Managing a Movement or Community

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This post is a bit different from my typical system sausage making pieces in that I would like to reflect on the Mad in America (MIA) community and how we share our ideas, beliefs and knowledge.

For some time I have noticed the exchanges between bloggers and commenters and the exchanges between commenters themselves can get passionate and, sometimes, beyond passionate where the MIA staff  have to step in and enforce the posting guidelines.  Having been in several of these exchanges I’ve been struck by the fact that the vast majority of folks participating at MIA have very similar beliefs and goals.  Most of us were drawn to MIA because we have read Robert Whitaker’s ‘Mad in America’ or ‘Anatomy of an Epidemic.’  We have read them and they have resonated with us at a profound level.

The stated purposed of this site is to “serve as a resource and a community for those interested in rethinking psychiatric care in the United States and abroad…to provide readers with news, stories of recovery, access to source documents, and the informed writings of bloggers that will further this enterprise.”  Further, bloggers, readers, and commenters are likely to “share a belief that our current system of psychiatric care needs to be vastly improved, and, many would argue, transformed.”

While broad agreement exists on these purposes, how we get there is another matter.  Kermit has stated that ‘Polyphony’ is encouraged at MIA.  Polyphony defined as a variety of tones or, in the context of Open Dialogue, a multiplicity of voices.  MIA certainly has a multiplicity of voices, and ideas, and beliefs about those ideas, and thoughts and feelings about those beliefs and ideas!  Because there is no monolithic “one way” that psychiatric care can be rethought, an “all of the above” stance seems to have been adapted.  This seems to me a very fair way to go about it however, it presents a heck of a challenge in trying to manage the polyphony that emerges!  For those doubting the need for management itself, you may want to ask members of an orchestra if they feel any benefit of having a conductor.

On more than one occasion I have read comments like, “we agree more than we disagree” or “I think we have far more in common than not” I believe this is the case for the MIA community.  For the movement to continue and have an influence, I believe we need to do our best to focus on our areas of agreement, respect and learn from where we disagree and stay focused on the purpose at hand.

Perhaps the MIA Board would consider a small change to the sites tagline.  The addition of a purpose statement under the Mad in America logo might go a long way in helping us all to stay focused on the “big picture” Something like “Transforming Psychiatric Care in the United States and Abroad” might work.

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Mad in America hosts blogs by a diverse group of writers. These posts are designed to serve as a public forum for a discussion—broadly speaking—of psychiatry and its treatments. The opinions expressed are the writers’ own.