My wife Vickie Cammack is clear – our work at PLAN and in social innovation generally cannot succumb to 'either – or' thinking. Instead she has infused a practice of, 'both – and'. A paradox to be sure but one we see as necessary to move beyond the status quo and to address the roots of tough, incorrigible problems. As a result our antennae are finely tuned to activists with the same disposition.
Adam Kahane exemplifies such discipline and his new book, Power and Love – A Theory and Practice of Social Change provides insight, inspiration and illumination into dealing with complex, seemingly 'beyond hope' social/political/environmental challenges.
So much of our advocacy assumes a 'winner/loser' or 'good/bad' mentality. We analyze in a way that leads to that conclusion; we activate strategies that anticipate this and we inevitably get outcomes that reinforce this pre- judgement. The result: frustration at dealing with big systems with much power and expertise at batting external threats away. On the occasions when we do make an advance, we often conclude over time, nothing much has changed. This can breed cynicism and subtly entrench a victim mentality in our work and campaigning.
There is another way. Adam Kahane has worked on some of the toughest challenges in the world and Power and Love reveals a way of thinking and acting that is truly exhilarating. Adam does not offer instant solutions, or miracle cures. His critique is penetrating and his insights are challenging.
Power and Love is a glorious riff on a Martin Luther King quote that has challenged and inspired many of us.
…power without love is reckless and abusive, and love without power is sentimental and anemic. It is precisely this collision of immoral power with powerless morality which constitutes the major crisis of our time.
Adam defines love as the drive to unity, the drive to reconnect, to make whole what has become or appears separated and fragmented. He defines power as the drive to achieve one's purpose, to get the job done, to grow in self realization. He warns if you choose
either one or the other you will get stuck recreating existing realities. Think of reconciling polarized viewpoints
in an organization or in a society. Does a newly
elected leader or CEO ever get to work with a blank slate? In a world of diverse, strong competing voices, ideas and cultures we need new approaches. Otherwise our pendulum swings back and forth exaggerating and reinforcing the fundamentalist thinking on all sides.
What surprised me the most about Power and Love is the exploration of the lesser known, shadow side of love. And paradoxically the bright side of power. We know the shadow side of power but many of us are uncomfortable with claiming our full power, trusting our intuition, standing up for what we believe in, offering another way. We keep our passions under harness, our views to ourselves. We settle for 'lifeless peace that leaves us stuck in place'. To Adam, exercising our power can be a force for love. He quotes from the Broadway musical Rent, ' The opposite of war isn't peace, it's creation.' We create new social realities by choosing both power and love. Power and Love offers an ethical anchor to our collective work in social innovation.
Adam Kahane stems from a long line of Canadian peace makers. In 1991 and 1992 he facilitated a diverse group of South Africans who worked together to effect the transition to democracy. His previous book, Solving Tough Problems, was endorsed by none other than Nelson Mandela. "This breakthrough book addresses the central challenge of our time; finding a way to work together to solve the problems we have created.'
Power and Love is brought to life by
Adam's career both in the corporate world and as a consultant-designer on a myriad of tough issues ranging from peace-making to food security, climate change, health care, and poverty reduction. He is a gentle determined man with an impressive track record, healthy self confidence and knowing look.
If you are looking for practical
guidance on transforming your 'issue' while simultaneously transforming
yourself and the world – a tall order to be sure – then Power and Love is the one
book you should read this year.
For readers in Vancouver, we are co-hosting a public lecture with Adam Kahane, Thursday June 24th at the Wosk Centre for Dialogue. Phone
778-782-7925 for more details.