4: What is Radical Service?
Listen in to hear Andréa share her thoughts on radical service, what it means, why it's needed and also offer a handful of questions to support you in doing work that goes to the root.
For a transcript: http://acalltoserve.simplecast.fm/4
To check out Coaching as Activism: http://coachingasactivism.com
Connect with Andréa on Instagram: http://instagram.com/andrearanaej
You’re listening to A CALL TO SERVE. This is a podcast calling entrepreneurs, coaches, healers, creatives and transformative leaders who want to make a difference in their communities to show up with integrity, use their power and practice radical service. My name is Andréa Ranae, I’m a facilitator and coach focusing my work on holding space for leadership and liberation, especially when it comes to business.
In this episode I’m gonna share a little bit about what I mean when I talk about practicing radical service especially since I’ve had a handful of y’all mention that to me over the last few weeks.
But before we get into that I just wanna thank you for listening! While I’ve personally listened to a ton of other podcasts, it’s truly something else to be on the other end of things and I’m so grateful to have your attention right now. And to those of you that have shared the show, since it launched, on social media, tagging me in insta stories, telling your friends about it, leaving ratings and reviews. Y’ALL. My sun sign is in Leo and my number 1 love language is “words of affirmation,” so those seemingly small actions mean everything to me and keep me going. So thank you.
Let’s get into this episode.
Okay, so… radical service. What the what does that mean?
Well in episode 2 I talked a lot about how most, if not all, of us that are doing work of a transformative nature do this work because we want to be of service, we want to contribute and make an impact on the world. What sucks is that those of us that grew up and live within hyper-individualistic societies like the US, the UK, Canada, Australia, tend to see a need and show up for it without digging deeper. Graeme mentioned this in episode 3 – we see homeless people and think “why don’t they get a job?” We see impoverished children in a severely under-resourced and exploited country and think “ah, let’s build a school!” We see this thing we call “hate” coming more and more to the surface of our everyday lives and think “all we need is love.” Right? Let’s love and light this shit away. We see women burnt out, underpaid and insecure and think “let’s teach them how to love themselves.”
I don’t necessarily think there’s anything inherently wrong with these examples, there’s just SO MUCH MORE that we miss and ignore and bypass when we don’t take the time to get the full picture and go to the root of the issue we’re talking about.
So when we create offerings and services for people in our communities and we don’t understand that the every single personal and/or relational issue our peeps are dealing with are connected to systemic and cultural issues (more simply put – that the personal is political), the best case scenario is that we miss opportunities for cultural and systemic transformation. The worst case is scenario is that we actually continue to perpetuate harmful ideas that have us thinking that our pain and struggle is our fault alone rather than a personal and collective responsibility. What good is your service if it’s unsustainable?
Heres what I mean by that is that. We all have different ways that we think and theorize about change – how and why it happen. The most common theory of change I’ve seen in the transformational service industry says that supporting, healing and changing the individual (without focusing on the culture and systems the individual lives within) will change the world. In my opinion, this theory is inefficient and unsustainable. How I feel about myself and how I navigate this world and my relationships is deeply influenced by white supremacy, homophobia, transphobia, fatphobia just to get the list started. You might’ve heard the quote before from Jiddu Krishnamurti that says “It is no measure of health to be well adjusted to a profoundly sick society.”
And that’s what the majority of us in this industry are up to in the world right now. So when I say practice radical service, what I’m saying is let’s do something different here. And Angela Davis is quoted saying that “radical simply means ‘grasping things at the root’.” That’s what I’m here for. So I’m going to put a few questions out to you for grounding purposes because I feel like a lot of what I just said was very theoretical. These are framed in question words: who, what, when, where, why and how.
The first one is who are you serving?
It could be really easy to answer this question with some cute demographics and characteristics and move on to the next one but let’s take it deeper. Who are the people you’re serving? What are their needs and desires? Are you including yourself in your answer? If your service doesn’t take you into account, put that baby on pause and let’s reevaluate okay?
Number two is what is your work in service of?
My friend Kim McGill helped me frame this a bit earlier this year in Coaching as Activism. All of our actions and all that we create is in service to or if something and it could be multiple things. The kind of work that supports us to be well adjusted to a sick society probably has the initial intention of healing, wellbeing, making the world a better place, but in practice it’s often in service of maintaining the status quo. So there’s some contradictions there – find them for yourself, let’s bring them to the surface and figure out how we move forward.
Number three is two-fold: When and Where and this is really getting at the context of the needs that you’re showing up for.
None of us exist in a vacuum. All of our needs sit within a context and that includes our families, our identities, our communities, our governments, our location, our histories, our cultures, our institutions, the level of access we have to various resources and so much more. Getting to know the context of the needs or desires allows us to get a better grasp of who and what we’re showing up for. If you have an organization that offers sex ed to teens, the education is gonna need to look a little different for teens in a predominately white private school than than it would for a group of queer Muslim teens. The information might be the same or similar but the conversation about the information and the way that it’s shared could be very different.
The fourth question is why (why you’re showing up and invested in being of service?)
I encourage you to “so what?” yourself as you answer this question cause it is really easy to just say something like “because I want to leave this world better than I found it” or “because I’ve always wanted to help people” or “because I want to give back.” That’s all great and important but so what? What does that mean to you? What’s in it for you? Let’s get to the heart of it. This is something I learned from my English teacher in my first year of high school. Shout out to Ms. Spooner. I’m always asking myself and clients the “so what?” and it probably gets a little annoying sometimes but there are answers underneath that are more real and more you.
The fifth and last question is how (how are you being of service?)
What are the tools, methods and resources you’re using? Where did you acquire these from? What are your business and/or leadership practices? What are your values are prioritizing? And how are you putting these things into practice?
None of these questions are linear and they all inform one another. But I do wanna circle back to my first question on who you’re serving because that probably one of the most important things for me right now especially as think about black and brown women and femmes and gender non conforming folx. Simply because of our social positioning we are in positions of service because our societies place the majority of the emotional and relational labor of the world on our backs and when we enter into leadership roles like owning a business or even starting a family, we tend to replicate that way of being. This is something I’m constantly working on and learning through because I have a habit of place the needs of others above my own, which isn’t a horrible thing but can easily become toxic.
So I want to reiterate to you if your listening, but especially if you hold multiple marginalized identities, that if your service or your attempts to be accessible or inclusive does not include an account of your needs and wants in order for you to be well as your working to create change in the world, I urge you to reevaluate because we need you. And showing up in a way that negates your needs is an excellent path towards burn out. Okay?
I hope this has been helpful for you in some way. As I was thinking about what I wanted to share on this episode I knew it wouldn’t be as neat and tidy as I wanted it to be and I’m okay with that because that what this entire podcast is for – to explore integrity, power and radical serve as it relates to our work as transformational leaders. If you’d like a space specifically dedicated to exploring these questions in community with others, coaching as activism is where it’s at. You can go to coachingasactivism.com to find out more. And before you go, please take a moment to share this show with your peeps or leave a review or both! I have some really exciting guests coming to the show throughout the next few months as well as some solo episodes and I want to make sure this gets out to as many people as possible! Thank you thank you thank you! Talk with you soon.