Progress is on Us

Posted on January 21, 2021

Tree Growth

I was in a training facilitated by the Colorado Emerging Managers that focused on diversity, equity, and inclusion. I went into the training not expecting to say anything, instead learn from people more experienced and able than myself. This changed when one attendee brought up the concern that we can’t really do anything until those in control, in authority decide to prioritize it, give us support and resources.

I decided to speak.

If not us, then who? If we as “emerging managers” with our jobs, our education, our connections, our talents, our career potential have to wait on the sidelines, who is it we’re waiting for? It wasn’t a figure of speech. As I spoke I had an honest curiosity as to how high the bar was set if we weren’t the ones who could do something? What kind of extraordinary superheroes are we waiting for to save us?

My third paper for my degree I’m taking was on behalf of the Colorado Emerging Managers. Their request was something to address, to offer a retort to the idea that progress happens naturally, so why do we need to go out of our way with extra trainings, task forces, and other efforts? Apparently, it was an opinion voiced more than just once and needed an answer.

In sum, my paper said: No. No, no, no. No. Progress is not some natural, destined, or certain future for us. There are many different definitions of progress to consider. The progress we make is hard won and faces opposition every mile, every inch we get. The idea of “natural progress” is for bystanders who will live their lives as normal getting to watch a more inclusive and just society unfold due to the effort and sacrifice of others. Read the full 15-page paper that breaks down what I’ve dubbed “spectator progress.”

Progress is on us. We are the ones recommending policy, implementing projects and programs, seeking community input, enforcing rules and restrictions. We cannot rely on advocacy groups and charismatic leaders to accomplish what’s right in front of us and within our own power to change.

I get it though. I deal with imposter syndrome every blog post I write, every project I complete for a professional local government association. I wonder if each recent work I submit will be my triumphant, embarrassing flop that proves my self-doubts true. I remind myself it is better to push for equity imperfectly than stay silent. Better to add our voice when we see on the news individuals and groups who promote hate, intolerance, even violence as ignoring them… it doesn’t feel like things will be okay if too many of us look the other way. And if we do come out with something mediocre? I think we’ll survive.

Chances are if you’re reading this you’re a local government professional with the time and interest to read a blog post called “Progress is on Us”. If so, progress is on you, and if you need any more convincing feel more than free to reach out to me. My LinkedIn is at the bottom of this article. After all, progress is on us, but it is not on us alone.

This guest article is by ELGL member Matt Hirschinger, the Assistant to the Town Manager in Hudson, Colorado. Read all of Matt’s other articles at the Social Justice –> Government homepage.

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