What I learned about management from Amnesty international

I am a trained activist. And because of that - I am a trained leader.  I was thinking about this as I have been watching the protests to end police brutality.  I am no longer active - but my heart is with the protesters.

Effective activists get trained. It's like any other project. If you want to be successful, you need knowledge of history, what has been tried, what works, and how to encourage people in power to come to the table to negotiate with you for the changes you want to see made.

I spent years involved with Amnesty International. And received so many training opportunities from them I lost count. They taught me:
  • Leadership
  • Volunteer management
  • Public speaking
  • Co-creation
  • Egalitarian leadership
A big part of the reason I am able to teach these things in the world of business is because of the training Amnesty International gave to me.

What are the management lessons we can learn from social justice movements?

Passion and values is central to what you want to do. Ethics isn't secondary to organizing and management. It's central.  If what you are doing isn't going to make things better- don't do it.  We have a limited amount of time and resources and big problems that really need to be solved. Don't waste time on things that don't matter. 

What will work with the least input? We have a limited amount of time and resources, this is true of every movement. So - how do we create the most impact with the least amount of input? All conversations about strategy - take this into account.  And if you've taken my Reality Based Decision Making course - you will recognize this principle. 

Great leaders create great coalitions. No one gets anything done by themselves. There is always a coalition of people working in common cause that gets things done. Great leaders - built great coalitions. They don't care who gets credit - as long as the work gets done - and the work gets done - through coalition and that requires giving up ownership - and allowing people to co-create solutions together. 

Invest in people. The more skills your people learn - the more they can contribute. Amnesty International invests in it's volunteers. It teaches them how to be activists. How to lead, how to create and build coalitions, how to advocate for what you want and more.  I received more training from them as a volunteer than I ever have from any of the companies I ever worked for.  Most jobs I had - expected me to learn on the job. Invest in people. Teach them how to do better and be better at whatever job they have. And make this an ongoing part of the culture- learning and sharing.

Never take your eye off your goal: All activism serves a goal. I was taught to always keep that goal in mind and to take wins whenever you could.  Progress is made in small changes. Those small changes add up to big wins over time.  And yes - incremental change can be really frustrating - but there is no other real way to succeed. 

Treat people - including your adversaries - as potential allies: All activism is designed to either encourage or force people to change. If you can encourage people to change - great. If change has to be forced - ok - but try encouragement first.  When forcing change - you have to give the people you are trying to change - space to change. If you treat them as evil - you give them no space to do or be good. Always assume people will eventually choose to do the right thing. And encourage them - and accept them when they do - regardless of what went on before. Give people - a safe place to land in the new reality you are creating.

Share space with others and allow others to lead.  No one knows everything. Everyone I met along the way - was able to teach me things I didn't know before. I met people from so many parts of the country and so many backgrounds and life experiences. All of them had something valuable to contribute and each and every one of them was a capable leader when given the space to lead.  It is easy to see how this lends itself to a humanistic mindset. Like Confucius - I was taught that everyone is capable of being a moral person and everyone is capable of leading. They just need to be given encouragement, teaching and opportunity. 

Learn more:

I have a 16 hour online certificate program in Humanistic Leadership - https://humanistlearning.com/certified-humanistic-leadership-professional/
And a new book on Applied Humanism - how to create more effective and ethical businesses - https://humanistlearning.com/new-book-applied-humanism-how-to-create-more-effective-and-ethical-businesses/

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