Using Our Social Capital

This month, I want to build upon a question Maddy Frey (last month’s RAD guest) was reflecting on, which was (1) recognizing the power held and (2) wrestling with whether or not we should be giving up that power (knowing it’s at least in part a derivative of privilege and social capital). 

I’m particularly drawn to this as we seek to radically reimagine, because of the power and privilege that inherently accompanies the position in society to do that. The fact that we (three educated, white-identifying folks) can use that word and grab some attention is a symbol of the embedded power structures. Do we give that up? Join me while I take a step back to better reflect on that.  

In my own journey of understanding my privilege and positioning myself to be the ally needed (versus the ally I think I should be), I’ve struggled to escape the ongoing white guilt – one that feels like it could be absolved through giving up my power. 

Although relinquishing space is fine and appropriate in some contexts, in many of the situations I’d consider doing so, the redistribution (if it even occurred) would be paternalistic at best. Instead of sitting in that admitted place of privilege, I have renewed focus to better understand how I can be leveraging my social capital, privilege, and positions of power to allow others to reimagine the space. It’s felt refreshing and action-oriented and something that moves beyond the space of being apologetic. I’m excited to share more during our conversation happening later this month.

What about you? As you’ve considered your own context, how do you see social capital and power showing up in your work? How are you (or could you) be conscious of that power and intentional about using it to radically reimagine?

~Deven Wisner, March 1, 2021

2 thoughts on “Using Our Social Capital

  1. Hey Deven —

    One thing I have been thinking a lot about the past few days is the use of my position to demystify the terminology and jargon that we use in the ivory tower. To challenge the way we talk about the things we talk about. To question and modify the structures we decide to use in a thoughtful and creative way. The problems we are dealing with are not new, and the solutions, though labeled innovation, are not new. Why haven’t we made the changes we need to make, even when the answers have been in front of us? I can be a voice for that.

    “It is an incredibly daunting task to reshape one’s mindset. And it can be tempting to fall back into comfortable and traditional routines.” – Primer, A Guide to Human Centric Education


  2. I think it is important to critically think about the term “ally” as it is always a conditional and self-glorifying concept for statuses that contain privilege. For instance, if I am white and consider myself an “ally” then I can wear that term like a badge of honor when it makes me feel better to do so, but then be ignorant to how my privilege is damaging to non-white people through my attitudes, actions, and microaggessions. Indigenous and LGBTQ+ communities have been working to discuss the concept of “accomplice” as a counterpoint to “allyship” as it has more to do with an ongoing struggle to join with marginalized groups and leverage privilege for those who do not have it. This is my favorite article on the topic

    Also, leveraging privilege is a research interest of mine – shoot me a message if you want to read a book chapter I wrote on working to leverage men’s privilege against sexism and patriarchy.


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