#DailyWritingChallenge Day 64: Agency

In social science, agency is defined as the capacity of individuals to act independently and to make their own free choices. By contrast, social structures are those factors of influence (such as social class, religion, gender, ethnicity, ability, customs, etc.) that determine or limit an agent and their decisions.

Agency = Action.

We need to have agency, we need to be agents of change, we need to act.

We need to deepen our understanding by listening, reading, learning and assimilating.

We need to raise awareness in ourselves and others, but then we need to be active in finding solutions.

“Awareness is the greatest agent for change”.

Eckhart Tolle

We cannot be silent. We cannot be passive. We cannot be bystanders.

We need to stand up, we need to speak up and we need to do the work.

“When we realise the degree of agency we actually do have, we no longer have to “hope” at all. We simply do the work”.

Derrick Jensen

Agency comes in many different forms.

Human Agency:

Human agency refers to the ability to shape one’s life and a few dimensions can be differentiated. 

As humans we have agency over our decision-making, over our behaviours and  over our actions. We are in control.

Nelson Mandela quote: In Africa there is a concept known as 'ubuntu...

Individual Agency:

Individual agency is reflected in individual choices and the ability to influence one’s life conditions and chances.

As individuals we have agency over our own lives. We influence what happens to us.

Collective Agency:

Collective agency occurs when people act together, such as a social movement.

In communities and in society we are stronger when we are united, when we come together as a cohesive unit, our message is more coherent and more powerful.

Institutional Agency:

Formal institutions—like schools, workplaces, and the government—teach people how to behave in and navigate these systems. Other institutions, like the media, contribute to socialization by inundating us with messages about norms and expectations.

Our Government shapes our society, our politicians shape our country and how we respond as a nation.

Our schools shape how we see the world, our curriculum shapes our knowledge.

Our workplaces shape how we experience the world, our cultures shape how we feel about ourselves and whether we belong.

Our media shapes how the world is represented, our journalists shape how stories are told.

Teacher Agency:

The capacity of teachers to act purposefully and constructively to direct their professional growth and contribute to the growth of their colleagues.

Teachers have agency over their own impact in their classrooms, they have agency over their own professional growth. In turn they influence the personal growth of the children we teach.

Student Agency:

Student agency refers to the level of autonomy and power that a student experiences in the learning environment. Student voice and agency are intrinsically linked. Agency gives students the power to direct and take responsibility for their learning, creating independent and self-regulating learners.

Our students are the leaders of tomorrow, our students are the product of our society, our schools and our agency as adults and teachers.

To have agency:

To have control over something means that control has been achieved. To have agency over something means that one has the ability or authority to achieve control. 

We all have a sense of agency, but we need to decide if it is passive or active. We need to choose the focus of our agency and what to prioritise.

Your agency:

Your ability to take action, be effective, influence your own life, and assume responsibility for your behavior are important elements in what you bring to a relationship. 

We choose what we bring to a relationship. We choose how we show up. We choose whether we stand up or speak out. We choose to be bystanders or upstanders.

Change Agents:

A change agent is a person from inside or outside the organization who helps an organization transform itself by focusing on such matters as organizational effectiveness, improvement, and development. A change agent usually focuses his efforts on the effect of changing technologies, structures, and tasks on interpersonal and group relationships in the organization. The focus is on the people in the organization and their interactions.

We all have the capacity to lead change. We can all be the change we want to see in the world.

YOU be the change you wish to see in the world | Craig's Quotes

Last night, June 10th, a group of women came together from their shared sense of agency. #ICantBreathe was an event by women, for women. The title of the event spoke to the tragedy of George Floyd’s death. He couldn’t physically breathe, a black man oppressed by a white patriarchy.

Women of colour cannot breathe metaphorically, they are holding their breath, they are struggling, they are suffocating, they are in pain. We apologise if our choice of title triggered trauma in anyone, that was not the intention.  We wanted to make sure that the voices of women of colour in education are heard, are listened to and are amplified amidst the global #BlackLivesMatters protests.

Alison Kriel, Angie Browne, Amy Ferguson, Penny Rabiger, Hannah Jepson, Jules Daulby and I, pooled our individual agency and stood together with our collective agency. We brought together hundreds of women, women from all walks of live, to create a collaborative safe space to support women of colour. It was a call to arms.

Each woman, representing different grassroots communities: #BAMEed, #DisabilityEd, #DiverseEd, #LGBTed, #NourishEd and #WomenEd shared their story. Each woman spoke their truth.

The stories were painful. The stories were emotionally charged. The stories made us feel uncomfortable.

“There is not greater agony than bearing an untold story inside you”.

Maya Angelou

Angie shared her story as a woman of colour, a mother and encouraged every woman attending to find and to use their voice.

Amy spoke about what it means to be an inclusive ally and encouraged every woman present to stand up, to speak out and to challenge.

Alison spoke about the struggle in raising your voice in a workplace where noone is listening and gave tips on how to make yourself heard.

Penny spoke about practical ways to keep yourself and others safe, physically and emotionally.

Black women, brown women, white women, straight women, queer women, able-bodied women and disabled women came together. We sat together and we listened, we learned about what is like to be a woman of colour, we learned about how to navigate the structural biases that are impacting a sense of safety.

We had 1,000 women booked to attend but due to a technical glitch we managed to livestream to 500. The recording will be shared for those who could not access the event. It is temporarily held here but will be moved.

We have started a new twitter handle to keep the conversations going. Follow #CollaborativeSupportForWomen and @CollabSupport

The safe space became a public space. The private conversation became a public conversation. The individual voice became a collective voice. The individual agency became a collective agency.

Agency = Action.

If each person who attended commits to doing one thing today then we become part of the solution, we stop being part of the problem.

Butterfly Effect | The butterfly effect quotes, Theory quotes ...

We need to have agency, we need to be agents of change, we need to act.

If each person who attended shares what they heard, what they learned  they create a ripple effect in their sphere of influence.

We need to deepen our understanding by listening, reading, learning and assimilating but then we need to do the work.  

If each person who attended forwards the recommended reading on to their friends, family and colleagues, we raise awareness and reduce the ignorance.

We need to raise awareness in ourselves and others, but then we need to be active in finding solutions.

If each person who attended shares the BAMEed risk assessment with their Senior Leaders, we contribute to keeping our black and brown colleagues physically and psychologically safe.

We cannot be silent. We cannot be passive. We cannot be bystanders.  

If each person who attended stands up, speaks up and speaks out, and refuses to be a bystander to racism, we move from being non-racists towards becoming anti-racists.

Let’s all be agents, let’s all take action, today, not tomorrow, as tomorrow may be too late.

“Agency is your power to become.

Each choice takes you further from what you are meant to become”.

Randall Ridd




Published by Ethical Leader

Leadership Development Consultant, Facilitator, Coach, Speaker and Writer. Experience of teaching schools, initial teacher education, mentoring & coaching, diversity and equality. Passionate about integrity, ethics and values.

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