Chip Hauss: Shifting from "Me First" to "We First" and Other "Takes" on the Coronavirus

 

 

Coronavirus

This post is part of the Constructive Conflict Initiative / COVID-19 Blog

 

Chip Hauss has a blog that we have written about before in our "Colleague Activities" area. It is worth revisiting now, because he is posting a number of things related to COVID-19 that are very important. 

First, on March 17, Chip circulated a post entitled "One Peacebuilder's Take on Coronavirus." Here he described the situation by pointing out that the Chinese characters designating "crisis" are a combination of "danger" and "opportunity." 

"The dangers and opportunities we face in the early 21st century are easier to see in our reactions to the coronavirus than the other issues [climate change, populism, racism etc.] precisely because the dangers both hit so close to home and and came upon [us] so quickly. So, too, is our evolutionary challenge. Here, I’m not thinking about our physical evolution that will take hundreds or thousands of generations. Rather, there are ways in we can and must evolve socially, some of which should be obvious already.

So what are those ways we can and should evolve?  Quoting Tom Rath (from his new book Life’s Greatest Questions ) Chip says that our "greatest challenge is to contribute to a cause that is bigger than ourselves. " We can do that in one of twelve ways that Rath lays out: 

Creating–initiating, challenging, teaching, training

Relating–connecting, energizing, perceiving, influencing

Operating–organizing, achieving, adapting, scaling

The dangers and opportunities we face in the early 21st century are easier to see in our reactions to the coronavirus than other issues precisely because the dangers both hit so close to home and and came upon [us] so quickly.

If you buy the book, Chip explains, you can go to a website and find out which of these skills you are best at.  But even if you haven't bought the book, you can go to another website called Contribify to understand more about these ideas. All twelve of these provide ways in which we can contribute to social evolution in response to the COVID-19 crisis.

In this post, Chip also discusses how we need to "look upstream," dealing with the root causes of COVID-19 (and any other wicked problem).  While it is easy to point fingers and say that the problem is "the other political party" or "China," the reason that this crisis has hit the world as badly as it has is due to many "upstream problems"-- among those being lack of government funding and distrust of government, extreme inequality (both in the U.S. and globally) , poor understanding of the nature of the problem...and many others.

In his second post on April 1, Chip focuses in on a theme mentioned briefly in the first post--that COVID 19 presents us with several "teachable moments."  

"Almost by its very nature, discussing the coronavirus pandemics forces us to talk about other issues, too...If we still needed proof that we live in an interconnected and rapidly changing world, we now have it. Terms like exponential rates of growth and community spread have suddenly stopped being the province of academic specialists and become part of everyday discussions. ...

 

We are living in a time of transition toward a world defined by networks, systems, interdependence, and the like. Yet, most of the ways we think about the world and manage its affairs remain locked in hierarchical and reductionist models that have their roots in ways of thinking based on the enlightenment, the scientific revolution, and the like.

It is, however, important to see that we are living in a time of transition toward a world defined by networks, systems, interdependence, and the like. Yet, most of the ways we think about the world and manage its affairs remain locked in hierarchical and reductionist models that have their roots in ways of thinking based on the enlightenment, the scientific revolution, and the like.

 

For years, business scholars like John Kotter have discussed ways we could navigate and accelerate our transition toward world views and forms of government that reflect our new interdependence.

 

Now, the events of the last few weeks suggest that we all should do so.

A second "teachable moment," closely aligned with the first is the need for cooperative problem solving.

"Almost everyone I know understands both that we are in a time of transition and that we need to develop more cooperative approaches to solving the problems we face. However, none of us has figured out how to do that beyond our immediate field of expertise (and we may not even have done that). None of us has more than the foggiest idea how to convince the public at large to change the ways they think and act." 

None of us has more than the foggiest idea how to convince the public at large to change the ways they think and act." 

I (Heidi Burgess) boldfaced that sentence because of all of the truths Chip includes in these posts, this is the one that I think is most important.  That is the one--perhaps beyond any other -- that we need to solve. 

Chip's suggestion of how to do that turns to Sugata Mitra and his "self organized learning environments."

While making plans to help teach my grandchildren, I rediscovered the work of Sugata Mitra, whose “hole in the wall” experiments introducing computers to Indian children have led to a new approach to teaching known as self-organized learning environments. Twenty years ago, Mitra and his colleagues marveled at how quickly illiterate Indian children learned how to surf the web and teach themselves. Since then, he and others have turned what they learned into self-organized learning environments in which small groups solve seemingly impossible challenges on their own.

While I was explaining the idea to my nine year old grandson, he asked me if grownups could learn this way, too. It was an epiphany....In short, we just might be able to make a dent in the first three challenges [learning to think systemically, engaging in cooperative problem solving, and creating self-organized learning environemnts] if we experimented with an adult version of Mitra’s method.

And Chip is starting to organize people using Zoom to further these thoughts.

 

This crisis is showing the importance of shifting our thinking from "me first" to "we first"

In his April 21 blog post, Chip continues his discussion of teachable moments:  "If there is one that will mattter for my work," he says, "it's the new importance that the crisis is giving to the shift from thinking in terms of "me" first wo "we" first."  This is a "big deal," Chip says, for three reasons which "build off each other and build in importance. "

The first is the degree to which government provides public goods and services.  The U.S. has long believed that the market will do a better job of providing goods and services than the state, so we have long had inferior public health, social services, and environmental protections than other developed countries.  But this approach has become blatantly inferior in the face of the current crisis.  Although our deficits are searing, Hauss notes that he was heartened by a recent New York Times report that showed "that Americans are beginning to support policies that reduce inequality, provide health care, for all, and address other collective problems or public goods." 

Peacebuilding should be carried out using "a systems framework that views the world as consisting of wicked problems that reflect the rapidly changing nature of our globalizaing world. ... We need to be part of a broader movement for social and political change that will help us make progress on all of the issues we talked about in Peacebuilding 3.0–and then some."

The second is the movement from "Peacebuilding 3.0 to 4.0"  Peacebuilding 3.0 was an Alliance for Peacebuilding document that proposed that peacebuilding should be carried out using "a systems framework that viewed the world as consisting of wicked problems that reflect the rapidly changing nature of our globalizaing world. Among other things, that meant that we had to see peacebuilding in a larger context that included climate change, inequality, and more."  Peacebuilding 4.0 goes even wider than that and peacebuilding isn't (and shouldn't) necessarily be at the center. " We need to be part of a broader movement for social and political change that will help us make progress on all of the issues we talked about in Peacebuilding 3.0–and then some."

Third is the notion that "we are all in this together....Indeed, if the coronavirus has taught us anything, it is the fact that we live in an interdependent world with problems that will require cooperative solutions." Our goal, Chip suggests should be " a world that works for everyone which will require good health care (including mental health), a degree of economic equality, true progress against racism, sexism, and all the other “isms,” and more. This, he suggests, we can acheive if we pursue our own human need to have higher-order goals--a sense of belonging and purpose in life that we cannot get by acting alone.