In this week’s feature, the Meagan Scott and Courtney Ng speak on the Common Good podcast about facilitating necessary conditions for liberation, community, and magic, and how to connect with the desires of others in the creation of containers of belonging.
The Common Good podcast is a conversation about the significance of place, eliminating economic isolation & the structure of belonging.
The previous series explored the 6 conversations from Peter Block. Now we’re speaking with practitioners and today, Brad Wise & Joey Taylor speaks with Maegan Scott & Courtney Ng.
Maegan Scott is an organizational change luminary who leads with a racial justice lens. She founded Wayfinding Partners to create an affirming space for people of color wishing to dismantle systems of oppression and make way for a reimagined, liberated society.
Courtney Ng is a racial equity advocate who fosters spaces where individuals and organizations can be vulnerable, learn together, and dream of a liberated world where all can show up fully as themselves.
On framing, embodiment, and becoming a practitioner:
“[This work] it’s so very fundamental and it’s so very visceral and emotional… There aren’t action steps. If you think about some of the other change models, there are action steps you can follow. For Peter Block, it’s all about framing. It’s all about framing. It’s all about, ‘How are you thinking about other people? How are you thinking about community?’ Which is why you get that thought explosion, ’Oh my god, this is such a new and exciting way of thinking about how people can be in relationship with each other.’
But there’s nothing else like it. There’s no steps to doing it. But you have to embody it. You have to become this practitioner of this approach to bringing people into community.
And a lot of times, when you try to describe it to people, they look at you like you have five heads… I think people often take for granted that it’s the container, the context that we invite people into that are creating the conditions for change.”
On designing invited spaces and rest as resistance:
Courtney and I are designing cohort programs, which are really invited spaces, where people are coming together. We’re building different communities for a thing. It’s not really clear what is the ultimate outcome, but we have entry points for people.
One of our cohorts is called Rest for Resistance and it’s really focusing on how folks of color, black folks in particular, are conditioned to always be doing. Doing equates to self worth. Doing equates to your permission to be on the planet. And so rest as resistance is trying to create a space of unlearning for that.
The way I see Peter Block’s work showing up in that is creating the invitation and asking people to hold critical questions in mind, and having change happen through dialogue. It’s completely dialogic.
On creating the conditions and containers for belonging and offering ways of being in place of ground rules:
“So we offer starting places for containers. We offer norms, we offer ways of being. We find that ways of being is a little bit more inviting than talking about ground rules. Ground rules put boundaries on people that aren’t very generative. What we want is for folks to have a mindset, to have a code of behavior that invites possibility. So, some of our things in our ways of being are, ‘When things get tough, turn to wonder. Turn to curiosity.” That’s a different way of saying, ‘Don’t be judgmental.’ It’s sort of a way of saying, ‘This is a way of being that’s different than what you might find in regular life.’
One of the things that Peter Block talks about a lot is how we need to think about communities from an asset-based perspective and what the gifts are rather than the deficiencies. And so, when things are tough and you turn to wonder, you move from problem to possibility, which is a really big Peter Block-ism.
Accepting non-closure and expecting unfinished business is another way that we try to get people out of Western mindset conditioning where everything needs to be tied up in a cute little bow.
And then we have folks set up intentions for the work that we’re about to do together. Having that sort of collective seeing of what is this group of people here is seat up to do, what are the unique gifts that are in this room, the hopes, the commitments that people want to make is a way of creating container.
The other thing we sometimes say to folks… that everyone has ownership over the experience. So you get out what you put in.”
On “ineffability” and magic:
“One of our value sets is emergence and magic. Because there’s a quality of this work that’s transformational, which means that you haven’t seen it yet. You can only imagine it. And school nowadays — they don’t really want you to imagine things.
But the work of community building, the work that we do in liberation and justice is transformative, which means that it invites creativity, which means that you have to lean into the element of the unknown, which means that you have to lean into the element of the unknown and be willing to be surprised. Be willing to be disappointed. Be willing to experience intense joy and deep heartache. So there’s magic in transformation. And the reason you can’t manufacture it is because it’s so organic… it’s difficult to manufacture magic.”
Can have true belonging and have community impact if those people are scattered across the country but are wrestling with these concepts together?
“Yes.. Some of the principles of belonging — I don’t often say that things are universal, it’s very rare for me to say that — but some of innate, psychological, emotional, energetic needs of belonging are pervasive. They are pervasive. Humans long for belonging to something. It’s in the word. It’s totally possible to build a community across different spaces across different time zones.
