Civil Society

2021 in Review: Three Transformative Moments in the US

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When looking back on the events of any given year, we often attribute change to a few individuals who transform society with profound discoveries, or monumental events that pitch a new course. Because of this, we spend less time considering the incremental changes that occur in moments when regular people act together.

To reflect on 2021, members from Coeuraj USA and Coeuraj Canada each selected moments from the year that illustrate the great potential for transformation they witnessed, and the important lessons these moments left us with.

Trust is a core component to progress. Without it, our systems are susceptible to fail.

January 6th, the date when rioters stormed the White House, is a date that’s ingrained in my memory and the memory of many Americans.

There are numerous explanations of how the protests turned to riots and then to outright insurrection, but the events of the day were precipitated by years of breakdown in trust. Trust in the government. Trust in news media. Trust in science.

There are no definitive conclusions about how this breakdown in trust came to be. Certainly the usual suspects played a role (rise of social media, intense political polarization, dis- and misinformation from politicians and foreign actors), but blame does not rest in a singular cause.

In 2022, we need to focus on finding new and innovative ways to rebuild trust and bridge divides. The health of our communities rely on it, and so does the future of democracy.

-Kevin Martin, International Programs Manager, Coeuraj USA

But within the fractures and the fault lines, it is resilience and unity of purpose that will keep us moving forward.

2021 began with a spirit of optimism for many Americans. Despite deep political divisions and unrest of continued racial injustice, the election, and the most dangerous era of the COVID-19 pandemic were behind us. Or, so we thought.

As a new administration took office, the level of dysfunction in systems that were supposed to be in place to protect the health of Americans was unearthed. By the end of January, the US surpassed 25 million infections. Although vaccines had been newly developed, many communities had lost trust in the institutions set up to deliver them.

Like those kin to more than 700,000 Americans, I lost loved ones due to the spread of COVID-19. Feeling the deep need for hope amidst one of the darkest eras of human history, I found inspiration in the millions who wore masks, delivered food to their immunocompromised neighbors...and in healthcare workers who held people in one hand and held up tablets with zoom on the other so that family could safely say goodbye to their loved ones. In my local community, I helped organize mass vaccination clinics at churches and in community centers. With every vaccine, we felt like a shot of hope was being driven into our community. In watershed moments, when communities need to collaborate at scale, great things are possible.

-Ryan Eller, Director, Coeuraj USA

And as individuals, living through change as it happens, we all play a role in designing our collective future.

As people and companies have been thrust into the future of work, I've found myself reflecting on this question: What about our world, our way of life, and our culture has fundamentally and irrevocably changed, but we haven’t realized it yet? Have we done something for the last time, without knowing it was the last time? When people in the future read about this time in their history books, what will be obvious to them about what has changed in the last two years that isn’t yet visible to us?

Our relationships with our employers and workplaces is one place where I feel like we are seeing consistent signals of change. From growing pushback to returning to the office to “The Great Resignation,” for many of us the pandemic offered (or forced!) the opportunity to think deeply about the role that work places in our lives and how we can design our future.

-Julia Monaghan, Transformation Lead, Coeuraj


Coeuraj exists to build a more sustainable, inclusive, and collaborative world. We help people address change by finding the solutions they hold within themselves. Want to know more? Connect with us today.


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