Leaping Reaching Soaring Succeeding

Gannett SoaringOne of the most strategic decisions we will make at the Community-Driven Institute this year is a name change.   In a post back in January, I wondered aloud what questions we should be asking, to guide us towards a name. Here is some of the wisdom you all shared at that time:

Romi Oliverio:
• Imagine yourself years from now, hanging a ‘mission accomplished’ sign on the door. What label would you give to that assertion?

Pam McAllister:
• What Kind of World Do You Want?

Christine Egger:
• What feeling do you want to evoke upon hearing the name? What “curiosity spark” do you want to ignite?

Debra Askanese:
• What words do you want your stakeholders to associate with your organization?

Laura Deaton:
• What does empowerment feel, look, smell like for those who learn and grow from your work?
• What changes in knowledge, attitude, behavior, skills will you create?
• What are visual analogies? Gardening? Spreading seeds? Other?
• What feelings do you want the name to evoke?

Jean Russell:
• How does your audience find you? What name will resonate for them?
• What energy do you want to create? Playful, serious, outcome-oriented?
• How memorable is it? Can it be descriptive and yet unexpected?

First, WOW! When we opened the decision-making at the Community-Driven Institute to include whoever might provide input for those decisions, we were excited about what that would make possible.  These insights confirm what a gift transparent engagement can provide.

Shortly after that blog exchange, Dimitri and I found ourselves in the car on the way to Phoenix. We used that 90 minute ride to allow these questions to prompt further questions, all focused on the big concept of a name that reflects what the Institute is about at its core.  We talked nonstop as Dimitri drove and I took feverish notes, drawing arrows to connect thoughts, words circling over and back.

I confess we felt like we were making no progress at all. We shoved the notes into the “Name Change” folder where they sat as we dove into teaching an immersion course and then packed up to spend a month teaching in New Zealand.

Several months have now passed. We opened the file, ready to dive back in.  But now as we look at the words and phrases and thoughts we brainstormed back in February, we are seeing patterns we hadn’t realized were there. And we’re getting excited because it feels like we’re getting closer.

So I am sharing with you the notes from that conversation, to help move our collective thinking forward and engage the discussion that will lead to the name.  Here they are, in their free-form, stream-of-consciousness entirety:

What outcome do we want? And for whom?

For the world – to be the humane, peaceful, healthy, vibrant place we know it is and can be.

Our highest potential is the highest potential for the planet (and all beings living here).

For the sector – to create that change. To know it’s possible, and be acting upon that potential.

To not think it is in any way special to not only be creating huge, bodacious, visionary social change, but to have already done so much of it that the world HAS changed. To be in “no big deal” mode about creating MASSIVE social change – “But of course that’s what we do! What else WOULD we be doing?”


That the sector is actively catalyzing the highest potential of our planet.
What does a catalyst do?
Brings together components to make something happen.

Ultimate improvement in communities
Vibrant, healthy, joyful world

Expecting that humanity will of course live up to its goodness.

Bring people together


Making something happen
Focused on vision
Working towards, not away from
Better world
Clarity of vision, of purpose

What do we want organizations to expect to accomplish in their work?
How does each component fit into that?
Taking action on behalf of the whole rather than on behalf of self

What do we want to be different in the sector?

Reaching for what matters
Forward motion
HUGE dramatic forward motion!!
Eyes Opened and Looking UP and OUT!

Seeing its potential
Changing expectations (to what???)

Bridge between dreams and reality
LEAPING from dreams to reality
Dreams become reality

Sector is aiming and seeing what is possible and REACHING for it
Walking the path/bridge from dreams/vision to NOW and DO IT

Elevate expectations
Turn expectations into concrete steps to create a different reality (or SEE this reality differently)
Reaching for potential

Reading this list even just at a glance, the line “LEAPING from dreams to reality” leaped out at me.  That is, in fact, the most dramatic outcome we’ve seen from the work we have been doing at the Community-Driven Institute – teaching people how to turn “pipe dreams” about community into reality, not slowly and not with baby steps, but with huge leaps forward.

I am smiling that the word I have been using as a shorthand label for our work in my journaling and notes is the word “leapfrog,” often talking about what we’re doing as “Creating Leapfrog Social Change.”

The other outcome that jumps out at me is that the norm for the sector’s assumptions and expectations will be, “Of course that’s what we do!” That creating such change is no longer a “thing.” That we don’t wonder if we can, or if it’s our role, or if we should even try. That we don’t marvel that it’s possible.

