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The Four Pivots: Reimagining Justice, Reimagining Ourselves

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For readers of Emergent Strategy and Dare to Lead, an activist’s roadmap to long-term social justice impact through four simple shifts.

We need a fundamental shift in our values–a pivot in how we think, act, work, and connect. Despite what we’ve been told, the most critical mainspring of social change isn’t coalition building or problem analysis. It’s healing: deep, whole, and systemic, inside and out.

Here, Shawn Ginwright, PhD, breaks down the common myths of social movements–a set of deeply ingrained beliefs that actually hold us back from healing and achieving sustainable systemic change. He shows us why these frames don’t work, proposing instead four revolutionary pivots for better activism and collective leadership:

Awareness: from lens to mirror
Connection: from transactional to transformative relationships
Vision: from problem-fixing to possibility-creating
Presence: from hustle to flow

Supplemented with reflections, prompts, cutting-edge research, and the author’s own insights and lived experience as an African American social scientist, professor, and movement builder, The Four Pivots helps us uncover our blind spots. It shows us how to discover new lenses and boldly assert our need for connection, transformation, trust, wholeness, and healing. It gives us permission to create a better future–to acknowledge that a broken system has been predefining our dreams and limiting what we allow ourselves to imagine, but that it doesn’t have to be that way at all. Are you ready to pivot?

272 pages, ebook

First published January 25, 2022

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About the author

Shawn A. Ginwright

3 books27 followers

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Displaying 1 - 30 of 49 reviews
Profile Image for BigBlueSea.
454 reviews11 followers
February 12, 2022
This is the kind of book you start with low expectations (having read many books on social justice) and by the end of page 2 go to get a yellow highlighter.

As a middle class white man (more aptly, a flawed human being just like you), I don’t pretend to understand the deep hurts, hopes, fears or joys of people around me. I’ll tell you that this book is special. It did not shame me into guilt or make me want to run when confronted with perspectives wider than my own: it just methodically with humility lays out a heart. It welcomes you to something bigger just as Reverend King’s speeches did.

It offers encouragement to a life and community bigger than ourselves. To with humility look at our own predilections and view others through the same journey we view ourselves. Highly recommended.
Profile Image for Avory Faucette.
197 reviews91 followers
February 2, 2022
This book joins several recent titles placing #socialjustice movements at a tipping point, suggesting that a wave of change is coming that must center healing and relationship. Current thinking can make this important shift seem like bypassing or denying urgency, and I’ve personally felt this fear and uncertainty in transforming my own relationship to activism. We may see the potential for a momentous collective shift, but also fear punitive dynamics within communities. And it’s tough to reject these dynamics and *also* avoid saviorism or dogma. The call is to come together, acknowledge our tremendous pain and grief and desire for something new, and integrate approaches: centering accountability, but also healing.

I thought Ginwright did an excellent job in this book of presenting what this change might look like at an individual and collective level, balancing acknowledgement of the astounding current level of need and oppression with a critical understanding of how our tactics need to change. The “four pivots” form an overarching framework to guide the reader through vulnerable storytelling, direct suggestions, and honest reflection on our present moment, shared history, and potential futures. The stories Ginwright chose to illustrate his points are broad enough to touch a range of readers, pulling from his own life as a parent, husband, community organizer, funder, and Black man. I also appreciated contextualized reflections from Ginwright’s past mistakes as a social justice leader, since funders and Board members are so often in CYA mode.

Through each pivot, you can consider a different mode of being: how to be more reflective, engage in transformative relationships, open up to possibility, and move through the world with greater spaciousness and adaptability. If the subtitle “Reimagining Justice, Reimagining Ourselves” appeals to you, you’ll find this book to be a valuable support. I would also recommend for organizational use.

[ARC provided by NetGalley.]
Profile Image for Colleen Rice.
238 reviews2 followers
August 31, 2022
5 / 5 ⭐: Man, I do wish this book had existed while I was still working in higher Ed. It captures so many of my issues within social justice circle- scarcity mindset, lack of imagination, and non-stop grind. While I understand the root of them all, I struggled to enunciate what was so toxic about those mindsets and why they made the work so unsustainable (when embraced as The Only Way). Dr. Ginwright captures this all with clarity, love, and gentleness without making it feel any less than ground-breaking. Love, love, loved it.
Profile Image for Staci.
460 reviews38 followers
July 7, 2022
I listened to this audiobook and it is a little dry at times but the information the author has to share is extremely valuable. It can help you have a more open perspective of the world and feel a little more hopeful that things can be better. Many of the things discussed I had already been doing prior to listening to this book. My actions were born out of frustration and hopelessness about so many issues that seemingly never really improve. These feelings prompted me to shift the focus of my effort to better understand the world around me. Stop putting out fires. Read this book. Take a deep breath. Highly recommend.
Profile Image for Sam Fraioli.
15 reviews
July 10, 2023
Agreed with a lot of points, was not a fan of some others! I think I just have less faith in people than the author lol
Profile Image for Alicia Atkinson.
12 reviews2 followers
July 9, 2022
Stop what you are doing and read this book. It’a one of the most important books I’ve read in the realm of racial and economic justice in the last five years.
Profile Image for Larkin Tackett.
493 reviews3 followers
June 4, 2023
Dr. Shawn Ginwright, an eduction professor and expert on youth development, describe four important pivots to improve our justice work.

