“I understand all the ‘We’re creating the future with everything we do’ stuff. But this is just not the time for that. It’s bad out there. We need to focus on now.”
I was at a meeting last week with an Executive Director of a U.S. organization, who received word from the state that their “ongoing” contract for service would be ending in 2 weeks. He had to immediately lay off 120 people – 20% of his workforce.
It’s bad out there.
A colleague running an organization in Ireland shared with me, “Hildy, I truly have no idea if my budget next year will be €100,000, €10,000, or nothing. The government simply cannot say.”
It’s bad out there.
Here’s part of an email I received yesterday:
“The external environment is different in a fundamental way, and so changed that it demands immediate responses. Unfortunately, those immediate responses are the antithesis of strength-based thinking. I love your ironic litany of the usual complaints “we’re poor, we too small, the other boards are better than ours etc.” But I can tell you that I have never felt so poor in my entire career. Even when I want to think of the possibilities that our assets present, I find it hard to keep that focus. The demands of today are screamers, especially for those of us who provide basic needs.”
If ever there were a time I’ve been called a Pollyanna, it’s these days. “Yes, these times bring opportunity. But get real – we’re drowning.”
I was on the phone this morning, talking about the fact that the thing that keeps us from creating visionary community improvement is our firm determination that it is impossible – these days especially.
I shared that when we take the blinders off, visionary change happens so fast! I pointed to the short video that talks about how fast significant change happened for Nebraskans Against the Death Penatly.
And then, as another example, I talked about the Civil Rights Movement in the U.S.
One could argue that the Civil Rights Movement began the moment someone opposed bringing slaves over from Africa. One could argue it began after the Civil War. But most of us see the birth of the Civil Rights Movement as the Montgomery Bus Boycott of 1955. Within 10 years of the date when Rosa Parks sat down in that bus, the United States of America had sweeping federal anti-discrimination legislation.
These days, when I ask organizational leaders about creating sweeping, visionary community change, they say, “That would take forever! It’s impossible!”
They say, “We can’t eliminate hunger and poverty and homelessness here! Those are systemic problems!”
They say, “We have no money! We are laying people off! And you want us to create a community where everyone’s basic needs are met?”
It’s bad out there!
There is no denying it – it is indeed bad out there. The economy is having a devastating effect on communities, on individuals, and on the organizations trying so hard to make it all ok for everyone (including their employees who, themselves, may soon be unemployed).
But no matter how bad it is, it is not ten years of being spat on, beaten with sticks, thrown in jail. It is not ten years of lynchings, of death threats, of church bombings. It is not ten years of unarmed adults and children being sicced on by dogs.
In just ten years – ten mighty hard years – ordinary citizens eliminated Jim Crow, across a country with a population in the hundreds of millions.
So then, what might you accomplish in your community if you simply decided it was possible? What systemic change could you create, once and for all, if you decided the time is now?
And really now – what’s stopping you?
You can build organizational strength by building community strength. Really. Let the Pollyanna Principles show you how.