A song is playing on the radio, not coming in crystal clear and there’s a good bit of annoying crackles. You have two choices with two dials: Turn up the volume if you think louder makes the song clearer, or adjust the channel to find a better frequency. It’s no surprise that you choose the channel tuner dial. We know that louder does not make the song any clearer. Yet it is all too common to choose the volume dial when we want a response or action from someone.
Collective Impact is a buzzword and framework formally defined as “the commitment of a group of actors from different sectors to coordinate their efforts and work together around a clearly defined goal” in Kania and Kramer’s Standford Social Innovation Review Collective Impact Winter 2011 article. Through their research, they identified five factors for collective impact success as: common agenda, shared measurement systems, mutually reinforced activities, continuous communication, and backbone support.
For me, these factors may be part of the means to achieve X. But what is X? What are the ends we are aiming for? Here’s what I find matters most in my community engagement projects:
Life shrinks or expands in proportion to one’s courage. – Anais Nin
The more courageous I am, the richer my life is. I am saying “yes” to new opportunities to engage, learn and share, aiming for what is possible with each one. Missed opportunities in life to say/try/do something are often stuck in our assumptions, perceptions, doubts and fears. What if all of “that” is one big untruth? Social Artist, fellow Creating the Future Fellow, and beautiful soul Deborah Loesch-Griffin revisits our usual response. Instead of digging in our heels, what if we consider leaning forward and dipping our toes in the pool of possibility? Then, rest back on our heels in reflection about how that new experience, approach, or thought felt. Wherever you are reading this right now, I ask you to try that and feel what those words mean.
It takes courage. It takes trust. It takes getting to know each other better. It takes time, but oh what an incredibly powerful investment of time. Everything is built on relationships, yet so often no time is invested in BEing together first.
Community benefit (nonprofit) organizations will regularly serve up a list of volunteer needs, seeking people to sign up for pre-determined time slots to complete pre-determined tasks, or to provide pre-determined wish list items. Sure, the envelopes must be stuffed for the mailing, and a table host is needed for your info booth at the farmers’ market. An assortment of very legitimate organization tasks is not being challenged.
What opportunities are being missed that can have a far greater impact in the community? Community benefit organizations exist for the benefit of the community, not the organization. What might be possible if the focus shifts from WHAT WE NEED to WHAT DO YOU WANT TO SHARE?
Ask yourself: What gifts/passions/skills/wisdom/stuff would you want to share with your community, but you have never been asked? Sit with that question for a while, as it may not be one you’ve ever considered before. What did you unearth, or awaken inside of you? What excites and energizes you when you think of sharing THAT with others?