If this is the sector that was supposed to change the world, how come the world isn’t dramatically different? What’s stopping the sector from reaching its considerable potential to create significant, visionary improvement in our communities?
This series is all about the stumbling blocks we have found – Stop Signs along the road to creating an amazing future for our communities and our world. (To see other Stop Signs in this series, just click here.)
Last weekâ€™s Stop Sign was about what happens when we donâ€™t believe it is possible to create more significant change in our communities and our world.
This week, I have been reminded of a related stumbling block: what happens when we don’t believe in each other. And if we acknowledge that one of the critical components of creating a better future is that we link arms and work together, believing in each other could come in quite handy!
STOP Sign: Lack of Belief in Each Other
There have been several instances this week that have reminded me how important it is that we believe in each other, and how often we forget to do that!
One of these incidents was a conversation with a fellow consultant in the Community Benefit Sector.* Because our approach to governance has been evolving over the years, she asked about our current thinking. I told her we have realized there is a ton of stuff out there on the mechanics of being a board member – classes on fiduciary obligation, on the interaction between board and staff, and etc.
But what we have found is that no one is teaching boards the piece that will ensure they have what it takes to create amazing communities: How to hold themselves and their organizations accountable for creating that very impact! I told her that our focus these days is on teaching boards how to govern their organizations towards making a considerable difference.
Her response was exasperation. â€œThey canâ€™t do what theyâ€™re doing now, and you want them to do more?â€
Another incident involved boards as well. It was a thoughtful conversation with individuals from an organization dedicated to the assumption that every single child is capable of success. Watching the amazing things their organization had been doing with the very kids our society tends to write off was energizing!
However, when the discussion turned to their local boards, these advocates of every childâ€™s possibilities voiced the same frustrations as my consultant friend:Â â€œSome boards just donâ€™t want to learn.â€
We have had similar encounters with funders this week as well, talking about their grantees as if they had funded the lesser of evils, rather than enthusiastically supported community change. And I know I have shared here and elsewhere the story of the leader of a nonprofit resource center who told me she needed me to come bash some heads together in her community, because, â€œWe have had workshop after workshop, and the organizations in our community refuse to change!â€
So hereâ€™s what Iâ€™m wondering about the Stop Sign this week. We believe so fervently in our clients – in the people whose lives we know in our hearts can be changed for the better. What would the impact be if we believed in each other that much?
If we start believing that boards are capable of learning and changing and leading amazing organizations; and we make the assumption not only that that is what we want all boards to be, but that that is what THEY want to be, what might happen, all because we firmly and enthusiastically believe in their ability to be the change they want to see?
If funders believed so fervently in their granteesâ€™ ability to change the world, how might they work more closely with those efforts, to ensure that success? And if nonprofit resource centers believed in their community organizationsâ€™ ability to create significant change in their communities, might they perhaps teach different subjects? Might they encourage, and convene, and engage leaders, rather than talking down to them (and talking trash about them) and then offering more of the same workshops that haven’t worked in the past?
And while itâ€™s easy to default to considering the way funders think of their grantees, hereâ€™s one: Grantees, do you believe in your funders? Do you believe they want the very very best for your community? How about your government contracts – do you believe those in control of those contracts want the very best for your community? What might happen if you engaged and encouraged them?
We all know the difference it makes in our own lives when we know there is even just one other person who believes in us. Education program after education program has shown the almost immediate impact on kids when the adults around them show they believe in them – and Hollywood just eats that up, with movies like Stand and Deliver, and OT Our Town.
The power we have to believe in each other is infinite. The effect is incredible. Every day we see what happens when we believe in our clients. Now letâ€™s see what happens when we start to believe in each other.
* Curious about our use of the term â€œCommunity Benefit Sector?â€ Click here to learn more.