That creating such dramatic social change is just taken for granted to be the expectation that guides our work.

So what do you think? From what you know of our work, does this resonate as a clear definition of the outcomes we are seeking to create? And if not, please help us clarify by adding to the list of free-flowing thoughts Dimitri and I generated.

From there, let’s then dive into the more specific brainstorming questions to find the name (Or does Leapfrog do it? Is there another word for “Leapfrog” that says it as well yet doesn’t evoke a line of educational toys?)

Photo credit: Dimitri – Gannet soaring at Muriwai Beach, NZ

Follow the next post in this discussion.

29 Responses to Leaping Reaching Soaring Succeeding

  1. Bridges are what grabbed me…and the leaping…not the frogs. The Leaping Bridge…and then I think of clouds/pie in the sky ideas, and bridges and leaping through clouds…bringing clouds down to earth instead of so far away…sounds like I am moving toward rainmakers-gah!

    But I LOVE the visual of leaping and clouds. I can see it. I can see a pied piper (you) leading a huge crew through clouds…I know, probably too far, right?

    A View From the Clouds, Among the Clouds…but then it doesn’t really tell people who you are without a lot of explanation…

    Cloud Soaring for Dummies-nah (tee hee)

    But I like soaring…

    Will think on this, and look forward to the crowd sourcing conversation to come…

  2. The words that jumped at me are the inspirational words related to joy and excitement.

    I also love the movement words like leap, ignite, soar because they remind me of the energy that sweeps through a room when people catch the vision. I find myself looking for a word that has the sudden power of leap without the “frog” 🙂

    The connectivity of bridge speaks to the collaboration and interdependence of this work.

    That’s all I’ve got for tonight.

  3. Well, first things first Hildy. Based on your post picture, I must insist that you lead the YMCA dance at my wedding one day. =)

    As for your request, this is what immediately came to mind:

    [Catalysts] Catapulting Community Change.
    Catapulting Social Change.

    Lots of consonanananance.

    I also thought of: Launching Social Change.

    I don’t know if the Army would raise an eyebrow, but a nice tagline could be: “Be All WE Can Be”.

    Okay, that’s about as creative as I get before 2 cups of coffee.

    This is fun. I can’t wait to see what the others come up with.

    – Menachem (@visionspun)

  4. Hildy (and Dimitri), so much fun to be a part of this thinking out loud!

    I’m thinking of Jean’s great question, What name will resonate for your audience? Similarly from Laura, What does empowerment feel, look, smell like for those who learn and grow from your work?

    Those would lead to names that describe your client’s changed position (as a result of working with you) rather than your organization’s process or priorities.

    “That creating such dramatic social change is just taken for granted to be the expectation that guides our work” is your client’s new starting point after working with you.

    CDI’s work: shifting clients’ expectations and assumptions in a very dramatic (leap-filled) way

    Client’s source of empowerment: a new point of reference with tremendously positive implications for their capacity going forward.

  5. In my experience, names have a tendency of showing up. Often aided by doing work first on vision, mission, values… which in turn is served by a reflection on what you’ve done and what that has done for others in rational and experiential ways. Finally, if still no name then running through a model of *how* it is you uniquely create value. And if still no nothing… then you can always run a more conventional matrix listing audiences you want to appeal to in one column and then how they perceive you, how you want to be perceived, and how they resonate with you in the other column… brainstorming words/phrases/concepts in each.

    Then if nothing still… go for a walk/run/yummy dinner. It will show up when it’s ready.



  6. Wow. I’m still feeling my way as a new member of the CDI community, but every new invitation to join the visioning process raises the energy level palpably.

    I need to reflect on this, away from the work desk, but will return as I’ve had a chance to think about this.

  7. Thank you for sharing and asking!

    The word that hit me hard was Vibrant. It captures so much. It is like thriving and flourishing – it assumes so much well being.

    It also has this inherent “vibe” about it. The very attitude that is crucial to manifesting what we dream. Additionally – it implies a resonance – a sound and vibration. It is something we hear and feel.

    Something along with Vibrant or Vibrancy… with a tagline of “Leaping from dreams to reality” or some such. Or “Leaping from hopeful dreams to the concrete present.”

    I was also touched by catalyst or activator. I like activator a lot – it says something about the potential already being there – and that this is a spark to bring it to life and action.

