The following is the conclusion to Part 1 of The Pollyanna Principles: Reinventing ‘Nonprofit Organizations’ to Create the Future of Our World. To read these chapters from the beginning, head here. The Pollyanna Principles will be officially released this week!
The Present as the Gateway to the Future
The work of community benefit groups is about nothing less than our humanity – the elements that combine to create the uniquely human potential that sets our species apart from all other animals.
No animal but a human animal can envision a future different from the present and the past. And no animal but a human animal can create a path to that healthy, vibrant, compassionate future.
Community benefit work is about what it means to be fully human. It is why so many of us, knowing the rolled eyes we will get when we make those Pollyanna-like statements, make those statements anyway.
All humans have huge stores of untapped potential. That human potential is what community benefit work is all about.
If we assume it is a pipe dream to think our communities could be amazing places to live, we will have no expectations that our work could achieve such monumentally significant results. Those low expectations will inform our actions and decisions. They will inform the systems and tools we use and the way resources are provided for those efforts. From there, our work will have no chance of achieving the visionary result of building resilient, vibrant, compassionate, healthy communities.
What if the systems most commonly used by social change and community organizations helped us reach for and accomplish that uniquely human potential?
What if the most commonly used tools provided practical means for accomplishing visionary ends?
What if the tools we used were rooted not in the expectations and assumptions of what is not possible, but the expectation and assumption of what is possible?
Changing the Work that will Change the World
The definition of insanity, as the saying goes, is doing the same thing over and over, within the same conditions and in the same way, and expecting different results.
The path we have been walking has led us to the point where we are ready, as a species, to do what Arnold Toynbee suggests in the opening quote to this book: “To think of the welfare of the whole human race as a practical objective.”
We humans can indeed change the world. Such change is possible, simply because it is not impossible. We can create whatever future we can imagine.
To accomplish such change, the work of Community Benefit Organizations must be defined not by those who believe such dreams are utopian fantasies, but by those who believe that aiming at creating a healthy, compassionate, vibrant, resilient future is the only realistic, practical and effective context for doing our work.
To accomplish such change, Community Benefit Organizations will need to transform the way they do their own work, to ensure their means are not working at cross-purposes with the end goal. That will require more than a piecemeal change here or there. It will instead require true, systemic transformation. Clearly, no one party to this work can make this happen on its own.
In the words of a funder we met in Grand Rapids, Michigan, “If we are going to aim our work at creating extraordinary communities, we are all going to be uncomfortable for a while. We all need to decide whether those results are worth stepping outside the comfort zone.”
That is what the rest of this book is about.
The path from here is ours to create.
In the first part of this book, we have disassembled the work Community Benefit groups are currently engaged in, to determine what has brought those groups to the way they do their work today.
From here, we will reassemble that work in the image of the future we want to create.
First, if our historic assumptions and expectations have not led to the sorts of change we want to create, we must identify sets of assumptions and expectations that would create such change – The Pollyanna Principles.
With those changed expectations guiding us, we must replace the tools, systems, and approaches that have not created the results we want, with tools, systems, and approaches that are aimed at those results.
And then, quite simply, we need to get to work.
This concludes Part 1 of The Pollyanna Principles. I hope you have enjoyed it enough to see what comes next – to purchase the book, and most of all, to put what you learn from the book into practice.
A special note to readers here at Creating the Future:
Even though our website says the book is still in its PreOrder stage, The Pollyanna Principles is indeed available for sale! Dimitri has had the flu and has not been able to upload the fabulous website he has been working on for the book. But books will indeed be shipped starting next week!
I will still sign all books that come in under that “PreOrder” page – just let me know who you want it inscribed to when you order.
Now let’s get out there and create the future of our world!