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Reflections on Group Endeavor
An Interview with Dorothy Argent
Dorothy Argent has been an active volunteer in the community of Salmon Arm since 1981 and continues to do so. She is dedicated to sustainable community development through social well-being supported by a vibrant economy and a healthy environment. Dorothy has been involved in numerous groups and projects. Helped initiate the Salmon River Watershed Roundtable in 1991. The roundtable is nationally recognized as a community driven, multi-interest organization seeking sustainable development. Currently Director and Chair of the Community Outreach Committee. Director of the Switzmalph Cultural Society, supporting the development of The Shuswap Centre - Knucwetwecw, an initiative of Dr. Mary Thomas and the Neskonlith Community. Helped create the B.C. Watershed Stewardship Alliance in 1997, a coalition of community groups similar to the Salmon River Watershed Roundtable. Presently Chair of the South Thompson-Shuswap Region. Coordinated the Community Development Institute in Salmon Arm in 1996 (a project of the Social Planning & Research Council of British Columbia that rotates around the Province). Provided support services to seniors between 1982 - 1992, including:
- Worked at Pioneer Lodge as Activity Director from 1983 - 1989. Developed a video - called ďThe Extra MileĒ featuring seniors at Pioneer Lodge voicing their views and hopes for the future.
- Developed and marketed ďGolden ExpressionsĒ, a communication game for seniors.
- Assisted in creating the Salmon Arm Seniors Resource Centre and programs to serve seniors.
- Served as President of the Salmon Arm Seniors Resource Centre Society.
- Served as Director of the Shuswap Retirement Development Society.
- Served as President of the Shuswap Hospice Society.
This is a short introduction to show why we chose Dorothy Argent to share her views on Group Endeavour with us.
Cathy Jo Turner, World Service Association (WSA): Dorothy I would like to talk with you about Group Endeavour, and what that is for you.
Dorothy Argent (D.A.): What Group Endeavour is for me? Well, itís really a combining of talents and energies from various people towards common vision. Itís like there is a purpose for the group, and itís a recognition of what that purpose is, and then a group of people that are drawn to that and will work together to achieve that. That to me is group endeavour.
WSA: So what do you see as being really important within a group to make it a successful group?
D.A.: There needs to be a common vision because that is really what maintains not only the group focus but even the group integrity . Well lets take the Salmon Arm River Water Shed Round Table as an example. Everybody is there to work towards the creation or the supporting of a healthy community watershed, and it is through co-operative positive action. So thatís the common thread: everybody wants to see a healthy watershed, clean water and enough water. So then we bring together a diverse group who share that vision and work together towards that. If groups sometimes think they have a common vision but arenít clear, then it can create problems because then everybody is there for their own different reasons. And there is no right or wrong in those reasons, but it is really essential that a group identifies what their purpose is, what it is they are trying to serve and accomplish. Then as best as any of us can, as selflessly as we can, put our energies towards achieving that vision.
WSA: So you see vision as a key for group endeavour to be working?
D.A.: Yes, there has to be that commonality. I think there is another level too, because each of us are attracted to different things. There is an inner calling that all of us have in our lives, each of us trying to find our place to contribute. So, if you hear of a cause or you hear of a project; for example it could be to alleviate poverty in your community, and you care that there is people that donít have enough to eat, then you look for groups or for who is looking after that, ask what can I do to contribute and you then find your own sense of place. So within group too there is a lot more opportunity because there is more skills, the diversity, you are part of a collective group wanting to work towards the same thing. So it is an incredible opportunity for service and an opportunity for ourselves to grow in. We enhance our own qualities by trying to achieve selfless service. There is an opportunity for personal growth because we all can have agendas. We all can come into group for various reasons and then dissension can happen. There is the opportunity for personal growth, but the guiding light is: are we collectively working towards that vision.
WSA: Yes, so I see that as being really important and for someone who is coming in as an individual and used to functioning as an individual that could possibly be quite difficult at times to learn to work within group.
D.A.: Well as I see group, sometimes we have looked at it as there is the leader, right? You belong to this group and for somebody who is used to being in charge or being in control, then that really is somebody who is creating the vision for the group and wants the group then to support that. I think there is a higher way that really recognises all the individual contribution. In other words, inherent in everybody they have identified with that vision and are a part of it, that is quite a big difference. So there has to be a letting go of the need to be right, the need to have control. It is easy to be critical in groups when people start working together. You must ask yourself, so how am I enhancing those that I am working with and acknowledging their contribution as well to that larger vision. Group endeavour, when we look at it from the past of having a leader and following that leadership, to really being magnetically drawn to the kind of service that you want to contribute to with a group that collectively works together towards that. The group shares the vision not the leader.
WSA: That would be much more empowering.
