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NVC as a Tool for Systemic Social Change

I believe that many people were initially drawn to NVC because of the hope it offered for improved relationships with family and friends, and that most have found it helped improve those personal relationships, including the relationship with themselves. Some have been able to apply it in their workplaces, improving personal relationships with co-workers, employees or employers. But my impression is that relatively few have explored how NVC might be applied to contribute to far more complex systemic social change.

If I become aware that some system—for example the retributive justice system--is not in harmony with my values, I am motivated to seek changes to that system that are in harmony with my values by, for example supporting the movement toward restorative justice. In doing so I am seeking strategies that I believe will contribute to such changes. Restorative justice has recently become more and more embraced as an alternative to a system that relies on punishment. Eugene, for example, now has a people’s court that offers a non-punitive, supportive context for those who have broken certain laws. I don’t know what part, if any, NVC may have played in bringing this particular institution into existence but my guess is that NVC consciousness and skills may well have contributed something to this.

For this kind of change I expect the strategies will be complex, involving many people and various institutions. Along the way I’d expect to have (as Marshall Rosenberg pointed out in his IIT presentations about social change) many giraffe dialogues. Some of the people I’d expect to speak with are those who have the same goal as I do but may prefer different strategies than the ones I prefer. So I’ll be having giraffe dialogues with these people as well as with those who initially may not be supportive of the change I seek. And I’ll also likely want to have an emotional support group to help me mourn setbacks and celebrate advances.

My hope is that more people will come to take on the challenges involved because they see that our individual experience is intimately connected with (and often tainted by) the larger social fabric and the systems that have contributed to various forms of oppression—what we sometimes call the domination system. Instead of impeding our ability to meet our needs (as it so often has done and continues to do), the social system could enrich our lives by making it enormously easier for us to meet our many needs.

Are there policies, practices, or laws that you’d like to see changed and, if so, in what ways? Who has the authority to make those changes? Sometimes it’s a single individual; often it’s a group such as a city council or county commission, or the people of the State. How could you get access to those people and have a giraffe dialogue (or a series of such dialogues) with them that would seek ways to meet your needs and theirs? Taking on these challenges is one way to develop one’s NVC skills and consciousness and to make life more wonderful for ourselves and others .

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