Social Healing & Critical Yeast

Social Healing & Critical Yeast

With the right conditions our minds & bodies are capable of tremendous healing.

A decade ago I would have questioned that. I remember feeling that something was irretrievably broken inside me – physically and emotionally – that despite my best attempts, was unable to be fixed.

And I was right – fixing was not possible.  However I learnt with the right therapy, the right tools, the right conditions, we can heal.  (fixing and healing are two very different things, but that’s an email for another day). 

And so it is with our world. The fault lines that exist. The fractures that occur between us. The ruptures that tear at democracy and civil society.  With the right tools, the right conditions, we heal.

What are these conditions though?

John Paul Lederach, a Professor of International Peacebuilding, talks about a concept of critical yeast. So often in changemaking (or even entrepreneurship) we focus on ‘critical mass’ – that critical number of people we need to reach before a movement or idea takes off exponentially.

John Paul, however, suggests that more central to change is the idea of critical yeast.  These few improbable and persistent people, who through their quality of relationship create the conditions for new possibilities to emerge, shifting and transforming generations to come.

So what lessons can we take from yeast as changemakers?

Yeast is the smallest ingredient, yet carries the potential to grow all others.  The small, the relational, matters.

We know that yeast is sensitive to the light, and works best in the dark – the unknown.

Alone, yeast has little capacity to create growth.  It needs to move and mingle to have impact.

Yeast cannot be mixed in directly and quickly. Initial growth must be cultivated carefully.

Yet yeast, after the initial phase, does well to be mixed and kneaded.  It requires pressure to work to its potential.

This time holds opportunity for us all to be the critical yeast of change.

Social healing isn’t about numbers.

It’s about the quality of our relationships – our ability to listen, to hold space for nuance and complexity, to think imaginatively, to embody our values, to allow conflict to be the deepening of our relationship and not the end.

So I invite you today to consider what social healing could look like in your industry or community, and how you can activate a little yeast like energy into your work.

– Laura Hartley