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Solidarity in Fractured Times

The views expressed are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of ASPA as an organization.

By Sarah Sweeney
March 7, 2022

Around the world, times are quickly changing and it is vital that we identify ways in which we can remain in solidarity with our international neighbors. However, it is important that we express this solidarity in ways that appropriately respond to crises in a solution-focused manner, rather than in a way that advances the agendas of parties desiring destruction. According to an article written about solidarity during Covid-19, solidarity is defined by how we understand and follow through with our responsibilities to, and relationships with, others. There are also different types of solidarity that can assist us in recognizing where on the continuum we are, and how we can move between those different types to meet the needs of our constituents. When leading communities through crisis, it is important to understand how we can stand in solidarity with others, and learn from our past in the hope of improving our future. As public administrators, we have a unique perspective which we can use to guide others towards a more successful and sustainable future.  

Developing social awareness is key to building sustainable communities. By having a solid understanding of the perspectives of all members within a group, conversations can be centered around the priorities and goals necessary for growth. So how can we build social awareness as a community? LinkedIn published an article outlining steps to build these skills, which can be helpful in moving our society forward. Continuous improvement is key to future development as a global economy, and taking ownership of this pathway leads to positive outcomes at a local level. As community leaders, it is necessary to understand how certain decisions impact those we serve, gathering feedback along the way to aid in the making of appropriate changes responsive to the needs of our constituents. Offering ways for our constituents to provide feedback, in the form of surveys or community assessments, can lead to further improvements within our neighborhoods. Additionally, targeting the areas that would benefit from further investment opportunities, and understanding the lasting social impacts our decisions, or lack of decisions, can have on future generations is also essential. 

Leading through times of uncertainty requires diligence and preparation. We must be clear about the vision behind the desired changes and the pathway we aim to take to get there. In turn, people will be more inclined to take part and join in on the change. As public administrators we learn that it takes great courage to lead, especially in times of great ambiguity. An article published in Forbes magazine suggests the need to find stability among the chaos and maintaining authenticity as a leader is key to doing so. In times of crisis, it is even more important to apply values of integrity and honesty in our work while guiding our local communities. While understanding that change has the power to impact communities either positively or negatively, it is our duty as leaders to help them build resiliency throughout the process. Transparency, honesty, confidence and reinforcing the values of our communities can help build trust with those we serve and engage our members to build better relationships across the board.  

Some of the ways in which we can build solidarity with our global neighbors is to treat them as equals and overcome common barriers to effective conversation and relationship building. The ability to break down the racial, economic, social and gender divides is a useful tool to build lasting bonds and trust between nations. There is a lot of work to be done to break down these current divides, which we have watched play out over the past two years and more recently, with the current events happening in Europe. Having an awareness of what is happening in the world can create opportunities for education and improved communication at the local level. As local leaders, it is up to us to develop sustainable plans and educational platforms that guide our people towards the future and next generation. Having a solid understanding of the needs and values of our communities will assist in making that happen. Public administration is about advancing excellence in public service. We do this by promoting key values and building bridges (see ASPA’s mission statement here), two tools that are vital to creating a more just and socially advanced world.  

Author: Sarah Sweeney is a professional social worker and public administrator in Washington State. She may be contacted at [email protected] 

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