    So I suggest Vibrant Activator or Vibrancy Activator.

  8. Well, since I did leave a comment originally, I am so glad to be part of this continuing conversation. That said, I notice that my original comment is much more “in the head” and your brainstorming produces so many visions that are “of the heart.” I think that says worlds, because just like naming your own child, it has to be a name that you enjoy saying and resonates with you as well.

    The Leaping from dreams to reality also struck me. I loved Jean’s original question: what energy do you want to create? Many of your names/phrases express this energy that you want to create. Be true to that.

    CDI is taking a huge step – changing frameworks. That’s the work of superwomen and supermen, so energy is definitely needed. In a future world, what is the name that says exactly what you want it to be?

    I love this exercise. It has taken you in so many wonderful directions!

  9. I kind of like the idea of being a Dreams to Reality Catalyst, but that sounds too much about individuals and not enough about the planet and communities. So does “highest potential catalysts” even though “highest potential” has become the phrase I most associate with you and the CDI community. “Creating Highest Potential Communities”? “Highest Potential Community Change Group”?

    I tried to find a way to make LEAP an acronym but failed, even with the P right there for Potential.

  10. I really like Jean’s idea of using “Leaping from dreams to reality” as a tagline. That opens up the possibilities for a name that doesn’t use mission/vision words as Brad suggested. I suspect my mind will be playing with words all day now. Is that a brainworm (equivalent to an earworm?)

  11. Leaping Reaching Soaring Succeeding – LRSS (not bad)

    Community Development Institute – CDI

    Vibrancy Activator – VA

    I always wonder what the acronym will sound like as it is said outloud.

    Will put my thinking cap on 🙂

  12. I like to look for an organization’s differential advantage in their market when working on brand development. If you can complete the phrase: “We are the only ____ to provide ____ for ____ resulting in ____.” you have a really good shot at developing a memorable brand. The name puts a verbal label on the brand. The identity system puts a visual label on it. How people end up feeling about your brand is the result of your fulfillment of brand promise. All of the input and comments above are great and should feed in to your process. Once you can make an “only-ness” statement with a straight face and have others believe it, you’ll be able to name it.

    This isn’t my idea. It’s a process developed by Marty Neumeier, an amazing genius and genuinely nice person. He wrote three of my favorite books on the topic: The Brand Gap, ZAG, and The Designful Company. I highly recommend them. You won’t be disappointed.

  13. I cannot begin to say what it feels like to ask a question at midnight and awaken to this degree of passionate creative informed wisdom. Taking ALL of this to heart and mind (and more to the point, to the office where we will keep brainstorming and will share back here).

    Going to get another cup of coffee and dive in to consider each of your thoughts. You guys ROCK, so please keep it coming!

  14. Funny… as I was reading, I was leaning toward something similar to Jane’s comment about the name LEAP as an acronym.

    When you google just LEAP there appears to be two other organizations using the word LEAP as an acronym. None of which could be construed as what we do, so it could be as simple as that…

    At first, my thought was “Quantum LEAP – Leading Engagement (or Exploration) to Awaken Possibility”

    but upon Googling it, the association of that name to the TV show that was made, makes going there a little bit of a disconnect.

    When we were doing our Strategic work at the beginning of the year, we talked a lot about being the catalyst to assist humanity to become aware of being and getting to the top of the mountain…

    Maybe if we found another word for Quantum, that might help with the metaphor and the image?

    Just some brainstorms and food for thought,
    In Spirit,

  15. One more thought, admittedly a contrarian one based on some of the conversation I am seeing.

    I strongly urge avoiding an acronym of any sort that spells a significant word (like leap, or change). I believe the gimmick would tend to belittle the organization.

    That’s just my $0.02 and I am happy to hear other thoughts. I just had a strong visceral reaction against it and I thought it important to share.

  16. The word that comes to my mind is “velocity.”

    And for some reason, a tagline of “Fast Forward Together”

    I realize it’s not a complete name, but perhaps it will initiate another line of thinking.

