Tikkun Magazine, Winter 2011

Tikkun Olam Without Coercion: Living into the World We Want to Create

by Miki Kashtan

I've had the longing for tikkun olam since I was a child in Israel. It was only when I encountered principled nonviolence that I found vision, faith, and concrete practice that allowed me to make tikkun olam central to my life.

I envision a world that works for all people and the planet. My faith rests on the radical understanding that every action taken by anyone is an expression of human needs. My practice of nonviolence emerges from love embodied as compassion, fierceness, courage, and an uncompromising willingness to stand for truth. My vision, faith, and practice combine to ground my commitment to collaborative, noncoercive solutions that address everyone's needs.

Making the World Work for Everyone

History shows that those who gain power tend to recreate structures that work for some and not for others. If, by some miracle, those who resonate with the Tikkun worldview gain sufficient power to have influence on a large scale, I want us to be able to address the pressing issues we are decrying without forcing others, including those who are now in positions of power, to accept our solutions.

We can prepare for this hoped-for future by grappling now with what it takes to open our hearts and minds to those with whom we disagree. We can learn to identify the deepest human needs underlying anyone's opinions, actions, and preferred policies, so we can transcend affiliations and positions and come to a shared focus on solutions that address everyone's needs.

Using Dialogue to Transform Conflict

Even within our own groups we see splintering, fighting, withdrawing, overpowering, and resignation. To increase our credibility and effectiveness, we can overcome fear of conflict and engage with each other productively. We can create environments in which people find enough safety to talk about challenging issues while maintaining connection and respect with each other. We can create trust by embracing a rigorous practice of empathic listening, deep openness to everyone's humanity, and willingness to take responsibility for our own actions and experiences.

Using Power with Others Effectively

Like most organizations, groups working toward a vision of a transformed world often experience immense difficulties with leadership, power relations, and decision-making. Both in the future world and now, we can create structures of governance that are efficiently responsive to people's needs by transforming top-down hierarchical structures without losing sight of the role of leadership in offering vision, cohesion, and decisive action. As leaders we can learn to let go of outcome and listen to others so we can navigate conflict and differences creatively. We can also model our vision of tikkun olam by learning to use power to engage and empower others, to support mutual learning, and to reach decisions that everyone can willingly accept.

My own tikkun olam work includes embracing collaborative leadership, transforming all obstacles to working with others effectively, and modeling now the world I want to create in my thoughts, words, and actions.

Miki Kashtan, certified trainer and cofounder of Bay Area NVC, will be teaching "Taking On the World: Learning to Become a Change Agent" through the NVC Academy ( For more information visit or email

Her articles in Tikkun include "Wanting Fully Without Attachment," January/February 2010; "Working for Peace Without Recreating War," March/April 2008; and "No Enemies, No Demands," September/October 2002. 

Source Citation: Kashtan, Miki. 2011. Tikkun Olam Without Coercion: Living into the World We Want  to Create. Tikkun 26(1): 48

tags: Activism  
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