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What does a Gun Violence Task Force Have to Do with Learning Culture?

Someone once said, “be the change you want to see in the world.” I live and work in New Mexico. For those of you who may not know where New Mexico is; it is the big land mass between Arizona and Texas. I say that with a funny story in mind as my husband and I were in California in December 2022 and the rental car attendant at Los Angeles International Airport thought we needed passports to secure a rental car. I digress.

Recently, I have had the opportunity to serve as a committee member on the City of Albuquerque’s Gun Violence Task Force. Sometimes, I find that hard to say out loud. I grew up in a family of game hunters who were also members of the National Rifle Association. I grew up around guns and was well versed on gun safety.

I am also well aware that gun control and gun rights in the United States is a very heated issue. I have gradually watched crime and the unhoused population in the city grow substantially since I moved back to Albuquerque in 2005.

The task force was born out of an executive order issued by the Mayor of Albuquerque. The task force has an overarching goal of:

  • Reducing gun violence in the city of Albuquerque,

  • Reducing the number of people who are victims of gun violence and,

  • Helping underserved populations find resources to improve their living conditions, health and wellness.

I serve on the subcommittee focused on “Economic Mobility and Stability.” So I posed the question, what does this gun violence task force have to do with learning culture, specifically fostering a learning culture? To my surprise, there are many parallels.

Shared Vision

Stepping into this committee, I had no idea what to expect. I was mentally prepared for heated discussions and chronic disagreements. It has been quite the opposite. The committee is made up of a diverse group of individuals. Many have the lived experience of being unhoused, addicted to narcotics or even victims of violence. Some are business owners like me, some are regular citizens, some work for the City of Albuquerque.

Despite our largely diverse backgrounds, different lived experiences and upbringing, every individual in this group deeply shares the vision that the city has a problem and they want to fix it. It has been amazing to see the respect, questions and work that comes from each person in the group. Despite the differences we all have, we all are “pushing the boat” towards the common goal.

Bias Challenges

The blessing and the curse of humanity is that we all have bias. Again, bias and judgment in our caveman days kept us safe. Today, it's a curtain that we continually have to remind ourselves to look around. I admit that I had a bit of confirmation bias (when we gravitate towards people that agree with us) going into this group. I had some set thoughts about what I thought about these underserved groups. Getting to know individuals with lived experiences, I can say now that I have to put my tail between my legs. These individuals and I share the same vision, to improve our City. Additionally, the issues facing these underserved groups are bigger and different than I understood based on my own experiences. As Adam Grant would say, it has forced my hand into “Thinking Again.”

Community of Practice

Whether it’s learning or doing, a Community of Practice is a group of people that come together with a passion for a common cause. We have all made the decision in this group, whether conscious or not that we are working towards the same committee goals. We are all excited to challenge our thinking and work and learn from each other. I learn something new every time I meet with this group of individuals.

This group sets a better example of what community and leadership is than many in our political system and many top leaders in organizations. We are a group of people who have challenged the “not in my backyard theory” and instead have decided to ask “ how can we help everyone’s backyard.”

My friends, that is a learning community.

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