By Alfredo Ortiz Aragón
The initial part of your reflection brings up another dilemma. If we as practitioners believe in Theory Y—that people do know, are motivated and can solve complex issues (and other Theory Y principles)—then that might lead to a highly constructivist approach to change (actually spending time to work with people), that is willing to go slowly and adaptively so that participants can contribute according to their distinct talents and knowledges. That might challenge a lot of pre-packaged process that doesn’t have time to wait for Theory Y to be proven true!
The second part of your reflection (interaction and negotiation with leadership) reminded me of a time many years ago in which a colleague and I were facilitating a capacity building process in Nicaragua over a 3 week period (off and on). We knew there were problems with organizational leadership (including tyrant behaviors) but the leader had been very agreeable with us throughout the design phase—particularly when his supervisors from the US office were in the room negotiating the process.
3/4 of the way through the actual process and the leader gets up in front of the whole organization in a workshop and chastises the entire group for a (apparently inappropriate) note that one person had passed to another. He made clear that this sort of behavior was not to be permitted, but his histrionics delivered a very clear unspoken message:
“No change on my watch cabrones!”
Your words “to endure and embrace the tension between what I long for and what really is” resonate with me because at the time we had no process in place to be more aware of “what really is”, but were simply carrying out what we though everyone wanted and needed. I think the ability “to be daring and patient” is an important high level practitioner ideal and that to be patient implies reflectively studying the situation (what really is) and the possibilities for change as they emerge. The way you framed this is very helpful!
I am an Assistant Professor of Nonprofit Management and Social Change at the Middlebury Institute of International Studies, an action-researcher, and designer / facilitator of organizational change processes. In all of my work I try to prioritize critical reflection on how power relationships between (and within) people enable and constrain “desirable” and “feasible” change. I believe that increased awareness on the role all people play in including and excluding diverse ways of understanding and acting in the world can lead to new perspectives and increased inclusion of marginalized people, causes, ideas and ways of knowing.