If our change vehicles are to be complex adaptive systems engaged over the long term with those complex adaptive systems we call “Wicked Problems”, we need to understand how the evolution of this engagement is driven.
The deepest driver for advocacy in our community is the web of meaning we share that sees an individual as unique, and the purpose of advocacy as support for the realization of life’s possibilities through personal autonomy and membership in a supportive community. The old school label for such an intuition is “personalism”, which has a long secular, religious, and philosophical history, and has been recreated in every generation by some community for its members. Our disability community is the latest, and, I believe, has gone the deepest in making the personalist vision practical.
Person-centered planning is an expression of this, as are support concepts like intervenors and personal assistance. Even a technologically focused conceptual framework like assistive technology is only meaningful in the context of a personalist perspective.
On the other hand, the deepest driver in the evolution of wicked problems and the vast majority of support organizations that are the Systems of Focus (SOF) for our advocacy, is the authority and responsibility they have for the resources within them. This way of thinking about resources leads SOF to prioritize preservation and expansion of resources as their purpose, not the publicly stated mission.
Remember that the purpose of a system is what it does, not what it says it does. When we are advocating for the use of these resources on behalf of ourselves, others, or a community, we understand that use to be in service of personalist outcomes. When a system is engaged with us during our advocacy, it views the engagement as a negotiation about the distribution of the SOFs rightfully held resources (all types). Our advocacy is viewed as an unwarranted disruption of their control and disposition of those resources.
Thus the conflicts that arise from advocacy.
If we activate an advocacy community through organizing, we build the possibility of long term-engagement, and at least some possibility of a renegotiation of our advocacy as part of normal reality, instead of a one-off intrusion by advocates into areas where we have no role. This change in how we and the SOF engage is less an epiphany than a change in ritual or a habit or a state of mind that makes the engagement easier to carry out, but does not change the fundamental purposes in our mutual engagement.
When such engagement becomes typical, we can invest our advocacy with more sophistication, understanding our SOF more deeply in its complexity and drive for the control of its resources.
Next: Long Term Advocacy Engagement and SOF Affordances