On being a change agent: The role of “Edgewalker”

edgewalkers

In her 2006 book, Edgewalkers: People and Organizations That Take Risks, Build Bridges, and Break New Ground, author Judi Neal writes that the “Edgewalker is someone who walks between the worlds,” an individual who builds bridges, works at the boundaries and soft edges, and operates in a visionary way. Neal draws heavily from diverse cultural and spiritual traditions in defining this role.

I discovered this book a few months ago, and I find that the concept of Edgewalker describes many of the change agents I find myself drawn to in my own work. A multitude of the folks who are at the heart of several communities near and dear to me — including the Therapeutic Jurisprudence network, Human Dignity and Humiliation Studies network, and workplace anti-bullying movement — would fit comfortably into the Edgewalker framework.

I also realize that I have been unconsciously trying to define an Edgewalker-like identity for myself. The term “silo” is now one of the most overused in organizational life, but it captures the kind of insularity that inhibits creativity and frustrates the search for solutions. An Edgewalker strikes me as being a silo buster, and I like that. Whether it involves transcending professional and academic disciplines, melding the roles of scholar and practitioner, or integrating different strands of traditional and non-traditional higher and adult education, I find that this role resonates with me.

Neal also recognizes that the Edgewalker role can be a lonely one at times. After all, if so many people are crowded into more traditionally defined groups, then being an Edgewalker can mean walking alone, or at least it may feel that way. The solution, I’m finding, is to seek out and connect with other Edgewalker-type people. What can be more exciting than to foster communities of bridge-building visionaries?

 

4 responses

  1. David, I just stumbled on your blog talking about my book Edgewalkers, and I completely agree that Edgewalkers are change agents. Change happens at the boundaries and on the edge of systems. The role of the middle is to keep the organization stable, sometimes to the point of calcification. It’s those on the edges who can see other possibilities. On the edgewalker website, http://www.edgewalkers.org, there is a free checklist that helps people to identify whether or not you might be an edgewalker. Regards, Judi Neal, Ph.D.

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