mostly because my manuscripts, although worthy of publication according to the responding editors, didn’t fit in particular journals… I’ll give writing a try as soon as blogging 101 is over. I do have drat chapters for two books in process…

      I think your new business is a good idea, and I applaud your courage to create a virtual community. We should be able to support ourselves by doing what we love, doing things that make the world a better place. This most recent post about caring communities made me wonder how people could support themselves without relying on corporations. I don’t have any answers, but I suspect it’s something I will continue to ponder.

      Again, thank you dear sister in spirit.

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  2. desilef says:

    Blogging — where you get to express yourself and explore your ideas in the form and length they need and deserve vs. phone-banking. Ha. Isn’t it an obvious choice?

    These days I politely refuse to answer phone surveys because they ask unanswerable questions and there’s no room to say what you really think. You can’t give a nuanced response.

    We only have so much time and energy for progressive work and we need to devote that time to efforts that make use of our talents and rest on a solid foundation. Unfortunately, most volunteer work is a waste of time.

    Though that’s not true for everyone. I think for many women who are appalled by the current state of the nation but don’t have a grounding in political thought or specific skills, it’s important for them to be active instead of helpless. You can bring people into a larger movement by having a ready answer to the question “What can I do?” The ranks of volunteers working on small specific issues can be a place to find people ready and willing to go to the next step. At least I’d like to think so!

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    • carolahand says:

      These are such important insights, Diane, with a touch of humor 🙂

      I also appreciate your insights about the importance of grounding for women who haven’t had opportunities to express their concerns though collective action in the past – I hope this experience leads to future opportunities. Supporting minimal changes to the existing oppressive systems (economic and political) isn’t something I want to do with my time, but I do appreciate the fact that others find it meaningful and I do acknowledge that we all benefit from their efforts.

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  3. ShirleyAnn says:

    I am trying without success to envision you working to support a Political Candidate who once they are in Office will not follow through on the “Promises” that were made to get him there in the first place. Carol, your long range vision does not fit into a short range goal and especially one of this nature that is so very clearly One-Sided.
    When I first met you we had a very brief chat …on the bus…wrapped in warm clothing and wooly mittens…even so, it was a comfortable chat and I wanted more. It left me wanting to know you so that when we did finally sit down the porch and talk…things just flowed out, naturally and comfortably and I know that I shared more that afternoon than I have with anyone else in the 6 + years that I have lived in the neighborhood!
    The dialogue happened because we exchanged stories…it was not a one sided visit and by sharing stories we also established a level of trust. This is the situation in which you excel …stories..NOT tall tales..but personal stories! And, this is how I envision a Caring Community being built…adding one or two persons at a time until your goal is attained.
    The blogging has begun to consume you!! It is too much to expect one person to respond personally to the 1K+ people in your blogging community…to what purpose? Will it enrich your life? Will it fulfill an inner need to reach that large an audience? Questions, I have questions about the logic behind this large blog/blob..I love the things you share but to respond to each and every person ??? NOT!
    Ok, these are some of my rambling, off the cuff thoughts on your latest Blog!

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    • carolahand says:

      Thank you for your thoughtful and eloquent comments, Shirley Ann. There have been a few politicians who lived up to their promises. Rick Nolan is one of them, and I know he faces stiff opposition from moneyed interests this fall, so I’m glad to know he has support.

      I love you story about how we first met on the bus 🙂 . I am so glad you stopped by to talk this year, and I’m grateful for sharing stories and for the generous gift of your lovely baked creations.

      Your observation about how communities are built is so true – one person at a time. I’m glad that you are part of my community.

      Like

  4. mandy says:

    Carol, I give you so much credit for your attempt to volunteer in a capacity outside of your comfort zone. As it turned out, you (again) volunteered to do something not in the ‘job description” and it sounds like everyone related to your role play. And then, a higher up feels threatened. It immediately took me back to a couple of years ago where I stepped out of my comfort zone–isolation–and joined a fitness group with a “big wig” instructor (who did NOT know her stuff). When someone voiced a struggle with something, the leader didn’t have a clue. I got brave and spoke about what had worked for me. Everyone got excited and wanted to try it. In front of everyone, the instructor yelled at me “Well if YOU are such an expert, maybe YOU should teach the class!” I was devastated and didn’t return. I really believed I was bad, inadequate,….(fill in the blanks). I don’t think we should waste our time where we, as creative individuals, can’t be embraced (embraced?). We didn’t fail. I think anytime we are spending TOO much time worrying about anything, including Widgets, we need to re-evalutate our purpose. I guess this post got me to rambling. I just know that you don’t need to do anything but be YOU to get my attention 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    • carolahand says:

