By Tracy Knuston
Meet Wilson and Alfred. This is who I spend most of my days with. Both are 'rescues' who have had the type of experiences with humans that mean they have a different take on how to operate in the world. Of our team of three, one is a Vegas street dog, one is a Saskatchewan stray and me, a stray of a whole other kind. We are all different in our own ways however there is one thing we all have in common – our nervous systems carry stories of the lived experience of trauma. These stories in our nervous systems mean that we tend to view the world as mostly not a safe place to be. While it’s not completely wrong, it sure can cause challenges when we want to make connections with others.
This isn’t unique to our triad. Most everyone holds stories in their nervous systems because of lived experience with violence in some way or another. We’re working on shifting our views of the world. We walk a lot to practice the things we are learning about how to be out in the world of humans. Some parts are about safety and trust, which are important. Other parts are about 'manners' and interacting with people in a way that builds relationships. Our focus is to become a strong team that trusts each other and then can trust other people to join our team. Steep Hill, Steep Learning, Together… On one such walk, we went for a hike on the trails near our house with the intent of a short, easy 3 km stroll. Their person (yes - that's me) meandered off into imagination land and missed a turn. The easy, short walk turned into nearly 8 km of steep hills, mud and trails that we hadn't been on before. Scooby-Doo says it best... 'ruh roooooh!' I was worried. We aren't all that good at this kind of thing yet and my bones aren't as strong as I would like them to be. This two-legged human in the team did not have an easy time. And my two teammates knew that. They pulled me up hills, waited while I slid down banks and stopped to encourage me when I had to sit down, catch my breath and try to figure out where the heck we were. I was the navigator, despite my earlier mistake, and they were the muscle. They did what they knew how to do based on their natures - stick together, push, pull and pause. Look out for each other, rest when you need to and keep going because the destination could be right around the next corner. (Did I mention that these two are my best teachers?) And we did it. And we will do it again because now we know we can. Integrating Alignment for Collective Action … It reminded me a lot of collaborative work and network building. We all come from different places, with different values and ways of working. We all have different lived experiences that make us who we are. It takes some good navigation, a heap of trust building, a fair bit of stamina and lots of working together. And when our own stories of trauma show up in the room, when we end up in places we didn't expect or when the going gets a little gritty, we have a choice. Lean in, pull together, work from strength and find a way through together- or go off on our own and hope we end up in the same place somehow. Or not. The Stanford Social Innovation Review is one of the thought leaders that we follow at STOPS to support our learning on what it takes for deep collaboration for effective long term change. The Collective Impact model originated with a paper by John Kania and Mark Kramer in 2011. This framework and body of practice has evolved quite a lot in the past 11 years. Early in 2022, a paper was released called ‘Centering Equity in Collective Impact’ that offers a proposed revised definition of the concept of Collective Impact: “Collective impact is a network of community members, organizations, and institutions that advance equity by learning together, aligning, and integrating their actions to achieve population and systems-level change.”
That’s a great description of the STOPS to Violence Network as well. Learning together, aligning and integrating actions for systems change is slow, steady work. Where indeed, like the efforts of my canine-and-me team, we push, pull and pause and grow stronger together. At STOPS, we’ve been busy ‘behind the scenes’ the past several months as we lay the foundation to support next steps together. Keep an eye out for upcoming meetings and opportunities like the Network Exchange, Saskatchewan Violence Prevention Week and the Virtual Community Hub - cornerstones for aligning efforts and acting together. Interested in learning more about joining the STOPS to Violence Network? Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org and let’s walk through what that looks like. I promise not to get too lost… but hey. At least we will be together.