Unlearning Oppression (Lesson 15): Form a Personal Accountability Group

Radical times, demand radical measures. Too many people live and work in isolated bubbles. In good times, our social circles insulate us from danger, change and uncomfortable truths. When closed social networks work best, they protect children, elders and the most vulnerable among us. When they breakdown, they lead to cycles of violence, insulation from external influences, prevent accountability and foster the sheltering of vile habits that can be toxic to our society. The social circle can be a beautiful family, or an impenetrable fortress of misdeed and dysfunction.

What would it have looked like if R. Kelly’s team of enablers challenged him by saying “no,” and setting limits to their involvement in abusing, trafficking and abducting girls and women for decades? Similarly, would an accountability team for Harvey Weinstein prevented numerous rapes and abuses? It’s time we stop looking backwards, and move toward remedying the accountability fissures in our society that lead to great harm. We have the power to hold each other to high standards well before harm is inflicted.

Creating a better, more just society, requires us to move beyond our primary circle of influence into spaces where community members, coworkers, friends and teachers play an important part in our choices. Accountability groups are particularly important to many Americans when they’re part of professional networks, like real-estate agents and tech innovators, who rely on each other to meet monetary and performance quotas. These worker remain in constant dialogue in order to expand services, develop working programs and promote healthy communication that apply directly to their financial bottom line. Unfortunately, most of the accountability is limited to projects with profits and not enough energy is invested to accountability for behavior and action.

Lesson 15: Seek out and form a formal a committed accountability group. Include people outside your family and immediate social circle, which is often not strong enough to counter social norms. Look to your church, sangha and professional networks, especially including people from different areas of your life, and if possible, of varied identity, ethnic or cultural background. Check in regularly about your agreements.

John Brown’s accountability network consisted of abolitionists in several states, who helped organize slave escapes, advocated for the abolition slavery and fought racism in the US.

These days, it’s simply not enough to move in the world without getting feedback from a group of conscious peers. We can all stray, misinterpret or fall short of our own best practices. We need good people who will not flinch at truthfulness. In the near future, all children will learn about preventing oppression in primary school. Until then, adults must invest the time and energy necessary to unlearn bad habits while remaining accountable for our words, deeds and actions. Accountability isn’t easy, but we’re definitely capable.



  1. Hi I’m trying to leave a reply :-).for me to share with people who may not be as up on things it would be nice to be reminded who The people you are noting are, e.g. Kelly and Weinstein. If we listen to the news we know about them but otherwise those who rely on Facebook or other social media, which are many may not even know. I’m not sure what the point was in terms of forming the net networks and using the real estate example. I’d like to link this in my future newsletters but I need a little more clarity on what that was about. Love the idea of encouraging us all to get out and form broader relationships and relationship groups, can you give examples of ones that you’re in? Or have established? About 10 years ago I started a group called women supporting women. It was not meant to be a networking group It was meant to be a group where women simply shared and connected if they wanted to and discussed community issues. We had speakers, we had wine, we had over 100 women from Lyons involved. We met randomly when I had time to organize and averaged 50 to 75 women. some of the business people would come to us to get a feel for what was going on or what the attitudes were toward a particular topic. Businesses came out of it as well as friendships. I introduced the group to social media in one of our meetings, and it seemed as though once social media platforms came to be our group did not stay together. And I think my energy for it declined. People who are involved ask me or tell me they wish we still had that group going.

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