It occurred to me the other day what my work is ultimately about. It’s a long-term culture change project using the development of micro-cultures to, well, change the world. When this landed on me I was like, “wait, what?” But then it made sense. My idealism. My desire to be in spaces that are vastly different from what one typically finds in their day-to-day. My constant desire to go on retreats.
So what does it mean?
I’m sure you’ve seen the famed Margaret Mead quote:
Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed it’s the only thing that ever has.
It’s a good one1 that cuts right to an impeccable truth — that change happens at a small scale before it sweeps the larger whole. A question we can ask, however, is why? Why is it that it takes a small group to change the world? I think a part of the answer has to do with culture.
Culture is a big thing. It is vast and all encompassing. It seems very much beyond our own individual ability to make an impact. And perhaps it is2. But we can engage in practices that will have an impact.
- A microscopic culture of cells or organisms
- the culture of a small group of human beings with limited perspective
…and, well, that’s not at all what I was looking for. So I decided to change it up and call it a micro-culture. Sure, it’s the same thing if you say it out loud, but so is blue and blew.
I define micro-culture as a culture that gets created in a small group of people that is meant to give them an experience that is distinctly different from the macro- (or dominant-) culture. But there’s more. This difference is meant to lean us toward a world that holds more of the values and experiences that allow for a world of connection. This includes vulnerability, intimacy, understanding, and others.
The idea here is that culture change is possible by meeting in groups of four, five, six, eight. It’s possible because those groups aren’t simply meetings, they are culture generating initiatives. They are giving their members the opportunity to experience life a bit differently than they typically do. I hear this all the time — how the spaces that we are creating feel different, and shift people’s experience of their day-to-day lives.
We aren’t going to be able to bring these changes to the culture at large without some very significant leadership3. But if we commit to finding the spaces where it is safe to practice new ways of being, we can begin to see the tide turn. As these small groups continue to generate, they can connect. They can spread ideas to one another, and between them. And in doing so, the experiences of the many members will shift. And in doing that, the world.
Well, that’s the idea anyway. I have no idea what will become of it4. It feels like the right thing to be exploring.
So, find yourself a micro-culture to immerse in. What do you notice after?
Of course, it could be updated to replace the word citizens with something like community members. That would, after all, be a bit more inclusive.↩
Of course, if our lives take a path that brings us into large-scale leadership, then perhaps as individuals we can impact the culture. But how many of us is that really?↩
And let’s be honest, if there’s anything we’re lacking these days, it’s leadership.↩
Neither do you. :-)↩