How do we both imagine and live our future now?
“Evolution is about holding the paradox of looking boldly towards the future, being firmly rooted in the present, while always paying homage to the past.”
– Zulayka Santiago, Change Elemental Governance Team
“People think of a moment of transition as uncertain and anxiety-filling. Delta means change. But deltas are also the most fertile places, where both the best aspects of land and water are available to us.”
– Norma Wong, Nan Stoops, and Rosie Abriam
These last few years have been marked by cycles of chaos and complexity, as social justice groups have moved between rapid response and advancing transformative change in unpredictable, emergent terrain.
The organizations and networks we partner with, and the movements we are all a part of in different ways, have moved through these cycles sometimes flowing and often times buffeted and taking on the forms needed to meet the challenges of the moment—rising authoritarianism, multiple pandemics, and intensification of centuries-old systems of oppression.
Many groups have managed to continue co-creating pathways towards a more equitable, love-filled world by doing the necessary work of continuing to pull back the veil on enduring harms and creating cultures of care where we can tend to our interdependence with tender, rigorous, loving accountability. And yet, many organizations have at the same time been swimming against our own currents caught in age-old riptides, hurt and hurting from the disconnection and dis-ease that comes from simultaneously trying to take down harmful systems while living in them and building new ones.
We at Change Elemental have been in and around all of this with clients, partners, networks, and ourselves, seeking depth without drowning (h/t Co-lab), floating with purpose, and swimming with synchronicity. Through all of this, we’ve continued to return to a question: How might we build power with and power within (and appropriate uses of power over) to transform the being and doing necessary to advance liberation?
To guide our journey and our work with clients and partners, we considered what we are learning through our multiple ways of knowing (with partners, clients, nature, ancestors, our bodies, art, community wisdom, etc.) and we co-created a theory of transformation. It has grown from the rich soil of many conversations, readings, stories, and experiences. It most directly builds on the work of Monica C. Dennis and Elissa Sloan Perry. It is “a” theory, not “our” theory as we don’t claim to have invented, or to own this way of working and being in the world. It does powerfully support us to transform the be-how and know-how of liberatory change. We do believe that this is a way forward—an approach to stitching earth—building and living the world we want in the world that we are in and we want to share it with you.
Access “A Theory of Liberatory Transformation” in Spanish, here.
Together, we are advancing deep equity and liberation. This is complex, systems change. The way forward is both planful and emergent, requiring experimentation and iteration, and calling us to define, understand, and share leadership and power differently. This takes inner work and embracing multiple ways of knowing. These five elements are interconnected, interdependent, and always evolving. Practicing them requires us to include and transcend practices of oppression and healing while investing in and amplifying liberating practices—practices of being in continuous, robust, and intentional relationship with source, body, emotions, and stories.
Change Elemental will continue to meet our clients where they are, evolving this approach and its practices as we learn together—whether it is through sharpening organizational and movement strategy, cultivating networks, building and strengthening leadership teams, and aligning how we do this with the value and practice of deep equity. We will also be offering opportunities to dive deeper into this approach in 2024 and beyond through the forthcoming 5 Elements Lab. Check out a recent 5 Elements Lab Anthology, a prototype of the lab experience focused on innerwork and multiple ways of knowing. If you do not already receive our emails, sign up here to keep up-to-date on our public offerings.