      Mandy, I love your story about your experiences with the fitness group! I’m sure it wasn’t pleasant at the time, but experience does teach us about the danger of becoming too concerned with positions of power and public image. I have never figured out how to work with people who need to maintain control over others – I have only learned many ways to make the situation worse 🙂

      One of these days I will tackle widgets just because I dislike giving up on things that feel too difficult. Yet I agree that substance is more important.

      As always, I so appreciate your insights and stories. Thank you, Mandy.

      Like

      • mandy says:

        “I have only learned many ways to make the situation worse” Haha, I love that! That’s me, too. Our hearts are in the right place, though 🙂 And I do relate to the Widget frustration. I, too, have a “need to know” and try to stay at things until I figure it out. Thankfully the Widgets don’t play on my mind 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

  5. nicciattfield says:

    Hey, Carol. I am sooo sure you could find somebody who would appreciate your voluntary skills, even if this is not the right place (and it certainly sounds like it isn’t). I had a counselling mentor who volunteered his time. He’d worked in places where there was a lot of trauma, and he was a university lecturer too. I learned so much (mostly about the value of sensitivity, gentleness and kindness) and he encouraged me so much that I know I wouldn’t be the same if I hadn’t learned from his wisdom for three years.

    Sometimes it’s finding a space where people go beyond ego, into the good of the whole, and that compassion inspires a space for mentoring rather than the feeling that if I don’t know it, it can’t exist (because that’s not a learning space).

    By the way, I remember role playing a family situation, and how much I understood about a complex situation because of that, and how much deeper I got to understand my own responses, frustrations and limits, and I think it’s valuable to learn that way. It inspires empathy, even, for the people in those positions (eg callers). What a pity it wasn’t appreciated.

    Liked by 1 person

    • carolahand says:

      As always, I appreciate your thoughtful comments, Nicci. I’m no longer affected by these types of dismissals. I understand the fear people feel when the control they need to feel over a situation is threatened. I have no desire to compete because, as you say, there are many other opportunities to explore that may be more accepting of dialogue and innovation.

      Yes, role-playing does help if it’s well-structured and performed. And I think my partner in the call scenario and I did portray a realistic and entertaining exchange. My guess is that the response was also a learning experience for some of the women in the room. I also realize that I need to be true to my own values, and if I am honest and respectful of other’s circumstances, perhaps the lessons will be valuable in the long run. Yet I am only responsible for my actions and intentions to work toward liberatory praxis for those without power, not the way my actions are interpreted by those who feel a need to maintain control.

      Liked by 1 person

      • nicciattfield says:

        I agree, Carol, we can only perturb another person, and cannot control what the message does or where it goes. I also think you have more value than was recognized. I think many, many people could benefit from all that you share, and your experience and qualification put you in a position where you have a very great deal to offer.

        Liked by 1 person

  6. I’m about halfway through Community: The Structure of Belonging and Peter Blockseems to agree with you: community meetings that are designed to advocate for a set issue, with pre-ordained agenda and scripts, are rarely successful in awakening and engaging the wider community.

    If you wish to engage the broader community in change, you need to invite them to a meeting without pre-ordained agendas. The only way to truly engage people is to allow them to co-create the agenda because this enables them to own it – as opposed to handing out tasks that enables the leadership to achieve their own pre-determined agenda.

    When people don’t own the agenda in a community group, they persist in being passive consumers instead of engaged citizens..

    Liked by 1 person

    • carolahand says:

      These are essential approaches for building inclusive, authentic communities, Stuart – quite the opposite to what I witnessed at the advocacy event I attended. The course you’re taking seems to be based on principles and approaches that do transform groups into communities with a shared vision of what “could be” that includes the perspectives of everyone involved 🙂

      Like

  7. Jeff Nguyen says:

    Hi, Carol. Let me know when your book is ready so I know when to order my copy. 🙂

    Like

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