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Democratizing Work: From Doubt to Buzz

By Susan, Aja and Micah (GWI Worker Trustees)

“Democratizing work” shows up in one of the principles of Just Transition. To shift toward an economy governed by what we call “deep democracy”, we’ll need to know how to practice it. We spend most of our time at work, so what better place than our workplaces to learn to practice democracy and work toward a Just Transition?

We started our shared leadership journey at GWI 4 years ago. When we told people about it back then, we were met with doubt and questions: will it really work, and how? 

Our experience these days is different, there’s a buzz that we’re excited to be in the midst of, as a workplace practicing and promoting democracy. Sharing out what we have learned allows us to engage more deeply with folks who are leaning into this work with curiosity. We hear stories of what’s being practiced, and positive shifts occurring. We emerge from training or coaching sessions energized to reach toward new possibilities in our thinking and practice, strengthening one another as we make democracy in our working relationships happen.

Here are some highlights of how we’ve been sharing this work:

  • March marks the fifth time we’ve offered a series of three workshops in partnership with Angela DeFelice of Co-op Hudson Valley to help organizations figure out big and small ways to share power, leadership and decision-making at work. More than 170 participants from more than 50 organizations have participated in these workshops. We’ve been inspired by witnessing or hearing stories of shifts made by organizations like Wild Earth and Land to Learn as they take tools offered and implement them among their workers and Board members. 
  • Since 2020, we’ve served as an informal thought partner and light-touch resource to a number of organizations. This year, we embarked on our first formal coaching relationship with the Poughkeepsie Farm Project (PFP). After the PFP participated in the workshop series, the organization experienced internal changes that solidified their desire to move into more shared leadership. This matched GWI’s desire to offer coaching to organizations looking for support in exploring the policies, practices, and cultural shifts needed to integrate democracy into the ways that they work together. If you’re looking for a coach, please don’t hesitate to reach out!
  • As we shift to more democratic ways of working together, we believe we’ll also need to develop our conflict resilience. We’re bound to encounter differences and tension in our efforts to share power and decision-making. The good news is that it is possible to develop skills and tools to tap into the generative potential of conflict. This month, we’re finishing our sixth time offering the Navigating Conflict 7-week course in partnership with Nicole Bauman. This time we focused the series more squarely on how nonviolent communication skills can be brought into working relationships. We’re exploring tuning into and connecting with our own experiences of activation in order to develop our resilience and clarity to show up differently and see how that changes how we think about, communicate with, and relate to our colleagues. 

A roundup of GWI news, including general announcements, reflections from our team, and links to resources.

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