1. From lens to mirror calls us to self-reflect before we analyze. He channels the likes of Grace Lee Boggs who remind us that "social change is fundamentally about individual and collective responsibility for creating, imagining, and relating together in new ways."

2. From transactional to transformative is best summarized in the words of Benjamin McBride, a community safety advocate he interviews. "The wrong first question is, What do we need to do? The right first question is, Who do we need to become?" Ginwright and McBride's approach is part of what the book describes as the new-world view of social change. As opposed to the old-world view, which "focuses entirely on building the power that's necessary to exert influence over people, processes, and events... New-world power is based in the capacity to foster and sustain a beloved community, a sense of belonging, and human connection even with those who are in your out-group (them)."

3. From problem to possibility is really a shift from problem loving to possibility thinking. "The greatest challenge before us is not simply a political, economic, or social transformation," he writes. " Rather, the greatest challenge we face is failure to try another way."

4. From hustle to flow is frame well in the words of Howard Thurman, who Ginwright sites throughout the book. "Don't ask yourself what the world needs. As yourself what makes you come alive, and go do that, because what the world needs is people who come alive."
Profile Image for Lauren Morton.
64 reviews1 follower
August 17, 2022
I heard Dr. Gainwright discuss this book on Brene Brown’s podcast “Unlocking Us”. As another reviewer shared, I began reading and stopped to find my highlighter. This book is powerful and transformative on a personal and social level. I believe we are all at point where the pivots are going to redirect us to peace and belonging. The realization we all want the same thing.

Adding this to the list of books the are ground shaking.
Profile Image for Daniel.
291 reviews1 follower
May 31, 2023
Really well written, accessible, and hopeful.
Profile Image for Lucas Maas.
48 reviews
August 15, 2023
Shawn Ginwright’s The Four Pivots is a transformative contribution to the field of youth development and education. With relentless conviction, he elucidates a holistic framework that addresses the multifaceted needs of both marginalized youth and communities. He emphasizes four interwoven ‘pivots’ that fall under the concepts of awareness, connection, vision, and presence.
Ginwright challenges our notions of leadership through the self and a lot of the self-inflicted issues of social justice movements. Ginwright holds no punches as he confronts the ugliness of social justice work and movements. Though well-intended, they fail to achieve their goals and aspirations as a group. His work requires an introspective journey of the self and a bolstering of self-awareness. This is not only to become one’s best self in order to lead or be a contributor to a group but Ginwright’s main purpose in this book is to heal the world. And only by journeying within ourselves and rectifying avoidable problems within the social justice realm can we truly heal the world.
Ginwright includes a lot of personal anecdotes to support his emphasis on healing which underscores the significance of acknowledging and addressing trauma and emotional well-being in youth development. By also foregrounding ‘belonging’, Ginwright highlights the importance of creating inclusive environments that foster a sense of community and group identity. He also believes that engaging and being engaged within your community fills the necessity of meaningful and participatory learning experiences that resonate with the lived realities of young people, which a lot of his work is centered around.
The limitations of his work though are glaring. There is a level of complexity to the four pivots and practical implementation can prove difficult as those who are taking things from this book such as educators, policymakers, and facilitators, might struggle to implement all four pivots into their work. That can be based on cultural and contextual variations. A lot of Ginwright’s work revolves around Black youth development, even establishing a camp for Black children named Camp Akili. Much like the camp, his work solely revolving around Black youth development is inhibited by self-segregation. It reveals a slight overemphasis on youth development. This is also to take into account, the lack of empirical evidence to support his pivots. Although, while sharing powerful anecdotes to keep the reader interested and to better illustrate the four pivots, the lack of empirical data can question the long-term sustainability of his ideas.
In conclusion, Ginwright’s Four Pivots presents a holistic approach to youth and community development by emphasizing healing, belonging, and engagement. While very insightful, its complexity, overemphasis on youth specifically colored youth, and lack of empirical evidence need to be subject to careful consideration if these ideas are to be sustainable for the long term. The framework of the four pivots should be tempered by these limitations, enabling practitioners to adapt it how they see fit in order to create contexts of meaningful impact.
Profile Image for Jeanne.
1,003 reviews67 followers
April 30, 2023
Most book describing the activist process describe almost frantic and ceaseless movement to make the world a different place. From this perspective, Shawn Ginwright's The Four Pivots is almost an anti-activist book. Instead, he recommends four "pivots" that are largely internal: examining oneself, transforming one's self and relationships, seeing possibilities rather than only problems, and finding flow. When, for example, has such a book focused on and advocated for rest and sleep?

