For the past couple of weeks I’ve been cleaning. Everywhere I look, all I can see is work to be done. I’ve taken down fly wire screens and washed them. I’ve scrubbed the scuff marks from the floor.

Now that I’m back at full time work for 2015, I’m a bit frustrated that the cleaning isn’t finished. But why? I’m guessing a few reasons.

Having been on leave for over a month is a highly unusual for me, and with most of that time being out of the country, I have a sense of being displaced.

Also, like most of us, I’ve been distressed by world events. The Sydney siege, the Brooklyn police killings, and now the Charlie Hebdo and kosher supermarket assassinations. For various reasons, all of these events hit close to home.

Further displacement.

I recently wrote about how ‘People follow ideas’ which was my way of trying to make sense of the atrocities.

I needed to understand why people would act the way they do and what we can do about it. I came to the conclusion that ideals of freedom of speech and democracy need to be more prominently discussed. We have become complacent. We have let our voices be out-shouted by others. We have let the dirt pile up in the corners, planning on cleaning it up when we have time.

So I cleaned. And I know I will never finish but my efforts have impact.

If I can’t change people and their thoughts and behaviours, maybe I can tame the dirt.

But I have to face the world now and know that things have changed. I need to act on my thoughts about the power of ideas and how those ideas have purpose and meaning. I need to make a cleaner, shinier home for those ideas to grow and effect change.

Those with influence and power need to think about what they are doing to promote values of freedom and democracy. Not to be fearful of saying the right words but to work with our organisations and communities to be brave, proud and strong. We need to tap into emotions and things of real importance to people and think less about pure theory and methods of engagement.

Organisations often grapple with their our mission, vision and values. I’m starting to think we need to reframe our thinking to focus on ‘purpose’.

Organisations have a voice. Those voices belong to the people in those organisations. Helping people articulate that voice and develop relationships with those people and communities important to their purpose is my core skill set.

Ensuring that my work helps good people in good organisations find their voice – can only mean great things for social good.

If this is my focus, then maybe I won’t obsess about cleaning.

Jennifer Cromarty

Author Jennifer Cromarty

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