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Handout 1: Prophetic, Parallel, and Institutional Voices

Often, history is presented as a time line, highlighting the actions of extraordinary individuals and chronicling the events that shaped an era. However, not all change is effected in the same way. Even the most individualistic leader owes a debt to other people, communities, and ways of thinking. There is more than one way to resist injustice, and more than one way to work for the transformation of our world.

This workshop introduces three strategies commonly found in social justice leadership and organization: the prophetic, parallel, and institutional voices that have shaped our history.

  • The prophetic voices speak out against the conventions of the era, and are often marginalized or considered ahead of their time, with a strong vision of a better future.
  • The parallel voices advocate for an alternative to the established structure, a new system to replace that which is deemed broken.
  • The institutional voices seek to work within established power structures to change them from within.

Each of the three approaches may be voiced by an individual, a group, or a movement, and individuals, groups, and movements may employ different approaches at different times. All three strategic approaches are grounded in the shared Unitarian and Universalist conviction that a free faith demands critical engagement with the world.

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