Responsible leadership in the face of marginalization and oppression
Please stand with us as we hold and witness the many Co–Active partners, faculty, alumni, and customers who live, work, and have familial and cultural roots in Ukraine and Russia. These humansare experiencingthe realities of an unchecked power exercising violent oppression on a grand scale.
We see the tremendous amount of pain, suffering, fear,and outrage you and the people of your countries are living with and the enormity of loss you are enduring. It is heartbreaking. We also see and hear that you are holding many truths that need to be accounted for as our world creates a narrative around what is happening. We honor the complexity of this reality so that our collective interventions and solutions are responsible, meaningful,and sustainable.
For CTI, the attack from the Russian government on Ukraine and its people fundamentally opposes whatCo–Active stands for. We will not turn away from this kind of oppression and violation of human rights on any level.We stand with Ukrainians and those fighting for Ukrainian sovereignty and freedom.We also stand in solidarity with those who are speakingand acting out against the outcomes of unchecked power within the social, economic,and political systems of Russia. Our commitment is to use whatever power we have to confront this situation and all that it represents,starting by speaking into this moment and continuing to speak out over time. We are also active in aligning our words with our actions so that our impact is reflective of our intentions.
This situation is complex and,for many,complicated, especially when we look through the four aspectsof oppression (intrapersonal, interpersonal,systemic,and institutional/structural). When we focus on the intrapersonal and interpersonal level, the focus is on the people involved and our relationship to those people. The much needed response from this place is supporting everyone in crisis and showing that we care. When we put our energy and consideration here,our responses create immediate relief to the people involved.But these responses do not create lasting change and,in some cases, inadvertently continue to play into the systemic power dynamics that are oppressive in the first place. On the other hand, when we move to isolate the power structures in an attempt to address the systemic and institutional part of the construct, we put much needed pressure on the system to change, but often the people within the system suffer greatly.Global sanctions imposed on Russia are an example.They are impactful systemically while also being harmful intra- and interpersonally to those living in the system. To create meaningful change,we need to account for all aspects of the dynamic and realize that at this stage harm is inevitable. We don’t like this reality, but we understand that we must build the capacity to be with it and have the audacityto lead through it.
As we enter this conversation more broadly and look at how we want to lead, we are focused on a fundamental guiding principle of Co–Active leadership:responsibility. We believe responsibility is a creative process that has two parts: creating your world and being created by your world. This process is always happening, and the extent to which we can be responsible depends on our level of awareness of these two parts. In this way,leadership is about growing our capacity to hold more awareness of ourselves in relationship to a larger world and leveraging this awareness to move from reactive to creative leadership. For CTI tobe responsible to our vision and all that we stand for,we feel we need to shine a light on the many aspects and patterns of oppression that are playing out globally as a result of this warreceiving front–page attention.
We firstwant to acknowledge that every human conflictis different and activates a response that is commensurate with how much we personally relate to the people involved. The acts of many individuals and groups in response to what is unfolding between Russia and Ukraine are inspiring and remarkable, and thoseefforts are necessary and virtuous. What is also true is that while this conflict is getting well-deserved global attention and resources, there are refugees fleeing from Syria, Afghanistan, Palestine, Africa, and Central and South America as a result of similar conflicts. These incidents are not getting an equivalent amount of treatment or compassion because,on an institutional level,our world and global systemsareEurocentric. As a result,the war on Ukraine threatens that way of life more than other wars do. The response is commensurate.We see more urgent and reactive responses to the war in Ukraine that, while highly justified, reinforce exclusion for those already marginalized rather than being rigorous or compassionate enough to offer consistent and inclusive support for all.
The ongoing dynamic between Russia and Ukraine is illuminating what happens when a dominant system goes unchecked. To be responsible forour world with this awareness,we need to extend the collective outcry of indignation against the imbalanced power structure that exists at all levels of the social fabric, economic networks, and global political systems. To shape and create our world with this awareness means that as we stand against the unchecked power in Russia,we must also stand with any country or people who are trying to live freely and fully while being intentionally attacked, exiled,or killed to support the agenda of a dominant system or group.Our commitment is to continue to build our capacity to hold this larger frame and to generate enough energy and involvement on a broader scale so that we don’t have occurrences and recurrences of these dynamics.
Here are some of the things that CTI has been and will be doing to build this capacity and resource ourselves to be a stronger influence in minimizing unchecked power and dominant culture norms:
We will be announcing changes in the upcoming weeks to CTI’s governance that will ensure the frame of equity is accounted for at the highest levels of our organization and in equal measure to CTI’s legacy and strategy.
We have hired a role to fulfill on community and public relations, which will allow us to be able to exercise our voice and influence more often in more spaces in this vein.
We are providing ongoing training to our staff to support them in performing their roles related to policy, process, and decision–making.
We are reviewing and redesigning our course offering through an equity lens.
We will be re–engineering our scholarship program to include refugees of war, which will allow us to have an impact at the interpersonal, intrapersonal, and systemic levels.In the weeks ahead,we will be sharing additional details of our scholarship program and alsosharing more about what we think it means to lead in the face of complexity and intensity.
For many people, this war is a life or death situation. For all of us,it is an opportunity to choose how we will meet and lead in this moment. May we courageously find our part, come together, and further create the conditions that both address root causes of these conflicts and foster a world alive with wholeness, responsibility,and love.
Carey Baker and Carlo Bos Co-CEOs, Co-Active Training Institute (CTI)