We are a group of people who, like you, are dedicated to social, economic and environmental health and wholeness. We call ourselves Unify Toronto (www.unifytoronto.ca) and our purpose is to accelerate the shift to a just, sustainable and fulfilling society by bringing together Toronto's change-making groups, organizations and citizens. In collaboration with Design with Dialogue, we hold monthly Unify Toronto Dialogues that support Toronto shift-makers to gather and find support and inspiration for their part in stewarding the emergence of a genuinely thriving human culture among all species.
Our last dialogue on October 26 engaged 30 participants in a World Café with spirited conversations inspired by The Leap Manifesto. All present were inspired and charged by the Manifesto--the vastness and boldness of the call it puts forward, and the concise way it lays out a pathway in that direction.
We thought of Thomas Paine’s Common Sense pamphlet (1776), which presented an argument for freedom from British rule at a time when that was the central question of the day. Written in plain language, it was an immediate sensation, read aloud in taverns and meeting places, and remains proportionally the all-time best-selling American title. Some scholars argue that without that pamphlet, the American Revolution would not have happened.
We would like to see the Leap Manifesto have a similar trajectory in Canada, and potentially around the globe. In that vein, we want to share here the rich harvest of ideas our dialogue generated about how to take the Manifesto forward, create the possibility for it to spread virally, and spark the revolution that is needed today.
First, we would like to present some concrete ideas about how to help make the Manifesto a viral phenomenon that shifts public discourse and influences the political agenda in Canada and around the world:
- Work with Avaaz to promote the vision outlined in the Leap Manifesto, sending it for signature to a much larger critical mass than the current 31,000, linking to your resource page (see item 2 below). Avaaz has 42 million members worldwide, and the capacity to focus on Canada and/or to inspire people in countries all around the globe to develop their own versions of the Manifesto.
- Develop a short YouTube video of the Leap Manifesto (or its key points) being read:
- by Canadian celebrities and intellectual figures (e.g. David Suzuki. These might be some of the signatories of the Manifesto that people would recognize), and/or
- by a diverse range of Canadians, from young children to elders of widely diverse ethnicities and genders, and/or
- illustrated with animation (as in The Story of Stuff or a hand-drawn video as the text is being read)
Knowing of Avi Lewis’ film-making ability, we are excited by the possibility that your team may already have the resources to do this easily. This could be posted on your leapmanifesto.org resources page.
- Post model letters to politicians on your resources page (which could be written by the Leap team and/or provided by supporters), to engage individuals and groups in sending letters to the Prime Minister and their MPs, MPPs and councillors, to promote action on the Manifesto’s vision.
- Encourage (again, on your resources page) organizations, studios, and offices to put up Leap Manifesto posters with some distillation of its content, along with a hard copy to sign.
- Engage cities and towns to pass motions adopting the Leap Manifesto at the municipal level.
- More broadly, engage and inspire media specialists, scientists, philosophers, artists, novelists, film-makers and others to tell the story of the world that “taking the Leap” would create, as if it had already happened. Many of the initial signatories of the Manifesto have the capacity to engage the public and the political imagination, moving the vision of the Leap from controversial to mainstream in a short time. Think of the way the normalization of homosexuality in popular entertainment media helped pave the way for the widespread legalization of gay marriage. How do we replicate such a shift in social attitudes and norms?
Second, we wish to share some reflections on the potential risks and pitfalls of The Leap Manifesto as an instrument for change, along with our thoughts about how to work through them.
We were struck, during our dialogue, by the sheer magnitude of the shift in culture and consciousness required to make the Leap. We recalled cases of large-scale change with transformations of the political order (e.g. the former Yugoslavia and Syria), which began as peaceful grassroots-led movements but devolved into civil conflicts with regional and global implications. We are mindful of these precedents, and the fact that the massive economic and political shifts implicit in the Leap inevitably rub up against vested interests within government, in the private sector, and among specific groups of people such as workers in fossil fuel-reliant industries. Focusing on protesting and opposing the status quo and those who support it runs the risk of replicating the very dynamics of conflict and power struggle that plague the world today.
We talked about how the Leap might instead be approached from an attitude of inclusiveness and compassion. To this end, The Leap Manifesto could become a platform for convening broad dialogue. This would require involving (rather than opposing) those currently seen as the obstacles for change, to establish a new “social contract” among all stakeholders, particularly among those who are not normally heard. Providing spaces for grieving the old order, and reaching out to people who feel challenged by the emerging new reality, would be important elements of this strategy. The Leap requires a process of healing at all levels and could be approached in that spirit.
Specific possibilities that emerged under this rubric include:
- Encouraging face-to-face meetings (e.g. in churches, schools, colleges and universities, community centres, public libraries and cafés) to read The Leap Manifesto aloud and discuss its implications, as we did in our Dialogue session. We would be happy to provide a suggested format and facilitator’s guide for these events, that you could post on your resources page.
- Building on the involvement of indigenous rights groups in writing the Manifesto, calling together one or more councils of indigenous elders across Canada to provide wisdom and guidance toward realizing the Leap. As Justin Trudeau said recently in Paris, “Indigenous peoples have known for thousands of years how to care for our planet. The rest of us have a lot to learn and no time to waste.”
- Supporting subtle activism -- myriad forms of prayer, ceremony and mindfulness practices -- both as a tool for engagement and as a way to manifest the breadth of change we are seeking to achieve.
- Engaging The Elders (theelders.org) in support of a global mission of peaceful change through seeking political commitments to true human flourishing across cultures and nations.
Would you be willing to contact us by return email so that we can continue the conversation?
In a spirit of collaboration, and with deep gratitude for your leadership and catalytic initiative in this pivotal time,
of Unify Toronto Dialogues