But transformation does not – decidedly not – have to be deadly. Disruption does not have to be destruction.
And that’s why what happened at Transformations 2019 is so important. We began to understand ourselves as a growing community, not yet inclusive of all the voices needed, but nonetheless a community growing in strength from the friendships we are forming; from the diversity of Northern and Southern, academic, NGO, private sector and government voices learning to hear each other; from the practices we use to hold spaces for engaging each other in sharing and sensemaking; and from the stories we carry, take apart and are beginning to rewrite.
And because we engage this transforming world, we realized how we are, in fact, becoming active players: relevant, solutions-oriented and useful. We saw that we are becoming aware of the responsibility this involvement entails. Ethics is ever more important in our work, even if what is “the right thing to do” and what is “right” is not always clear at all. We began to acknowledge – maybe more openly than ever before – that we do our work in epistemological and ontological, strategic, tactical and evaluative uncertainty. Inevitably so, maybe rightly so, demanding of us an unfamiliar level of humility in our work.
Maybe, at Transformations 2019, we became more courageous. Because actively engaging a transforming world, even if we are not bolstered by a sense of certainty or moral righteousness, confronts us with power. The powers that be, and our own, as well as any lack of power we may feel. It demands that we engage with the politics of what is, that we confront who we are – as researchers, activists, decision-makers, humans – and question how we dare to matter, who we want to be, and who we are becoming as the world itself changes.
At Transformations 2019, even before the unrest exploded, the urgency to act was palpable. Among the most concrete needs we articulated was that for building capacity – our own and that of others – to hold space for transformative dialogues about our collective futures. To connect across disciplines, sectors and differences, and support each other through this difficult time. In a world, where city squares, border regions and ocean basins, forests, fields and darkening skies are becoming “sacrifice zones”, we understood that every choice matters.
What we maybe didn’t realize, but understand today as the squares are burning, is that all these insights are not theoretical. They demand being lived every day, in the squares we already inhabit and return to, as well as those that await us tomorrow.
So we leave Santiago, knowing that, every day, it matters that we work to hold the tension of paradoxical truths, polarization and discontent so that yet-unknown resolutions can emerge. Every day, it matters that we help re-direct those tensions toward creativity and impact. Every day, it matters that we hold and support each other, course-correct toward the more difficult work of understanding and insight. Every day, it matters that we decide against becoming soldiers of destruction and instead decide to become warriors of peace.
And if we did – that would be the loudest thunder yet echoing from Santiago and Transformations 2019.