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Power and Love: Try it Out!

Posted by frankieblackburn on October 5, 2010

For most of IMPACT’s twelve year life, we have struggled to find the one phrase that sums up our work.  In the beginning , some argued that we were an “anti-racism effort”. Another group settled on “building bridges across our differences” and yet another thought the phrase “community empowerment” was the correct one.

About five years ago, we started focusing on the word “power” and have most often referred to our work as a power sharing model.  When we use the phrase “power sharing”, we quickly offer our definition of power, saying that power is infinite and can be shared for the good of all.

This summer, almost by accident, I bumped into a relatively new book called Power and Love, A Theory and Practice of Social Change, by Adam Kahane. While I admire Mr. Kahane’s original work and writing, I am especially appreciative of his compilation of quotes and definitions from people like Paul Tillich and Martin Luther King. Please see how each of these great thinkers define Power and Love, stated below.

Paul Tillich:

  • Power is the drive of everything living to realize itself, with increasing intensity and extensity. It is the drive to achieve one’s purpose, to get one’s job done, to grow.
  • Love is the drive towards the unity of the separated; the drive to reconnect and make whole that which appears or has become fragmented.

Martin Luther King:

  • Power properly understood is nothing but the ability to achieve purpose
  • Power without love is reckless and abusive and love without power  is sentimental and anemic.

After years of “social justice work”, I am listening to Paul and Martin and Adam: I am clear that to co-create new social realities we have to work with the two fundamental forces that are in tension – power and love. I hope to write more about the practical applications of what this means, but in very simple terms when it comes to the Neighborhood Opportunity Network:

  • POWER: We must bring forth the power of residents in determining what they need and want for their neighborhoods and
  • LOVE: We must work to connect, reconcile and negotiate these ideas with the well-established solutions flowing from our service delivery and community development systems.

My colleague Mary McCurty and I found this book and these quotes very helpful as we designed and thought about the work we are doing to help service providers, community organizers and resident leaders share power. I encourage you to read Mr. Kahane’s book – it is an easy read.

The chief service provider (Uma Ahluwalia) and an ace community organizer (Megan Moriarty) share power and love in the circle.


One Response to “Power and Love: Try it Out!”

  1. Jim Henkelman-Bahn said

    I find the King and Tillich quotes very much on target. For me Power and Love is the right combination for me – and for IMPACT Silver Spring. I was not aware of Adam Kahane’s book. It sounds like one I will move to the top of my reading list. Thanks for the posting.

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