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BD Giving Notes #37 – “The death of Nuance‘’

Two things can be true at once. These same two things can be conflicting and in opposition. This is where understanding nuance comes in. A world which does not allow for nuance is not a world that accounts for experience or growth.

Communication without Nuance eliminates agency and the idea of conflict resolution.

In this Note, Adeshola and Cameron proffer their thoughts to underscore the need for an understanding that people and their lives are often neither black nor white but can instead hold sets of contrasting, sometimes conflicting, views.

Communication without nuance creates echo chambers, and it’s in these isolated spaces that people become vulnerable to radicalisation. Every day, the news seems to indicate that we are teetering on the edge of social collapse, with deeper and deeper rifts being opened up and exploited. This is probably something worth taking a look at if you, like us, don’t find the prospect of social collapse all that appealing!

If we are all shouting AT each other, who is actually listening?  

Some people have a material reason to be against you as they benefit from being on the other side of the argument – ignoring that, or not factoring it into your communication with them will only ever lead to frustration.

It is possible to listen to someone’s experience or opinion without agreeing with it. You can even understand and validate their experience or opinion without needing to react in any other way. Being able to do this is not something that comes easily to most people, and helping people navigate these tensions is a core part of our work. 

When you assume…

When it comes to a charity’s communications, much of the advice out there is around targeting people who are already sympathetic to your aims and those who have supported you in the past. This is a valid strategy, especially when you need to manage your time and money carefully.

However, it probably won’t lead to deep changes in how society is organised.

It’s important to make use of data when making decisions, but we should be wary of letting data make decisions. To use a totally non-controversial example, the data out there suggests that if someone voted for Brexit they are unlikely to have supported the BLM protests. However, we personally know people who voted for Brexit and support BLM and vice versa.

We’re not suggesting that anecdotal data means you should ignore data analysis of big data sets but there’s a nuance there which the general trend either doesn’t acknowledge or fails to realise. If these people are not included in our plans, we (as a place-based charity) lose them. And fail not only them but their community as well.  

We also have a responsibility to recognise when we are being forced into taking ‘a side’ on an issue and question if there really are sides to take. In BD Giving’s work, our decision-makers often find themselves picking between two equally good options – left unchecked, the dynamic that most often emerges is one where each option has its champions who want their side to win and they will argue in circles until one side is worn down. But once we intervene with facilitation and decision-making tools that create the space for people to reflect on why they’re making the decision in the first place, they take the opportunity to pause and sit with the difficult emotions that have arisen as part of the decision-making process.

When this happens, the decision-makers can let go of the feelings of ‘winning’ and ‘losing’ and instead use their energy on making a success of the decision of the group.

It’s easier to hold onto the belief that you backed the ‘best’ option than to grapple with the more complicated issue of there not being enough available resources to meet all demands.

The number of GROW Fund applications are already more than the number of grants available. This means that we are going to have to disappoint more people than we support. However, our experience with funding has taught us how to maintain strong relationships with the people that we have rejected for grants – it’s by appreciating that someone can be very hurt and disappointed with us but not letting that be a barrier to future engagement.

Viva nuance!

BD Giving Notes is a weekly blog aimed at sharing some thoughts on running a social infrastructure charity. Each post focuses on a couple of things we have learnt or done in the previous week; what’s gone well and what didn’t.

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