The context changes the conversation a little bit, so what dissent looks like in the US is not what dissent is going to look like in Afghanistan. But the concept of dissent is still there. The concept of choice is relevant and important. It probably makes the conversation that much richer, the fact that the way we think about choice is going to be different than the way that someone in Ireland is gonna think about choice.
I think that local communities are important, that’s where change happens most intensely. But we are in a moment where we need to do a lot more across the globe and we have the technology to do it — so why not try?”
How are you able to spark enough curiosity to get the ‘Yes’ to get people in the room, but still maintain the openness or the vagueness necessary for that work to happen?
You help people draw out what they’re currently dissatisfied with and then help them describe what they long for. It’s less about ‘What are we going to do?’ and more of like, ‘Who do we want to be, and why? And what do we think that might shift?’
How are you thinking of your purpose in the world? Who do you want to be?
I have a friend who identifies as indigenous, and she’s always talking about how we need to make decisions with seven generations in mind. ‘What is the impact we want to have seven generations from now?’ changes the conversation completely other than thinking, ‘Where do we want to be 3-5 years from now?’
So it’s helping people identify that they’re not satisfied with the way the world is right now. ‘What do you long for? And, do you want a space to play?’ Like there’s almost an invitation to playing that can get us to the place that we long for.
There’s the sell of ‘the way we’ve been doing things hasn’t been working, otherwise shit would have changed by now.’ I find that’s a useful tactic in business development meetings. ‘You’re unsatisfied with the way things have been working because you’re still in the same place. Would you like to try something completely different?’
Some people say yes [laughing] and some people say that’s too scary.
I like to move with the body of the willing. I’m at a point in my life where I don’t spend a whole lot of my time trying to convince people that they want to be free, trying to convince people that liberation is the direction that you need to go in. I don’t have a lot of time for that anymore. There are people that do. I send people to them.
I find that people are just ready. People are ready to experience something different. People are tired and worn down, and they need permission to be different. They need reminding that they can give themselves permission to be different while they are being reminded that they can give themselves permission, we give them permission and it’s so freeing!
When I started this work, I used to say, ‘Do you want to be well?’
…and now I think my question for people is, ‘Do you want to be free? Do you want to experience true liberation? And I’ll see what that shifts in conversation.”
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About this episode’s speakers:
Maegan Scott’s team has partnered with over 30 nonprofit, philanthropic, and private sector organizations. Some of her accomplishments include designing and launching Leadership Montgomery’s Racial Equity Action Leadership (REAL) Inclusion cohort-based program and supporting the reconstitution of A Way Home America’s board into one with a majority of youth with lived expertise of homelessness. Maegan brings more than 15 years of experience in philanthropy and nonprofits to Wayfinding. Her approach to facilitating change is emergent, holistic, and healing-centered. She is a Reiki practitioner who cultivates spaces where individuals’ energetic, emotional, and physical selves are seen, heard, and respected. She resides in Kensington, Maryland with her husband and their entitled cat.
In Courtney Ng’s role at Wayfinding, she does this by designing and running cohort programs and workshops that bring together practitioners from different fields to engage in meaningful dialogue about race and racism. She brings mindfulness and yoga practices to these offerings to foster the presence, wellness, and self-compassion needed for sustainable equity work. She lives in New York City with her cat, Penelope Simone. She loves to dance, write, sip wine, and get lost in a jigsaw puzzle.
Brad Wise is the co-founder of three story-driven organizations: Boonrise, Bespoken Live, and Good vs Gooder. He is the chief creative officer for Boonrise based in Cincinnati, Ohio. Brad was also a Common Good Collective Fellow.
The recited poem was “Sweet Darkness” by David Whyte.
This episode was produced by Joey Taylor and the music is from Jeff Gorman.
Photo by Maxximm at Dreamstime.com, edited by April Doner.
- Find more about the conversations discussed here in Community: Structure of Belonging and from these videos.
- Leading Racial Equity Conversations through an Emergent Strategy Lens (Scott)
- A Radically Different Take on Responsibility (Weinzweig)
- Reclaiming Our Capacity to Produce Our Own Wellbeing: Peter Block
- Learning 37: ABCD, Jazz and the Structure of Powerful Communities (McKnight)