When we see change happening in communities, in organizations, in people’s lives – what is supporting that change to happen? What are the factors that cause change? We’ll be digging into that topic during the April edition of Creating the Future’s Making Change Program (live in video, recorded as a podcast). I’m honored and SO excited to join Creating the Future Co-Founder and Making Change Host Hildy Gottlieb, and Creating the Future Fellow Lisa Humenik to discuss creating change in and with communities. If you watch the live video, we encourage you to participate in the conversation via Twitter #ctfuture, or post comments to the blog page real-time. The conversation will continue after the live video as well.
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:
When a recipe calls for marinating in the fridge for a few hours or overnight we follow the instructions. The process cannot be rushed. Slowly and naturally, the food absorbs whatever concoction in which we immerse it. But that step takes time, and it is simply time to be. The very same process applies to our own marinating when we allow ourselves to be. All too frequently this is overlooked or rushed. Immediate responses and feedback are often requested by others, or of ourselves, in order to get going on the doing machine.
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?
A common self-label I hear in conversations is “I’m pragmatic.” This is the response served up when I’m asking questions about a shared vision, or what the community would look and feel like if there was an abundance of resources and the individual/organization was 100% successful in everything they were setting out to achieve. Words mean things, and that means words mean different things to different people.
PRAGMATIC – def: When we deal with things sensibly and realistically in a way that is based on practical rather than theoretical considerations.
PRACTICAL—def: Concerned with the actual doing of something rather than with theory and ideas.
Yet is it not sensible and realistic to start with what we are aiming to achieve before we actually do something?
Last month I wrote an article for Creating the Future’s monthly journal about what happens when we frame our conversations with different questions. What happens is it changes everything!
A little back story: Creating the Future is a living laboratory for accelerating change. As a Fellow with Creating the Future, we envision communities where people are living well, individually and collectively. We know such a future is possible, simply because it is not impossible. When we change the questions embedded in the day-to-day work of individuals and organizations everyone naturally brings out the best in each other and in our world.
Creating the Future is home for me, sharing and learning from my fellow Creating the Future Fellows who are located all over the world. Each of us is aiming for what is possible every day in and with communities, organizations, individuals, and ourselves. Simply put, it is how I BE.