Culture and the deeper patterns of change

A conversation with Al Etmanski

Photo of Al Etmanski

“We need to pay attention to what we already know.”

Al Etmanski is talking to the Engage team about his visit to Nova Scotia next month and the “unlaunch” of his new book. “Who wants to go see an author up on a stage reading a couple of paragraphs from his book?” he asks. “And anyway, the book doesn’t need the spotlight. Let’s shine the light on people who are doing the work, who are making their communities a better place. We’ll ask them to share what they’re learning. We’ll ask them to look for the deeper patterns and connections, and tell that story. And then I’ll just weave in a few themes from the book.”

So that’s the plan for October 28 at the Company House in Halifax. It will be an Unlaunch. And there will be story-telling, music, spoken word.

“Music?” we ask. “Spoken word? Sounds great, but what does that have to do with your book?”

Al’s book is titled Impact: Six Patterns that Spread Social Innovation.

Al goes on to talk about his lifetime love affair with Nova Scotia and his respect for its long history of social innovation. “Just think of the credit unions and co-op movement, the modern-day CEDIFs,” he says. “Think of restorative justice. And in Nova Scotia you already understand that it’s all about culture. Many places are chasing after the latest social technology, the latest imported idea. Nothing wrong with that. But eventually people come to understand that the key to the future is already in their DNA. It’s in their culture. In Nova Scotia, your music reaches into that DNA. It connects you to those deeper patterns, that sense of knowing.”

“Do you have any ideas about who you’ll invite?” he asks.

We brainstormed a list of possible story-tellers—Will Martin who is launching a provincial Forestry Lab, Mark Coffin of Springtide, Rankin MacSween from New Dawn, the Gaelic singer Mary Jane Lamond, and a couple of young Halifax artists. Al reflects, “Isn’t it odd that, when it comes to music, we never question the value of bringing together the seasoned masters with the young talent. Why don’t we ever do that around social change? When you bring together the old and the new, something surprising happens. The old, the new, and the surprising—that’s what social change is all about.

Please join us on October 28, 7:00-9:00 pm, for a book Unlaunch at the Company House. Admission is free. The following morning Al will lead a workshop at the Halifax library, 9:30-12:30. $35. Register here.