The Montana Institute

Last week, we worked with the Montana Summer Institute in Big Sky. Their work centers on fostering positive community norms and switching our narrative from a problem-centered process to a solution-centered process.

It all resonates with A Peace of My Mind’s approach to the world. We don’t ignore the challenges of the world. In fact, we face them honestly and directly. But we also choose to approach those challenges with grace, hope, and the belief that something better is possible.

So, for instance, when it comes to substance use and addiction, science will show us that fear and shame -based methods don’t produce much in the way of changed behavior. Yell at someone to stay away from drugs and shame them if they try it, and you can actually nudge people toward undesirable outcomes. But build connections in a community and find alternative positive activities for youth to participate in, and you can shift behavior. Change the narrative in a community from “Everyone is doing it” to “Actually, 86% of high school students were sober last weekend” and you build public perception and momentum toward healthier choices.

The same is true of domestic violence. The same is true for integration of immigrant communities. When you look for the strengths in a community, you can identify them and when you can identify them, you can build on them.

It makes a lot of sense when you think about it. As founder Dr. Jeff Linkenbach says, “Prevention is not rocket science. It’s harder.”

The world seems to have endless resources for punitive measures and enforcement but the math works better if you can invest those funds upstream and prevent the negative behaviors in the first place.

It’s playing the long game and looking to change the paradigm of a modern society. And at Big Sky, the room was filled with 350 people who are doing that work in their communities. They were sharing best practices and encouraging each other and learning about what the Montana Institute calls, the Big Next. Where do we go from here? What is the lever that is going to move people to action? How do we imagine new possibilities as we fly this plane through the air?

The theme of the week was Grow the Positive. So we asked people there, “When have you grown the positive?” And here’s what people said:

2 thoughts on “The Montana Institute

  1. This is an amazing project and was a powerful addition to the institute. A colleague is one of the people pictured. It’s a gorgeous photograph and, as usual, her words are powerful.

    I noticed that you’ve used the term substance abuse. I just want to suggest different wording that is less stigmatizing.

    Looking forward to your future projects and, perhaps in an ideal world, a photo story project like this. 🙏🏼

    1. Thanks for the note Lauri, and for the gentle lesson. We all have room to keep learning it seems. I’ve made the change in the blog posting and I’ll work to make the change in my dialogue as well. It makes good sense.

Leave a Reply