By Dr. Amie Wolf. Posted on February 13, 2019
Susan Washington co-presents with Preeta Banerjee at the ninth annual Ashoka U Exchange, Beyond Boundaries and Borders, February 21-23, 2019. Their workshop, Mindful Changemaking, offers experiential practices to shift from ego to eco.
“People attending the Exchange are committed to changemaking. Our learning lab uses an experiential strategy so participants can design a more sustainable approach to their impact-driven work,” Susan explains. “It’s about having the same impact but pausing to replace reactivity with clarity.”
Co-hosted by the University of California in San Diego, the Ashoka U Exchange is a collaborative testing ground. Over 700 college and university faculty, staff, and administrators, students, community leaders, and Ashoka fellows come from around the world to share exciting ideas about transforming higher education into a tool for social innovation.
Passion, drive, and enthusiasm for leading institutional change in post secondary makes the Exchange more than just an event; it’s an act of culture creation. The focus of Washington and Banerjee’s session: how to do the work of changemaking in a way that is mindful and personally sustainable.
“In twenty years of teaching and coaching, I’ve realized that people are making decisions in advance of being clear on the values that surround their choices,” she notes. “I’m happy to be contributing a model for sustainable changemaking because many of us are stretched and overwhelmed.”
Susan speaks openly about her own experience. “Just like my colleague Preeta, I’ve been there myself,” she admits. “When I came out to Vancouver as a visiting doctoral student from U of T, I wanted to excel and contribute but I was still really hustling for marks and to write my thesis and have a baby. So, I wanted to opt out. I left that tenure track trajectory because I didn’t find it hospitable to the type of life I lead, especially as a woman.”
Starting her own business, The Washington Group, gave Susan the means to shape a livelihood that serves her as a whole person, including being a mother of two.
“Becoming an entrepreneur and a coach allowed me to take care of my top priorities, and to use that framework to help people strategically accomplish their goals and live a mindful life. But making institutions more hospitable is equally important. We need to flatten unnecessary hierarchies because collaborative work across departments and disciplines can be more efficient,” Washington continues. “The Ashoka U framework has us work together to figure out how we can move from an ego to an eco approach. It isn’t easy, but there are ways to do it. For both individuals and communities.”
Susan anchors herself in philosophies like those of Eckhart Tolle to reduce mental judgement and reactivity.
“Clarity process is something I’ve workshopped because I saw a need for it. There’s a reason we hear about the power of meditation as a consistent discipline. So many people dial back and change their outlooks but usually only once they’ve pushed too long and too hard. It is very much achievable, but most of us don’t have a method,” Washington expresses with concern. “It’s about contemplating things more effectively and having a system versus reacting. It’s like the old saying – slow and steady.”
In her day-to-day, Susan is dedicated to her top priorities but resists saying yes to too many things like she used to. Even when it’s tempting, we all have a finite amount of time. Our capacity is worn down when fundamentals like sleep, exercise, connection, quality and creative time aren’t in order.
“I see professionals who are highly accomplished doing the workload of seven people and saying yes to even more,” Washington empathizes. “But there’s a mental and emotional cost and I want them to know there are better ways of making change. It’s not about fixing a problem. It’s about increasing impact, working together and designing life from a place of empathy and clarity.”
To attend the Ashoka U Exchange and the Washington Banerjee Mindful Changemaking workshop on February 21, 2019, register at https://ashokau.org/exchange.
For more information about the Exchange, communicate directly by e-mail with Luciana Goles at: firstname.lastname@example.org. #AUX2019
Dr. Amie Wolf: Dr. Wolf is Principal of Perception Works. She supports like minded visionary leaders and change makers with her expertise in Indigenization, writing, research, curriculum design, and facilitation.