But Ginwright's insights are in line with Tania Israel's, Beyond Your Bubble , or Sharon Salzberg's Real Change. It is our ability to listen and who we are that changes people, not any loud, rational (or irrational) argument. Reminds me of a 1977 Nuance ad: "If you want to capture someone's attention, whisper"

What I've said here does not mean that I'm accusing any of these writers of passivity or complaisance. Sometimes, paradoxically, we are more successful at changing a person's mind by our passion, commitment, our willingness to listen, our willingness to be authentic. Try it.
20 reviews10 followers
February 17, 2023
This is not so much a review as a journal entry. This book landed in places of active enquiry for me so I’m making notes for ongoing work (ha and to hold myself accountable for them by writing them here)

I enjoyed this book, arriving to answer questions and poke into others where I’ve work still to do.
Weaves together integrity, vulnerability, and working across difference with radical empathy with heartfelt stories, told in a community organising way entirely at home in this big hearted practical book.

I listened to the audiobook narrated by the author over a few evenings, and feel the need now to go back to words on a page to scribble in the margins, piece together the work here with other profound material, as well as to help me more fully engage in exercises presented.

The pivots
Awareness, connection, vision, flow … they sound familiar but the contexts and contents are fresh.
The telling of awareness shifting from lens to mirror, a sweet wise way to bring this in! Connection from transactional to transformative, feels like pure community organising … and here I would like to see more practical examples in currently transactional situations. That could be a whole other book.
Vision, this part I think I wanted some of the later content earlier, and that’s an editing thing.
Something felt a little unsatisfying about introducing the term design thinking almost flippantly, but still I appreciated how the flip to positive creative thinking was introduced. Nails the problem with problem thinking! Surely required reading for all government people.
Talking to the ‘other’ or ‘othered’ in the last section felt like a strong call for brave and radical empathy.
And it’s from that place where I wonder where I seek to put this into place in the public sphere.
Is it possible to make deeper explorations like this one the norm? How might we support *that* to happen at scale?

Anyway, back to ordering the paperback to dig in deeper and of course share.
This entire review has been hidden because of spoilers.
Profile Image for Heidi Dumke.
31 reviews
November 11, 2022
I read this book over the last couple of months. As I was reading, I would ask myself how his proposed pivots and overarching theme on healing would impact me in my relationship with myself, others, and students.

His work is a testament to how framing can reconfigure everything. For example, if the true work of social justice is to heal and create belonging, what are the actions I can take to make that possible? I learned it’s through seeking truth revealed to me like a mirror, doing the hard work of transformative relationships, reorienting goals to states of possibility, and prioritizing flow and rest.

He aptly reminds us throughout these pivots that there are hard truths to reckon with and limitations to confront.

At the heart of his teachings, he is asking us to focus on bettering ourselves so that we may better the world. His many anecdotes made him very relatable in this important and personal journey.
Profile Image for Allie.
8 reviews
October 2, 2022
Won an ARC in a giveaway for an honest review - thanks, I love it

I have and will keep recommending this book to my colleagues, peers, and friends.
Within the first 20 pages, I knew this is going to be the book defining 2022 for me.

Acknowledging, but not dealing with, the feeling of burnout I've had was what set the stage for Dr. Ginwright's points to really hit home. It took me a while to get through the ~230 pages, because I needed/wanted the time to sit with the themes and exercises (and then: chapter 11).

Coming out of a global pandemic and burnout of virtual life, Dr. Ginwright's ideas and suggestions made me feel more hopeful about the communities we have and the futures we can imagine together. We need time and space to heal and connect, and whoever is interested in that - read this book.
282 reviews1 follower
August 27, 2023
This was another book for work. I really liked the messaging here about the four pivots for social movements. Though I still have a hard time imagining a world where everyone makes this change, and unless everyone is willing to commit to reflecting, building transformative relationships, possibility-creating, and seeking flow, I'm not sure if social movements will really move forward.

Though I think these are great personal values, and I certainly would like to adopt my own way of being to them. I just don't enough faith in everyone else.

Also, I can't fully get behind shared vulnerability at work...I'm not particularly interested in sharing my personal history and struggles in that context.

