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Friday, June 3, 2011

What is Agency?

I think agency is one of those often misunderstood concepts that is generally relegated to being tossed around in university lecture halls and most people just let it fly by them.

What IS agency you ask?  Perhaps it's best described as the ability to do stuff.   I believe that agency is a defining factor of what separates people who achieve things from those who do not and just take life as it hits them in the face.

I think that we hear the call of our own agency every day but we're so used to being beholden to people and organizations that things happen TO us, that we don't stop and think about how we can ACT instead of REACT to our environment.  Now, before I get on my soap box about social change, I really want to explain this point I just made.

I feel that every day I meet people who talk about problems they encounter in every day life.  Whether it be work, jerks on the subway, bills, or coworkers who drag others into messy office politics and backbiting.  I am sure you know what I mean -- it's the every day stuff that we complain about, that fuels our evening conversation over drinks with our friends when we reconnect.  Yet there seems to be this sense of "woe is me" that sticks in my craw because the topics of complaining are acceptable is a daily occurrence.  It sticks in my craw because it evokes a feeling that I hope many of us get -- "That's not right.  Something should be done."  That is the beginning of agency.

Can I do something about (it?)
           /                       \
     YES                    NO

This is what agency is.  The ability to do (stuff).  To get (stuff) done.  I believe that we all have a responsibility to one another, in some way or form, and this cannot be ignored or passed off to someone else.  At the very same time, agency is not just something that is not blatantly used.  It must be exacting and measured, and above all real and applied with fore-thought.   Otherwise its not true Agency, its just something that helps people sleep at night.    Other times it can be good to enact Agency but we should always be ask at what cost does it come at?

I've been interacting a lot lately with larger organizations and this unsettling feeling I've been feeling lately seems to have come from the real meaning of agency and how much Agency really takes place.    

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