power as energy

by Bonnie Benham, with Andrea Olsen and Sarah Springer

In the final hour of our workshop with Mary Brydon-Miller that explored systems of power and privilege our group formed around the concept of power as energy.

swirls by Anders LjungbergQuestion: How can we see power as energy moving through a system rather than a force that dominates a system?

We discussed the benefits to an organization when power might be seen Continue reading

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Practivist

Jasmine - reduced

By Jasmine Lambert

 

practivist [prak-ti-vist] :a person who works in a professional manner, or regularly does an skill or activity that requires practice, to support causes they care about

 

An Ideal Professional

During a recent event (called “Deans’ seminar”) at the Middlebury Institute of International Studies at Monterey (MIIS), we (current and former masters degree students and a few professors) did a collaging activity in which we went through magazines and cut out images that resonated with our image of the ideal professional that we think we were trying to become. After we made personal collages, highlighting our own personal identities and aspirations, we put them all up on a white board, with each person drawing one connection between his or her college and an image on someone else’s collage. We then went around the room and explained what the images in our colleges represented and why we connected the arrows where we did. Here are some of the collage images:

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The purpose of this exercise was to use collaging as a process of thinking and creating dialogue, not necessarily with the goal of having a finalized “artistic” product.  One participant in the Dean’s Seminar reflected on the experience of having used art to initiate conversations in our session:

“These conversations haven’t necessarily changed my understanding in a fundamental way, but have perhaps brought them back up to the front of my mind and added nuance.”

I found my own experience resonated with the the idea that the activity did not necessarily create entirely new information; I found myself saying things that of course, I already knew, but otherwise might not have not shared or had at the front of my mind.

 

My Ideal Professional

My own collage ended up looking like:

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I now briefly explain the image:

  • The graph X and Y margins with water shooting up them and students sitting neatly in desks reproducing texts, which can be seen through an image with the chair cut out of it, represents my work in the environmental field: a willingness to use economic tools to express what I see as the inherent value of nature in terms of nature’s capital.
  • There is a woman standing alone who represents my image of my ideal professional as someone who is not afraid to stand for what she believes in, even if it means that sometimes she has to stand-alone.
  • There are strange men in flamboyant suits with orange featureless faces, and they represent my ideal world where regardless of the part I have to dress, I will never compromise my personal values that make me who I am.
  • The other image is of a woman with a cathead whose dress is made up of butterflies. She represents my worldview that while many things, and systems, look like complete wholes; they are really made up of smaller and smaller parts.
    • Another layer to the woman with the butterfly dress is the idea of the butterfly effect, which James Lovelock used to describe his Gaia Hypothesis in which one butterfly flapping its wings in one part of the world could initiate a hurricane in another.
      • The “butterfly effect” mimics my notion that my ideal professional is a practitioner who understands these small ripples and orients their work toward valuing the small scale and local actions as much as the large scale and more global ones.
  • The view of the restaurant through the kitchen helps me to explain that my ideal professional is someone who never loses sight of the multiple perspectives of a situation, no matter where he or she is sitting.
  • The dark shadows sitting on top of an image of a burning fire, contrasted to the right of an image of people dancing, and plants nestled in a living room, helped me to explain my desire to always keep balance between my heart, home and profession as my personal commitment to not burning out.

Making this collage framed my perspective for the rest of the evening’s event, and while I did not create any new ideas about myself or my ideal professional than I had already known, participating in the activity helped me to pull together these elements in a cohesive way, while still maintaining the richness of my ideas and interpretations of what I had made.

I realized while explaining my collage that my ideal professional is essentially a practitioner that is capable of speaking two languages, of constantly moving between two worlds: that of academic and that of practitioner; that of activist and that of professional; that of abstract and that of concrete; that of the inherent value of nature and that of its value in economic terms; that of individual and that of community, etc.  What emerged for me after completing this activity was the word practivist. A practivist is a practitioner, a professional, who is not afraid to also be an activist. A practivist is also an activist, who is not afraid to “lose” or “compromise” their values by acting as a professional, or practitioner.

L. Jasmine Lambert received her MA in International Environmental Policy and MA in Public Administration from the Middlebury Institute of International studies in 2015. With a deep commitment to environmental and social justice causes and a budding passion for process-oriented methodology, she hopes this website will help to bridge these interests. Born and raised in Santa Barbara, CA, she completed her undergraduate degree in Cultural Anthropology at Reed College.