D.A.: Much more empowering, absolutely. And you are there for the right reason for yourself. So if one can really embrace that then everybody that is being drawn to that group has a significant contribution to make. They are a part of that puzzle and to look to the group or support the group to honour that within the group. If each of us becomes self actualized in a sense that we know who we are, we know our purpose, we know what it is we wish to try to contribute towards alleviating human suffering in whatever way we are drawn to. Or having Habitat For Humanity building homes or whatever it would be, then it is self organizing; itís like the right people will be drawn together if there is a common vision. Those people will all be contributing something thatís significant. So itís like coming as a stronger whole within yourself and recognising that you are a piece of a puzzle to contribute to the larger group. The product canít happen without the group because you are not the answer, you are just a piece of that puzzle. You have a contribution to make and there is tremendous potential in that.
W.S.A.: So for society to acknowledge the power of group would be a really wonderful thing rather than having to strive as an individual to get somewhere. To be able to see that is much more powerful and you can get to a point much easier by working together. Itís not the way our society has been in the past really.
D.A.: No, it has been much more individual, where we feel I have got to be successful. I have got to get out there and do it for myself. I think we are moving from that individualism to really looking at whatís best for the whole. My goals, are they compatible with serving the communities interests or am I just serving my own interests at the cost of others. I think there is a greater movement now to look at what is going to serve the common good. We see that today in politics and all kinds of things. So much is coming to light in ways that we are seeing more: ďwell that whole thing was really based on greed and certainly not in the interest of the communityĒ. People are becoming much more aware and really looking for leadership that brings those kind of qualities back to our society and into our community. It is so important in communities to incorporate the social, the environmental, the economic, the spiritual and cultural, all of these components. If one is out of balance then the real needs of the community are not being met, so we are having to look more at how we serve community from a holistic perspective.
W.S.A.: When there are groups that cease to be such as World Peace University, what do you feel has happened with that? Sometimes groups are going along well and something seems to happen and they cease to function anymore.
D.A.: Well there can be a variety of reasons. Sometimes maybe there isnít a common vision, sometimes the group themselves arenít working together in a way that supports that. I think there is all kinds of different reasons and rhythm in different peoples lives why they support one thing and not another. As to the World Peace University it was an international endeavour, boy there was a lot of components to it, it wasnít just even here from Canada but it was international in scope. It had tremendous potential but just a lot of different things that didnít materialise around that. I donít think I can really draw the specifics at the time. I think everything is a stepping stone in learning about group endeavour. You reflect on what worked well, you reflect on maybe where it got derailed, and you still can take those learnings into the next step. Even as the World Service Association has emerged, we are working together wanting to look to see what we can to do to provide some service to be able to address some of the needs of humanity. In our small way, in a small group endeavour working towards some goals, where we feel we can contribute. I think it just kind of evolves. I love working in group. I could never imagine myself now not in a group situation. There are a number of reasons, one is that the potential of group is amazing when one really looks at the diversity of talents and skills, and when that is truly funnelled into a common purpose it is amazing what results can come out of that. It also is an incredible opportunity for personal growth. You ask yourself questions: ďwhat is my motivation here, am I really serving the group good?Ē Maybe a button got pushed at one of the meetings, and you can see this is in group dynamics when you are part of groups a lot. What is the learning behind that? I think that also as an individual, if we are wanting to be honest with ourselves and look for an opportunity to truly grow, thatís a marvellous place, because you really have a lot of opportunity to personally develop your own qualities or cultivate them within group as well as serving the larger goal in terms of the vision that you are wanting to manifest together.
W.S.A.: It sounds exciting to get into group rather than struggle along as an individual. There are all sorts of different things you can do when you talk about personal growth such as taking courses etc., but you are doing it as an individual. Whereas when you are with group you can make a huge contribution to others as well as making a contribution to your own self growth ,so it seems more holistic to me.
D.A.: Yes, it is a wonderful opportunity and if we really look that we are all one in the sense of humanity and our connectedness, it is also an expression of that, itís a recognition of that. Itís that each of us has a place, each of us has a contribution and when you look at that or you look at your fellow group members whatever it is you are doing, whether you are planting a garden together. Itís how I am working with this group to create beauty, to create peace, to create harmony, to honour the people I am working with and to reinforce for those individuals the strengths and the gifts that they bring. It sounds simple, but I think we all know in the school of life when you are actually working in group one has to watch their chattering mind, the criticalness that can come in when you are working on boards or towards others. To remember that you are there to serve that purpose and to honour the diversity of everybody at the table, no matter where they are in there consciousness at that time.
W.S.A.: Right, just set your own self aside and be a part of that whole.