Fully support Dr. Ginwright's ideas, but the cynic in me just can't see the practical shift in our society. I wish I could be so idealistic.
Profile Image for Michele Rice Carpenter.
373 reviews16 followers
February 27, 2022
Get out your highlighter for this one! You're going to need it. I also recommend a journal or notebook. The Four Pivots by Shawn Ginwright covers many areas for not only self-improvement but for improving society. I can see this book being used as required reading for many college classes, especially psychology, sociology, and criminal justice. Do let that deter you. This book is also ideal for anyone who is interested in self-improvement, or anyone interested in becoming a better parent who can teach their children more and better psychological tools.

I won this book in a Goodreads giveaway.
Profile Image for Genevieve.
177 reviews10 followers
September 15, 2022
This book really challenged me in all the right ways about how to level up my justice fighting practices. The centering on the rehumanizing of the people we least want to humanize and how that reflexively pushes us to rehumanize ourselves spoke to me.
I think these pivots can really take us from simply identifying the problems we want to fight to actually imagining, creating the new world we want to live in. Something I believe is imperative that we learn sooner rather than later.
Profile Image for Rachel.
5 reviews
November 2, 2022
This might be my favorite book I've read this year?! When I finished it, I immediately wanted to re-read it from the beginning. Everything Dr. Ginwright writes in this book felt incredibly important and relevant to the social justice work that I'm familiar with.

Dr. Ginwright reimagines justice in a way that just rang true for me. I hope that every activist, organizer, and wannabe changemaker gives this book a read.
Profile Image for Sarah Schumacher.
57 reviews1 follower
December 5, 2022
Read this book on a leave from my job in education and it truly rekindled my hope and excitement for the work, while helping me be at peace with my need for restoration. Dr. Ginwright speaks from his heart and I felt like I was talking to someone I know. He shares so many incredible insights and ideas to power up the important work that needs to be done while caring for ourselves. Highly recommend!
Profile Image for John Richards.
86 reviews11 followers
July 28, 2023
Social justice advocacy is hard work. It requires working on ourselves and working on our unjust society. I really enjoyed and needed to read this book. It helped me do some self-reflection and helped me continue to value others around me as I do the work. Great anecdotes throughout. And his background as a sociologist shines in the book. I would commend this work to anyone doing the tough work of social advocacy.
Profile Image for Linda Richards.
Author 19 books133 followers
March 31, 2022
Among other things, Dr. Ginwright talks about what we need to do for ourselves to begin to heal the world. The Four Pivots is about social justice, but it’s also about how we move forward from right here. "Healing is the capacity to restore our humanity and care for ourselves even in the midst of our fear." The seems like a positive thing to hold in our hearts for this moment.
Profile Image for Leanne.
202 reviews
April 9, 2022
It was like meeting myself. These four pivots have been my life's journey to create and embody. Unfortunately, for me I was met with either silence or vehement pushback in the form of verbal attacks and physical violence. Either these four pivots are felt as life threatening instead of life affirming or my presentation sucked.
Profile Image for Alisun Thompson.
178 reviews4 followers
December 7, 2022
I had a very difficult time making progress on this book so I skim read the end so I could finish it and get it off my shelf!

I loved the ideas -- just not the Ginwright's writing style. It was very repetitive -- like he was trying to stretch an essay to hit the word count.

But the ideas were really interesting. I love the merging of inner and outer work in the pursuit of justice.
78 reviews
March 3, 2023
This book is a must-read! Between the storytelling, research, and practical recommendations, it is an excellent resource for anytime working on change. I have found myself quoting it frequently in both personal and professional conversations. This is a book that I know I will return to read again and continue to reference.
Profile Image for Paulo.
28 reviews1 follower
March 19, 2023
A must read for those of us who are committed to social justice. Beautifully written in easily comprehensible chapters, this book adds the importance of healing to the conversation. There are so many good nuggets of wisdom, you'll want two highlighters because the first just might run out of ink! This book belongs to the cannon of revolutionary optimism
Profile Image for Josh.
35 reviews
June 10, 2022
One of the best books I have read this year. Dr. Ginwright provides a game changing perspective on the mindsets we should embrace, in order to transform the world. I highly recommend for anyone seeking to drive positive social change.
Profile Image for Jeanne (jkcosmos) Cosmos.
216 reviews19 followers
June 21, 2022
Interesting when an author shares their personal journey; however, much of this was cliche & what could have been poignant & a deeper, introspective narrative hmmmm was not!
Bravo-writing a book.

It’s one of those reads that have one thinking-I could write a book. And for that-I’m grateful.
75 reviews4 followers
July 9, 2022
Highly recommended (especially the last half). Rus books provides a theoretical frame for more intentionally integrating caring for and developing ourSelves on the midst of our work for justice and social change With concrete practices for how to start.
Displaying 1 - 30 of 49 reviews

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