  17. Wow – what great positive energy this is producing! I’m really not a very good ‘titles’ person so I’m happy to follow the conversation and see what starts to emerge…I do agree, though, with the general direction of (1) Short and sweet so it’s easy to remember; (2) Creative but not trendy and (3) Brings a very clear image to mind that says “Yes, I want to be part of that”. Yes, yes, I know, much easier said than done! 🙂

  18. Before I ran out to morning meetings, I quickly tweeted a picture of a leaping frog…it was painted by a cousin and makes me smile every time I look at it, so I’m obviously not in the crew that’s bothered by the frog. That said, I don’t think it says enough about the amazing work you do! And, I chuckle a bit with the play on vibrancy because I think it could be mis-heard and easily misinterpreted. I agree with Brad and I also think that ditching an acronym if at all possible could be really great since CDI has been and acronym for so long. David’s idea about filling in those blanks and using it for combo branding is a great one, too. I always think about CDI as “making visionary community change practical” so that’s memorable enough to be stuck in my head already and it goes well with “leaping from dreams to reality.” I also think about how you always stretch and challenge people to think in new ways. Finally, I think of you as elevating and escalating in everything you do…lifting the sector as a whole. That lifting feeling goes with soaring more for me… So, top of mind brainstorming:

    LeapCats (could be a fun alternative to Leapfrog) and comes from Leaping and Catalyzing, and has kind of a “hip” fun sound)
    MagniChange(I like the idea of magnifying and making bigger)
    CommBound (Community + double play on bound (meaning headed that way and bound meaning leaping, bouncy). I like that this also sound like Compound in the magnify sense) Worry is that bound also has the bondage/stuck association though.
    Communivators (like this because the vators part brings visual as works as innovators and elevators) but there’s already something out there…
    CoChangent (co could be community, conscious, etc), maybe even something fun like CoCha (sounds like Coach with a twist) or CoChaCa (Community Change Catalysts – actually really like the sound of CoChaCa – sounds like a train moving fast or drums, or something with a fun beat)

    I’ll keep thinking, but this at least gives you insight into where my mind went from all the other posts, which could be just representative of a beautiful Friday afternoon and not worth much! 🙂

  19. Waking up today, looking at the ideas you all have tossed into the mix, I am energized to figure this out. Thank you, Laura, for the great synthesis of ideas here. I’ve also been playing with Dave’s question, “What is it no one else is doing?” (Answer: A ton. Now, how to succinctly identify just what that is? Priceless!)

    I agree with Brad’s aversion to acronyms, but I also know that what Christina says is true – people will make an acronym if the name is long (folks use CDI for our current name, which makes it easier to say but loses the identity) – so I am thinking that being more succinct in the name has a benefit there. That is something I had not previously considered – what people will do TO the name. And so my initial thoughts about multi-word names like “The Center for etc” are being set aside. Thank you to Brad and Christina and Trae and Jane for the acronym piece of this discussion – HUGELY helpful!!!

    I agree with Mike that the name will show up. (That’s how all our animals have been named.) That said, I am not averse to giving it the nurturing space in which to do so!

    Nancy, Ericka, Menachem, Jean and Kim – the words you have added are joyful and filled with energy. I’m dwelling in the place of “fast” right now, and the words you’ve added are pushing me and pulling me along. (And Menachem, of course I will dance at your wedding any time!!!)

    To those of you who are watching and cheering and sending great encouragement about process, thank you Debra, Debra, Christine and Bonnie. The appreciation and encouragement does more than inspire – it reinforces what we are about, which actually is a huge boost in finding a name (or having it find us, as Mike noted!).

    Please keep it coming, gang. RapidChange, FutureNow – these are the sorts of places I’m going as of this moment (which is changing throughout the day, moment by momen). I am also encouraged by Mark’s note, and coming back to a thought I had some months ago, which is “Creating the Future.”

    Which is what you guys are all helping us do, right now!


  20. I think far too much time is spent on naming things, and a rose by any other name would smell as sweet.

    Briarpatch can be just as good (or bad) a name as Rosebud as long as what emanates from the brand is seductive and sweet (or stinks and sticks).

    Point too: what did Tony Montana’s tattoo in Scarface have to do with music? Nothing, until Pitchfork Media named themselves after it. And then not until Pitchfork acquired the music site, Turntable. So Turntable was the ‘rational’ name, but Pitchfork stuck. Say hello to my lil’ tattoo.


    Hildy, I think you should poll the group for iconography in their favorite movies (or a similar game) and pick the thing that sticks.

    I’ll start:


  21. Mike:
    In theory, I agree, but even in your example, the “media” part of “Pitchfork Media” explains what the company / org is about. More to the point, it talks to what the company DOES, rather than the results it gets, which is the entire focus of what the currently-named CDI is all about – we’re more about the result than whatever it is we currently do to get that result.