D.A.: And stay true to the principal, not to get caught up in the personality. Its like being true to what it is one believes. I served on the Social Planning Committee with the District of Salmon Arm and there were a lot of different perspectives and you may not share all those perspectives but you stay true to the principals, you donít attack the individual. I think it is being able to still honour that diversity, stay true to the principals involved in what it is you are trying to achieve.
W.S.A.: Our world could look a lot different.
D.A.: Its marvellous. I have been involved now with group for at least twenty years, maybe longer in the sense of work situations, but consciously working with group. Definitely it has been a big part of my life and will remain so.
W.S.A.: What do you see as the importance of group endeavour to humanity?
D.A.: Group endeavour is a qualitative kind of thing. I think as we become more selfless, as we grow in love and respect and that as we have a common vision that is going to be good for the whole. That there is food sufficiency, that there is employment for all people. Everybody has a place to contribute and that we are sustainable, that we donít exploit our resources, what our economy is based on from water shed to water shed. What is the carrying capacity of our water shed, we donít go beyond that, we donít hurt the environment. Then through all of that we add tremendous social qualities. So when group endeavour is really supporting the common good and we cultivate those kinds of qualities, then imagine a world where we really value all human beings, and that we value the inherent wisdom of the individual, knowing their sense of place and where they need to contribute. We donít need to be the leader and direct it, we need to be able to participate and to cultivate that. Thatís a pretty wonderful vision and anybody who works in group no matter what size a group or what the group purpose is, has an opportunity to start to work within themselves on those qualities. Because we take that, and then we start to transfer that to the larger whole. Or we work in government where government in the future would have all of those values in really looking at supporting there community from that kind of holistic perspective. One can create a marvellous vision for the world as we really start to embrace that. We canít go beyond where we are now. There is the self work. Lots of times I have been humbled, many times in group work where I found my own self interest has gotten in the way of the group vision. You know you all of a sudden need to be right or you can get entrenched and then you step back and you think, ďahĒ, and then you come back at that. So there is opportunity for self reflection and understanding yourself as you move towards a more selfless service. Does it really matter who does what if the end result is achieved; does it really matter? It is being able to get to a point where I think ideally. It is what I feel I strive for inside of myself. What is it teaching me and how can I be more selfless in this service to this group? In group it is valuing every ones contribution. If each of us understand who we are in our purpose and we all have been magnetically drawn towards a common vision, for example lets say that it is to address poverty in Salmon Arm, we are coming as individuals to this vision and each of us have a contribution. It is really different than somebody who is a leader that we are following, because we are responding from our own sense of purpose and therefore we are contributing to the plan. Its like the plan is working us almost, because if I have the capacity to respond and you do and John does and Mary does and Sam does, then we are all there for all the right reasons. We will still continue to grow in our personalities in the group work, but we have come collectively to add our piece to the puzzle to make it work. And that is consciously participating in the plan without it having to have a leader, but each of us are trusting ourselves to do the part that we are called to do. When humanity can really embrace that, then truly I guess that is when the plan is manifested on earth.
W.S.A.: I think you have done a wonderful job of explaining group endeavour. I have a much clearer picture of the concept of the plan and the purpose of ones own individual contribution within group from your explanation. I know I could be of contribution, but so often Iím out there in space wondering: well, what can I do?
D.A.: I think it is true. We have had a society that has looked externally to God and now we are looking at that internally. We are embracing God within ourselves. So learning to trust ourselves and to be harmless to others. It is so easy to take another person off of their path because we can influence power or judgement, even our criticism and we do such a disservice. Even in counselling like the vocational counselling that I do here is really to try to hear that individual and how I can help them achieve whatís in their heart. What it is they wish to do, and to support them and empower them in that way. We do that in group too, you have a common vision because you are all there for a reason, but each needs to be honoured from that sacred space of what it is that they have to contribute and to encourage and foster that. As long as we give ourselves over to another authority, or as long as somebody knows better than me so Iíll just follow, we canít truly ourselves participate in the plan in the same way in terms of being of service, of contributing. We each need to find that for ourselves, trust that within ourselves and then find a way to be of service. Express it, you need to express it, and then you will be drawn to the right group, to the right learning experience, and know its not just for the vision but also for our little personalities to get lots tweaked. Thatís also a gift of group. It is far easier for an individual to be selfless than groups, so when groups often get together there is a personality that is formed also with the group and they become very territorial, just like governments, countries. There is a huge challenge for group as well to not find that they become self serving for themselves too. It still needs to be for the good of the whole and to be able to co-operate with other groups.
W.S.A.: Thank-you Dorothy for doing this interview. Your many years of experience with group has given you great knowledge about group endeavour and we appreciate you sharing this with us. I have no doubt that you have made a huge contribution to humanity and will continue to do so for the rest of your life. Thank-you for that.
Universal Laws Committee
The World Service Association - P.O. Box 733, Salmon Arm, BC. V1E 4N8
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