3.1 - Developing our Community - Exploring the Tensions: Leveraging Polarities

3.1 – Developing our Community – Exploring Tensions: Leveraging Polarities (60 minutes)

Materials needed: Leveraging Polarities packet, pens or pencils

Purpose of piece: To provide a group with the opportunity to evaluate and consider how to leverage the wisdom of each pole of the core tensions described in Chapter 3 in order to create a shared understanding among group members.

Say to group: We’re going to work through these packets on Leveraging Polarities together. We’ll take turns reading through the explanations and then pausing to do the activities as suggested.

Facilitator’s Note: The information included in the packet is complex and should be reviewed carefully in advance of the workshop. It is possible that additional exploration on the topic may be required before facilitators feel comfortable using this material. You may want to turn to that handout now to review before reading further.

The anticipated time frame for working through the packet is the following (45 minutes total):

  1. Read and discuss pages 1 through 3 as a group (15 minutes)
  2. Pause to complete and discuss filled in table at the bottom of page 3. (10 minutes)
  3. Read and discuss page 4 as a group (10 minutes)
  4. Individually complete page 5 (10 minutes)

The individual activity includes the following:

Select one of the polarities from the table below and use the polarity map provided to create your own Positive Results, Negative Results of over focusing on one pole to the neglect of the other, Action Steps and Early Warnings on the map.

Facilitator’s Note: It may be useful to highlight that in this exercise, the term privilege is used expansively to encompass more than race privilege. Therefore, participants may want to reflect on other areas where they receive privileges, such as via citizenship, gender, ability, sexual orientation, etc. (particularly if your group includes people of color).


Set 1


My inner Self is my guide for personal growth.



Take Guidance

Feedback from others is essential for my personal growth.


Set 2


Value Individual Dignity

I am accountable to myself.




Respect Interdependence

I am accountable to my community.


Set 3


Personal Agency

All people have personal agency in how they react to life circumstances.




Systemic Barriers

My values require me to work to end systematic oppression.


Set 4



Ensuring I understand how privilege affects my life is necessary.




Take Action

Taking action against injustice is necessary.

Large group discussion: (15 minutes)

  1. What insights did you gain through this exercise?
  2. How do these tensions currently affect our community?
  3. What can we do to support our community in leveraging the positive aspects of these poles?

Wrap Up: The value of the polarity leverage approach is in its recognition that we will always live with these tensions. Learning strategies to leverage the positive aspects of each side can support a community to stay focused on productive discussions and avoid getting sidetracked into either/or positions.