Deep Change 2018

June 12, 2018

Deep Change for Water Justice

A one-day conference exploring the synthesis of personal and societal transformation embodied by Occupy, Standing Rock, and Black Lives Matter.


Conference Vision: What is Deep Change?

Proponents of Deep Change come to it from a couple of perspectives. Those who begin with a commitment to personal transformation often find that the emergent tendency to care for others leads them to direct their attention towards the service of others, and ultimately to changing the underlying systemic causes of suffering and oppression. Likewise, those who begin with a commitment to advancing social change, often recognize that in order to be effective, they must first heal those parts of themselves that are still attached to the status quo that they seek to move past. In either case, the roads of personal and social transformation converge into a space in which the personal and societal overlap. For the purposes of this conference, this overlapping which includes both our efforts towards personal and social change can be called “Transformational Change” or “Deep Change” for short.  

At the outset, the desire to bring together personal and social transformation is fueled by a desire to increase our effectiveness in each. This takes the form of activities that simultaneously bring about inner and outer transformation, such as providing for our necessities at the local level or choosing to go without certain luxuries to which we have become accustomed, as well as ways that spiritual practice can inform social activism and vise versa, such as contemplative meeting practice or “transformational activism.”

As the conversation deepens, the desire to synthesize personal and social transformation is motivated by a recognition that the degree that we can create just and sustainable social structures is directly linked both to our collective level of consciousness and the stories we maintain about our relationship to the world around us. Materialistic narratives which assume separation to be the fundamental reality of this world will inevitably produce extractive and exploitative economies and social structures while narratives which recognize the radical interconnectedness of all beings will inevitably produce economic and social structures equipped to look out for the long-term wellbeing of all beings.    


Why Occupy, Standing Rock and Black Lives Matter?

As a transformational approach to Social Change applies to Social Action it is not just a theory. It has been emerging in different ways within all of the significant social movements of our time. In this Conference, we have chosen to highlight three.

The Occupy Wall Street movement was critiqued by some as being “leaderless.” In response, the word “leaderful” was coined by adherents of the approach. Whether one feels the movement was leaderless or leaderfull, all will agree that it advanced a series of technologies for advancing collaborative and inclusive process. Hand signals, human microphone, stack to name a few. The focus on democratic group process is significant in light of the transformational movement as it reflects a focus on bringing out the genius of the group rather than relying on the leadership of a single individual. Occupy’s commitment to collective leadership and it process technology for doing so is a harbinger of the transformational movement.

Standing Rock stands out as one of the clearest examples of the strength of a transformational approach to social change to date. When the activists on the frontline framed themselves as water protectors as opposed to pipeline protesters, the ground was laid for a movement that kept prayer and ceremony at the forefront. Moreover, though blockadia was employed, the approach of Standing Rock was radically non-violent, in so far as it was made explicit that the water was being protected for all people, including those that would endanger it. The tag line, water is life, reinforced the universality of the movement’s intent.

Black Lives Matter pertains to the transformational movement in so far as it points a finger at the inner or perceptual shift that must take place within white and white-supremacist America for egalitarian society to come forward. The genius of the fundamental statement of this movement is in the way it reveals the prevalence of white supremacist mindset in the U.S. by means of the inevitable resistance to an indisputable statement. In this way, the statement that Black Lives Matter, and the country’s response, stands as a call for the inner transformation of white America.

Conference Facilitation

Sherri Mitchell, Indigenous rights Attorney and founding Director of the Land Peace Foundation, of Penobscot, Maine.

Reverend Dr. Leon Dunkley, musician, writer, activist and pastor of the Unitarian Universalist Church of Woodstock, Vermont

Elements of Deep Change 2018

  • Plenary sessions facilitated by Sherri Mitchell and Leon Dunkley
  • Interactive workshops lead by local and regional experts and tradition bearers
  • In depth conversation in breakout groups facilitated by community leaders

Goals of Deep Change 2018

  • Support the emergence of a new orientation toward positive social change
  • Network groups and people to work together to bring about positive change
  • Inspire visions and support their actualization  

Deep Change 2018’s Planning Committee

Amanda Sheehan, Chris Wood, Marisa Heiling, Rachel Aramburu, Jameson Davis, Arielle King. Leon Dunkley, Gigi Gallaway, Cleo Kearns, Simon Dennis