Years as an activist, development worker, and humanitarian professional taught me that the biggest mistake we can make in life is confusing the means and the goal.
In our projects, this often looks like a donor or organisation deciding they want to build a school in a rural community, give food to people displaced by an earthquake, or deliver livelihood workshops for women. The fact that those with power are making decisions about specific activities tells us that they are more concerned about what the project will do than what the project will achieve. The fact that they have usually decided on the activity before even speaking to a community tells us that the aid industry is fundamentally flawed.
Activists talk about actions rather than objectives – and in life, we are obsessed with the how instead of the why. We focus on buying fast cars and big houses instead of improving our quality of life. We focus on going to the gym and dieting instead of increasing our health and wellbeing. We focus on getting some time-saving gimmick that we’ve seen on TV instead of spending quality time with the people we love.
At United Edge, we have a mantra, “Goals before activities.” It’s something we talk about during our courses, in our projects, and as a team, and it’s the most important litmus test we have when planning our work.
When people ask what we do, we usually talk about the incredible movement of Justice Based Approach practitioners that we have supported over the last few years. Having trained over 1,500 individuals and built a global community in which they can support each other to take their learning deeper, we are super proud of how far we’ve come and how many people are committed to embedding the five pillars of justice in their work.
We proudly tell people that a huge part of what United Edge has set out to do from the beginning is to create a platform for our community to be more radical and creative in their work to create lasting impact in the world. For some, this means running justice based projects and consultancies through United Edge that helps to bring in a fair income while for others it means engaging with United Edge as part of their activism and commitment to cultivating a better future for the next generation.
Through the Justice Based Approach courses, in particular, we often talk about creating a movement of people who are already embedded in the social justice space and who are able to take JBA into their work, their projects, their meetings and the daily conversations they have within their organisations. Creating this ‘army’ of JBA advocates – people who are able and willing to ask the hard questions is a huge part of what we’re about.
But… all of this is part of the what and how. The question we cannot afford to forget is why.
United Edge exists to spark a justice revolution. And nothing less. We want to live in a world built from radical, healthy systems where power is no longer held by a privileged few, where people have an equitable chance to contribute to and benefit from their communities. We want to have a regenerative relationship with nature and the planet. We want to smash the patriarchy, move beyond capitalism, and address the injustices of colonialism, rampant economic growth and racism. We want to live in a world where an abundance of wealth is shared by all. We call this Radical Systems.
We want a political system where those most affected by a decision are the ones leading that decision, and for the same principle to be streamlined into all parts of family and community life. We want ownership models that support shared benefits and shared decision making – especially on the micro-level. We call this Living Democracy.
We want governments, institutions, companies, NGOs, collectives and cooperatives to consider their impact on people, animals, nature and future generations. We want them to eliminate harmful activities and to make it easier for every human to make the best choices for themselves, for others, and for the planet. We call this Everyday Activism.
We want to end impunity, nip injustices in the bud, and address the harm already done. We want to create a world where restorative and transformative justice replace punitive measures to build a safer, more sustainable society. We want to create mechanisms that address the past, present, and future and ensure that we are always accountable to those most affected. We call this Brave Accountability.
We want to create a society built on holistic, regenerative, and equitable solutions. We want to seek out innovation and learn from indigenous and marginalized communities who are so often at the forefront of sustainable and inclusive approaches. We want to embed the blueprints of the best models from the margins into an improved, justice-centred mainstream. We call this Alternative Models.
The Justice Based Approach can be seen as a lens that helps us to achieve a better world. But it’s more than that, too. It centres on justice – and everything which that entails – as the ultimate goal for humanity. And we won’t rest until the Justice Revolution is well underway.