Change is coming—what do we need to imagine as we prepare for it?
What is compelling about surviving climate change? How do we prepare not just for suffering, but for sharing and innovation. How do we prepare the children in our lives to be visionary, and to love nature when the changes are frightening and incomprehensible? To be abundant when what we consider valuable is shifting from gold to collard greens? How do we experience our beauty and humanity in every condition?

“Emergent Strategy” by adrienne maree brown—a rad community organizer and creative whose praxis has been profoundly shaped by the badass Grace Lee Boggs and brilliant Octavia Butler—is transformative. By braiding together poetry, prose, radical self-help and society-help assessments, conversations with movement builders, and meditations on nature, brown has created a work that will inspire possibility, passion, and power in the reader.

As brown articulates, the guiding principles of emergent strategy are this:

Small is good, small is all. (The large is a reflection of the small.)

Change is constant. (Be like water).

There is always enough time for the right work.

There is a conversation in the room that only these people at this moment can have. Find it.

Never a failure, always a lesson.

Trust the People. (If you trust the people, they become trustworthy).

Move at the speed of trust. Focus on critical connections more than critical mass—build resilience by building relationships.

Less prep, more presence.

What you pay attention to grows.

In the ensuing pages, brown breaks down the elements of emergent strategy as well as shares practices and perspectives in support of intentional adaptation, transformative justice, decentralization of power, interdependence, pleasure-based activism, and resilience. It’s these guiding principles, however, that continue to weave in and out of paragraphs, knitting together brown’s reflections on creativity and community organizing. As an activist, I particularly cherish brown’s assertion that “what you pay attention to grows." It’s an idea that brown returns to again and again throughout “Emergent Strategy” and to my thinking, it’s a concept that’s critical to creativity. To be creative, regenerative, imaginative, and resourceful, we need to pay attention to the parts of our beings that are hungry to make. In so many ways, our receptivity to creativity is an extension of our willingness to passionately and persistently nurture our creative fire.

It’s in this spirit that brown’s brilliant tome on shaping change and changing worlds can serve as fuel for stoking our collective creative energy. Even though I have read “Emergent Strategy” several times—most recently for my Badass Babes Book Club—I continue to scribble “Yes!” in the margins. There are so many sentences in this book that have birthed mantras in me for navigating the climate crisis and so many strategies for creative living that have helped me find resilience in the face of massive loss. brown speaks to the necessity of grief, joy, and “moving towards life.” “In order to create a world that works for more people,” brown writes, “we have to collaborate on the process of dreaming and visioning and implementing that world. We have to recognize that a multitude of realities have, do, and will exist.”

For brown, paying attention to plurality and possibility is integral to the process of creating alternative universes. When we imagine and create in collaboration with others, we cultivate the conditions for life to thrive. Rich in resources for community organization and creative collaboration, “Emergent Strategy” offers tools for facilitating emergent strategy, spells and practices for bringing this praxis into being, and assessments that will help you name the gifts you have to offer to this world, nurture community resilience, and seed adaptation.

And so although you can read “Emergent Strategy” in a single afternoon, I think that this book is sweetest when shared with others. “Emergent Strategy” is as much a blueprint for fostering spiritual and social resilience as it is a vibrant and vital invitation to come into deeper creative collaboration with your community. Reach out to a few friends and work through the book together. You’ll find that having a community to explore “Emergent Strategy” with will help you to better integrate brown’s transformative tools and to move toward life— supported by and in service to your loved ones.

As brown asks us:

What do we need to heal ourselves in order to offer a future of any real peace? Or to become the protagonists of this human story—and earn the flip of the page of all the sentient life in the universe? To claim the future as a compelling place for our miracles?

My hope is that in reading “Emergent Strategy,” you and your loved ones can begin to carve out creative responses to these compelling questions. And I hope as well that as you read “Emergent Strategy,” you will share your thoughts and feelings on this powerful tome in the comments below. As brown illuminates, our community and creativity are truly much-needed medicine for toxic times.





In need of a dose of joy? Check out these delicious spells, dreamy reads, and nourishing recipes from adrienne maree brown.

Kate WeinerComment