Year-end is always a time for wrapping up, but these days around our office, we feel like we are just getting started.This ramping-up year at Creating the Future has meant inspired leap after inspired leap, lightning bolt after lightning bolt. I never dreamed so much creation could happen so instantly!
Of course, it’s not really instantly. We have spent the past few years seeing what happens when we put The Pollyanna Principles more deeply into practice. We’ve spent hours and days watching the growing army of consultants who have trained with us – watching what they accomplish, how they move beyond what challenges them, tapping into their clients’ highest potential to create amazing communities.
The result has been a plan for developing the programs that will aim this entire sector’s work at our potential to create the future we all want.
I hope you’re strapped in, because this is going to be one heck of a ride!!!!
Our Vision for the Future
The story of our planning began with the same questions we would ask in any planning session: What future will we aim our plan at creating? That vision has been so solid for so long that this was an easy question to answer.
Our mission and programs will be tethered to the peaceful, joyful image of a healthy, vibrant world. A future where each of us naturally and reflexively reacts from a place of kindness and possibility. A future where that is what we expect as the norm.
A Mission to Accomplish
We then began to reverse engineer that future, asking, “What pre-conditions have to be in place for that future to be reality?” To each response, we asked the same question again. “For those conditions to be in place, what would have to happen first? What would cause that? What would it take?”
It was during this process that the first surprise hit us.
We had thought our mission for the next 5-10 years was to change the modus operandi of the Community Benefit Sector, so that every aspect of the sector’s work is aimed at creating that vision of the future.
What became clear is that we hadn’t drilled down deeply enough, to establish all the steps along the critical path.
The big huge honking piece we missed was this:
“Sectors” don’t change. Neither do “organizations” or “systems.”
People change their beliefs and assumptions and expectations, which then changes their actions. That is the combination that will change systems and organizations and yes, the whole sector.
And so the mission we are working to accomplish in the next 5-10 years is this:
1) To change the assumptions and expectations of people working in and influencing this sector, regarding the extent to which visionary community / global change is possible
2) To embed those new expectations into every aspect of the work being done by people in this sector, and
3) To ensure that all leaders of organizations know how to make that level of visionary change practical and doable.
Programs that will Accomplish the Mission
If our mission was to make those 3 bullet items the reality of this sector’s work, what exactly would we do to accomplish that?
Focusing on people vs. institutions changed everything about the programs we considered. Reverse engineering continued as we asked ourselves, “What is it that creates behavioral change?” In both our practical experience and our research, we have found repeated success with two basic steps:
• Meet people where they are in their thinking
• Then show them a path for moving beyond their frustrations, towards what is possible.
That’s when another aha struck.
Capacity building initiatives have been aimed at positions (board member, executive director, foundation CEO) and at organizational life cycles (start-ups, growing orgs, sustaining orgs, etc.). Where they have not been aimed is at real live people! No wonder the capacity building movement has not succeeded in creating a strong, effective sector!
So what might happen if we create a capacity building effort for the whole sector, focused on real people making those changes?
What if we helped move people’s assumptions and expectations towards our collective potential to create the world we want?
What if we acknowledged people where they are, embracing that “where they are” is at all different stages along a spectrum of willingness / readiness / being-ness to move towards that potential?
And what if we provided a range of programs for every field – a range of programs for boards, a range of programs for consultants, a range of programs for funders, and etc. – depending on where an individual might find him/herself on their own journey?
And THAT is when the whole world opened up.
Those of you who followed my limited blogging / tweeting during my 6 weeks of contemplation and exploration this past summer kept hearing me say that my head was exploding. (IrkaFirka even immortalized my saying that in one of their wonderful sketches!) Lightning bolt after lightning bolt shook my living room as I wrote and thought and read and then wrote and thought and read some more.
Others began providing their own thoughts, as well as other readings. The more Dimitri and I shared our thinking, the more we found evidence of a spectrum approach in all effective efforts to influence behavior. Some of the more high profile thought systems included:
• Moves Management (fundraising)
• Lead Scoring (and other effective business sales methods)
• Stages of Change (psychology)
• Belief Repatterning (personal development)
• Spiral Dynamics (human development)
Imagine the power of applying this vast array of wisdom to the work of a sector that is poised to create a healthy, vibrant future for our world!
From all this planning and thinking, our path has become clear, and the work has already begun. We are simply applying the same thinking that has worked to create change in individual behaviors – from getting someone to quit smoking to getting someone to donate to a cause – to the work of social change.
Over the next 24 months, we will be developing a spectrum of programs for boards, for consultants, for funders, for academic instructors, for executive directors, for social entrepreneurs… and so on, for every field within this vast Community Benefit Sector.
Each of those programs will meet individuals where they are in their own being – their current assumptions, expectations, beliefs, and especially their current programmatic and organizational needs.
Each of those programs will then extend a hand to encourage those individuals to take the next step towards their potential to create a more vibrant, healthy world.
We are confident that if we have a staff committed to developing this breadth of programs, we will have a full spectrum of programs up and running in the next 24 months. For now, our next step is clear – find funding, hire that staff, and get to work!
We’re excited to see what’s next, and we are honored that you are part of this adventure – sharing your wisdom, your ideas, your experience, your passion, and most of all putting new ways of being and doing into place in your own work.
We know that creating the world we want is both practical and doable.
We also know that once our assumptions and expectations align behind what is possible, things happen faster than we’ve been conditioned to think is possible.
How much more exciting can it possibly get!?