3 Lessons in Changing the Way We See Things

What Was There... and What I SawWhen we change the way we see things, things change.

That has been the thread in all the lessons we learned from Creating the Future’s first ever Change-the-World Scholarship Campaign. And so, herewith, our top lessons, as we celebrate the success of that campaign!

Lesson #1: Thinking with Others Leads to Changing How We See Things
In keeping with our commitment to engage transparently for all major decisions at Creating the Future, when the campaign first started, we blogged the question, How to select scholarship recipients? Last week we blogged that question again.

We asked the graduates of our courses a related question: With a maximum of 10 participants in each class, those seats are a “scarce resource.” How can we qualify course participants?

Interestingly, the answers to those questions were identical: Don’t qualify people – let them qualify themselves. When we run out of funds or seats in the course, that’s that till next time. That answer goes directly counter to the assumption that a scarce resource must be guarded by competitive qualifications, lest it be squandered.

That answer is, however, rooted in the Pollyanna Principles and in the practices we teach in the courses themselves.

  1. In our courses, we teach how to trust the wisdom in the room, trusting others to come to their own brilliant conclusions. If people register and ask for tuition assistance because they want to learn how to change the world and the way they interact within that world, why would we not trust the wisdom and/or worthiness of those applicants?
  2. In our courses we teach how to develop cooperative “everyone wins” approaches, based on our findings that competition for the means to do good work actually creates a counterproductive and self-limiting sense of scarcity and fear. If we teach both consultants and funders to find ways to provide a seemingly “scarce” resource to everyone who applies, why would we not do the same for our own “scarce” resource?

As a result of those discussions, we are now considering ways of delivering scholarships to every course participant who needs one!

This one lesson combines so many other lessons about changing how we see things.

First, the obvious lesson about changing the way we think about transparently engaged decision-making. Engaged decisions are stronger, better aligned decisions – not the lowest-common-denominator decisions many people have suggested might result from such a process. That makes us stronger as leaders, as an organization, and as a movement, as we learn from the wisdom of others and explore possibilities we might otherwise never have considered.

Second, the lesson about changing how we see things in general, and the tendency for all of us (myself included) to knee jerk to old habitual ways of thinking – i.e. because funds are finite, we must have a competitive process. When we instead consider the reality that people to whom we have given past scholarships have been VERY conservative in what they have requested, we realize there is little to lose and much to gain in finding ways to accept everyone.

Third is the lesson of what it means to walk our talk, and to realize that each time we are encouraged to do so, it feels aligned and right. Changing how we see things sometimes simply means being conscious of what we already hold dear. Walking the talk of those values really is “being the future we want to create” – right now!

Through this process, we were able to see that if we provide scholarships without a competitive process, the worst that could happen would be to run out of funds – a very real possibility with only $4,000 to distribute. BUT the worst that could happen if we DO create a competitive qualifying process is that we would be acting directly counter to our core values and to the approaches we teach.

The choice is a no-brainer. All from this one BIG lesson in changing how we see things.

Lesson #2: Changing How We See Money and ScarcityVegetables
As I blogged at this post earlier in the year, crowdfunding shows that there is plenty of everything we need to do our work, including money. Resources are not scarce, but sufficient and even abundant. Again, when we change the way we see things, things change.

Crowdfunding this campaign allowed us to accomplish several goals at once. It allowed us to be very public in letting folks know about our classes, the results our students are accomplishing, AND that if they want to attend, there will be scholarships available – all in addition to actually raising money.

That level of public discourse also allowed us to receive brilliant advice in a Facebook discussion, where Andrea John-Smith, corrected my use of language. “It’s not a ‘funding campaign.’ It’s a CHANGE THE WORLD CAMPAIGN!” Had we just done an old-fashioned direct mail appeal, it is unlikely we would have heard such wisdom.

Crowdfunding also allowed us to walk the talk of finding strength in everyone. Yes, one of the gifts that led to the total $4,055 was the equivalent of a full-tuition – $1,750 from a graduate of our immersion course, who told us, “I want others to have the wonderful opportunity I had.”

But the rest were all the kinds of gifts that lift our spirits – from $5 gifts to $100 gifts, with every single person who has ever received a scholarship towards our classes giving what they could. One recipient gave back the full amount of her scholarship, now that she is on more stable footing than when she attended the class!

I know I’ve said it before, but we can’t thank Tom Dawkins and Alex Budak enough. The opportunity to participate in the launch of Start Some Good threw us into the world of crowd-funding far ahead of when we might have otherwise considered it. And that absolutely changed the way we see things.Vegetable Portrait - the Green Grocer

Lesson #3: Changing How We All See Change
The launch of Start Some Good put us a year ahead of schedule in developing the Scholarship Fund. And that put us a year ahead of schedule in developing the video case studies of our immersion course graduates.

And while we know from Dimitri and my own experience the impact of approaching our work in this new way, creating that video gave us the opportunity to spend time with not only our graduates but their clients, as they all shared the successes they are experiencing.

We are taught that change is hard, that it takes time, that it happens in increments. Our students are putting those myths to bed, fast and furious. Each of them is seeing how a simple change in how we see things changes everything.

Many many thanks to all who donated to the Change-the-World Scholarship Fund, and to those who shared your wisdom along the way. I hope you will share how you are changing how you see things – and the impact that is having in your work and in your life.

Photo credit: “What Was There… And What I Saw” by me, May 2011
Photo credit: Giuseppe Arcimboldo‘s GreenGrocer, via Wikimedia Commons

Creating the Future shares deep gratitude for the gifts provided by these generous individuals:
Anonymous, Eva Booker, Kate Brittain, Ellis Carter, Tom Dawkins, Kesha Dawson, Richard Demato, Peter Drury, Christine Egger, Jill Finlayson, Jane Garthson, Pamela Grow, Anonymous, John Haydon, Nancy Iannone, Carlo Jensen, Andrea John-Smith, Ronald J Kensey, