It can be incredibly valuable and fun to build a business.
I am a fan of all kinds of businesses, started and grown for all kinds of reasons.
But in the last few years, I have started to gravitate toward the kind of entrepreneurs that I call “Architects of Liberatory Change.“
The emergence of this kind of entrepreneur syncs with a time when we are faced with massively broken systems and social contracts.
We need change. But what kind of change?
At the heart of your business is your body of work – the ideas, systems, models, tools and products you create to solve the problems your customers face and to assist them to attain their deepest aspirations.
Beyond the profession of someone who designs buildings, an architect is also defined as: “the deviser, maker, or creator of anything.”
As a verb, to architect is “to plan, organize, or structure.”
If you are a professional services provider, your skill connecting with your clients, facilitating conversations and helping to solve problems in the moment is very helpful to them, but will limit your ability to impact a wider circle.
Architecting means getting your ideas and frameworks out of your head and into forms like illustrations, videos, blog posts, books or programs that can be understood and taught by others.
Codifying your ideas means they can live on to affect change far past your time on earth (hopefully many decades from now!).
Architecting Verbs: Build, redefine, replace, recover, renew, revitalize, repair, design, activate.
Deeply embedded in the systems of business are some archaic ideas: that we need to cajole, lead, manipulate and hypnotize our customers into doing business with us.
We call our community “followers.”
We want to build “empires” of domination and personal success.
If freedom and personal agency are at the root of your architecture of change, you cannot do it without the input and partnership of the community you are designing with.
Liberation scholarship is rooted in queer Black feminist and other cultural teachings and based on contextual analysis, taught in many places like Desiree Adaway’s Freedom School, Hiro Boga’s essays on Sovereignty and spaces like Cahokia Phx.
Liberatory architecture makes your clients feel more themselves. It grounds them in the understanding of their own identity and agency and connects them with their leadership growth.
Building models of business centering your clients’ sovereignty removes your need to “fix,” “push” or “persuade” them.
You can both show up as curious partners, with a shared goal of making a positive change.
Liberatory Verbs: invite, partner, collaborate, share, empathize.
The heart of an effective service is helping your customers through a transformational journey. They come to you because they want to accomplish something, or remove a roadblock that is in their way, or grow into their vision of themselves.
In a recent podcast interview with Nancy Duarte, we were discussing the pattern in her book Resonate which is called the sparkline. This rhythm of going from “what is” to “what could be” is at the heart of the vision of an Architect of Liberatory Change.
Seeing what is possible and building evidence that the change is possible is a big part of your role as an architect of liberatory change.
You demonstrate through your work with your clients that a new way is possible, providing more people with the tools they need to transform.
Doing so over a long period of time rebuilds, renews and replaces old harmful structures.
Doing so in community with other architects of liberatory change builds a more just, inclusive and sustainable world for future generations.
Change Verbs: transform, remove, grow, advance, innovate
Myths of liberatory change
- Change has to be big.
No it doesn’t.
My friend Crys Wood recently architected a liberatory change for herself by shrinking the number of clients she served so that she had more room to breathe, think and attend to her own well-being.Revolutionary change can happen within the walls of your own home, as you choose to partner or parent differently, breaking a chain of trauma.
It can happen in your neighborhood, or it can happen on a world stage.
You choose the scope of change you want to work on.
- The main transformation is for your customers.
No it isn’t.
One of the biggest ways you can live in liberation is to free yourself from the expectations of how business “should” be done. How entrepreneurship “should” look. How much money you “should” make at this point in your life or career.Your own goals can be bigger or smaller than what people expect of you.
You can innovate how change happens by defying the norms of design or process.
Allowing yourself to lean into the joy of problem solving with a growth mindset means building a business that is fun, creative and nourishing.
- Liberatory change is polarizing.
It does not have to be.
Expanding your understanding of agency, sovereignty and liberation draws you closer in community with others. Learning how to work together by choice, not by coercion or manipulation or publicly staged “expert status” releases pressure and invites innovation.Learning about your own identity, history, story and struggles, along with those in your community, grounds you in empathy.
We are not here to fix each other. Or “empower” each other (by definition, it is impossible to empower someone else). We are here to share ideas, tools and frameworks to help each other grow.
We go in and out of business with each other by choice, and celebrate the path that is the best for our clients, even if it is working with someone else.
As my bff Desiree always says, “Let’s get free together.”
There is important work to be done.
Nathalie Lussier says
This is such a great framework to think about our businesses and “work lives”, thank you for expressing it so beautifully and with great examples too.
I love the idea of reclaiming work that would have at one time only been to produce an income and making it into something that has a positive impact on the world at home and at large.
We spend so many hours working – so using our work to make the difference and the change we want to see just makes so much sense. I’m still working on weaving that into my own way of running a business and working.