Inch Wide, Mile Deep

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[Image description: A book is on top of a brown, curved table at an angle. It’s title is Emergent Strategy: Shaping Change, Changing Worlds by adrienne maree brown. The lettering of the word ‘Emergent’ is blue, and the lettering of ‘Strategy is green. There is a salmon-colored box below these letters which reads ‘Shaping Change, Shaping Worlds’ with the name of adrienne maree brown below. In the background of the book cover, birds are flocking.]

I’ve been reading Emergent Strategy: Shaping Change, Changing Worlds by adrienne marie brown. I (and many others!) find this book to be a remarkably refreshing, empowering paradigm shift in how we understand our relationships, our connection to the earth, our activism, our organizing, and our processes for affecting change.

There is so much I could share, as this has opened up reflections for me in many directions. But today, I want to share a piece of the book that has been sitting personally with me all week.

adrienne marie brown says,

“We need each other. I love the idea of shifting from ‘mile wide inch deep’ movements to ‘inch wide mile deep’ movements that schism the existing paradigm.” (page 20)*

Inch wide, mile deep… I absolutely love that.

She is encouraging us to move away from a paradigm we might recognize very well (do you?) — that is, plunging into task-oriented work in a huge array of areas based on the urgency of the many needs around us (those needs are very real, and when we experience burnout, we might find ourselves driven more by ‘shoulds’ than feelings of relational care). In the midst of this, she encourages to move toward a paradigm that is based on relationships — going deep with them, going deep with the care of them — because that is how transformation really happens.

It’s also much more sustainable. Whether its in our employment, our vocation, our neighborhood vision, or in larger scale movement work, mile wide, inch deep rhythms… often lead to high burnout and low impact.

But inch wide, mile deep… That’s refreshing, transformative work.

And all week, I’ve found myself desiring this. To plant myself/ourselves particularly — not widely, but deeply — to be all-in on a few things, very specific inches,

trusting that those roots go deep,
trusting that those roots find nourishing soil,
trusting that those roots intertwine with other roots,

finding connection to the people planted in other inches.
(and intersecting)
(and providing collective sustenance).

Renee Roederer

*adrienne marie brown also says this about the ‘inch wide mile deep’ language:

“I first experienced this ‘inch wide mile deep language when it was used to speak about the work of the Detroit Future Youth program at Allied Media Projects. I’ve since heard it used to speak of work that prioritizes depth in community organizing, and understands that meaningful scale depends on deep transformative work, rather than surface widespread work.”

 

 

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