    So the question then remains, using “Pitchfork” as the example, “Pitchfork WHAT?”

    Which comes back to the description of what CDI is at its core – a mechanism for supporting anyone who wants to create and sustain efforts to create visionary change in our world.

    If the name were to focus on what we do, it would be a moving target (focusing on the “media” part of the example). The mission is evolving – we currently teach and advocate and convene, but that could and will hopefully evolve over time. Our current programs focus on training consultants and on-the-ground service providers and funders, but that, too, will hopefully evolve and expand over time.

    The vision is the purpose is the end result. So even if we used something iconic (and that raises the question of “Iconic in what culture?” The work we are doing is global – does it translate?), the 2nd word – the describing word – would bring us back to the discussion above.

    All of which has my brain moving even more, so THANK YOU for this!! It is helping to clarify (and simultaneously muddify, which is often more helpful!) and I love it!

  22. Energy

    Using too narrow of language will be the only problem that I foresee in a name change. For instance, IBM must use their acronym instead of International Business Machines, as they are so much more than mere machines. When they shortened their name to an acronym, it improved their image. While for community organizations, I agree that using the acronyms, the meaning can be lost. For a community organization, words such as others offered – vibrant, bridges and words filled with energy are winners.

    Connecting Potential and Discovery to the Future

    Imagine, Discover, Connect, Achieve


  23. Leapfrog, to me, means “jumping over something,” and it’s not necessarily a good association. (Not to mention how many people are repulsed by frogs.)

    I’ll leave the rest of the wordsmithing to you, but I want to invite you to consider a couple of earthbound notions:

    Keep it super-short. Every letter is more expensive someplace, takes up more space everywhere. The more words/letters, the harder for people to remember, to spell correctly, to find the domain.

    Speaking of which, domain name is key. Don’t pick anything you can’t OWN on the internet! Twitter handles (SHORT means more room for your actual tweet), corporate identity on FB, etc. You need to own your name, so make sure it’s available before you commit.

    Branding is such a tricky thing, but you have received a boatload of excellent input from your many friends! Thanks for inviting me to play too.

  24. RuthAnn – so right in all of it. I think the super-short thing is important for a million reasons, not the least of which is it avoids the acronym issue – people won’t be tempted to use an acronym to shorthand the name, which helps always rebrand the ACTUAL name (not their acronym!)

    Wishing I had done HildyG instead of HildyGottlieb when I first signed onto Twitter, for the same reason you note.

    We just had a great session in our office, taking all this great advice and moving it forward. Will share it all in a few days (once I get it all typed up – it is currently in scribbles with arrows all over our whiteboard!)

    Thanks again!!

  25. Ditto on the keep it short and easy to say. I love the term Belief Re-patterning™ for the technique I developed because it describes what we do. It also creates curiousity, invites dialogue and opens the door for connection.
    That being said, I do find myself telling folks the next time I invent something I promise I will give it a name that is shorter, and easier to say and spell.
    Whatever you name anything, human nature is to shorten it, or use and acronym…advice to new mom and dads fits here. Only name your son Jacob if you are cool with Jake, Joseph if Joe sits right with you, Barbara if Barbie or Barb are OK. Every project, course, group I have been part of naming has reverted to a shortform or acronym, and in this text friendly world, ease is paramount.
    I also believe in the “being” naming itself when it is ready to be named. Probably because I have a brother who had many names right up until the deadline for the name to be sent in to the government. And that morning our whole family looked at him and he was Paul. This was 45 years ago…
    Short and ever so sweet,
    Creates website domains and twitter tweets.
    Clear, concise and cool,
    Reflects what you do.
    Will please.

    …ok enough of the poetry.
    Meanwhile I will hold with you the belief the name will land, solidly, in perfect time, and you will simply know.
    🙂 Suze

  26. Carlarose:
    Your IBM example came up in our discussion about this in the office – thanks for that. And the energy is very much what we noted as well.

    Suze, I’m just loving the poetry. A good name IS poetry. Really.

    I’ll be posting next week the discussion this thread created in our office, to keep moving this forward. We know we are getting close, and that the wisdom of the Mikes (Lewkowitz and Bonifer) will soon be shown as correct – a name will appear. And it will be good.