There’s so much learning to do for non indigenous people about power, privilege, race etc. I’ve written two other posts in this series; one about a simple theory of change and the second about individual ways to effect change. This post is about ten ways to effect change on a systemic/structural level.
Quick recap: if you carry any privilege, such as the colour of your skin, your level of education, access to financing, physical ability etc. please accept the fact that while you aren’t responsible for the past traumas born by oppressed people, you have benefited from your privilege.
This isn’t to say that you don’t have sorrow to bear and injustices born, it just means that the colour of your skin, for example, wasn’t the cause of said issues.
It’s our responsibility to take action now.
It’s our responsibility to figure this stuff out.
Here’s how to step in and step up.
Both with your will and your skills.
In this third post, I share ten tips for taking systemic/structural action. My examples are based mostly on the Canadian context but feel free to substitute similar tips for your own country.
Look up and out. Think big and broad. Systemic/structural change focuses on your organization, your community, your sector. The aim is to examine policies, procedures, laws, cultural practices, etc. Systemic/structural changes tend to take way longer, but they’re critical for long-term change that affects us all. Systemic/structural change can address injustices and inequities at a large level.
Ten tips for structural/systemic change
- Recognize generational trauma
- Large scale, systemic/structural social change has its roots in trauma
- The effects of trauma leave its traces in our brains for up to seven generations. That’s a whole lot of suffering.
- Structural/systemic change needs to acknowledge the traumatic, deep roots of injustice.
- Government relations
- Dig into issues of governance and “establish trust and identify common ground: how can we help each other? Create a mutual understanding of purpose, perspectives, and priorities.” Source: CICAN
- Stay current with what is happening in government. Two Canadian resources are National News Watch and IPolitcs.
- World leaders
- Go beyond your local and national governments and lobby world leaders. In the case of the unmarked graves of children at former Canadian residential schools, email or write to the Pope and demand justice and accountability.
- Call for the institutions you use to be accountable
- Talk to your bank/credit union, hospitals, grocery store chains etc. to see how they are taking action on issues that are important to you, including but not limited to racism and equity.
- Sign petitions
- Change.org is a great resource.
- Here is a petition demanding a National Day of Mourning for the Lost Children of Residential School.
- Teach your kid’s school
- If you have kids, ask their school how they’re dealing with indigenous issues
- For example, here is the Anishinabek Nation’s new interactive online resource teaches students about treaties, rights
- “Get educated and teach our children the truth. For years I have taught my son the true history of Britain, France and Canada’s failed relationship with Indigenous people. It’s not the history I learned in Grade 8 Social Studies. The truth is the purpose of all government policies was and is to eradicate the “Problem of the Indian”. So to the best of my ability as a Settler, I tell my son what really happened and continues to happen to Indigenous people. I tell him about the broken promises, the military massacres, reserves and the Pass system, unfulfilled treaties, the 60’s Scoop, diseased blankets, eugenics, and the forced disenfranchisement and assimilation laid out in the Indian Act.” John Wort Hannam
- Hold community vigils and protests
- Build your community with other change-makers to boot
- ‘nuf said
- Talk to your employer
- Make enquiries at your workplace for how hiring, recruitment, talent management etc. work for indigenous and other people of colour. What support is in place?
- Get involved at the UN level
- The International Day of the World’s Indigenous Peoples is Leaving No One Behind: Indigenous peoples and the call for a new social contract.
Taking action both individually and structurally/systemically counteracts feelings of helplessness and hopelessness. So get going. The world will benefit.
Now go on and learn, laugh and lead
- Pick one or more of the 10 tips for structural/systemic change and do them.
- If you’re a regular reader, you’ll know that this section is usually called ‘Laugh,’ but given the serious nature of the content, let’s aim for a smile as you watch Emma Stevens (Eskasoni First Nation), Morgan Toney (Wagmatcook First Nation), and Todd Googoo/SHiFT FROM THA 902 (We’koqma’q First Nation) collaboration to write a song of hope and healing called “Wela’lin” that encourages people to protect their communities by getting the COVID-19 vaccine.
- Share the action item list with your friends and colleagues and support each other in your change efforts.
P.P.S. Join my free workshop on Top tips for online facilitating and public speaking. Take action now –> Join the mailing list to receive invitations to the monthly meetings, and get access to all the meeting resources (including recordings of the Learning and Development Roundtables in case you can’t make it). And RSVP by August 17th.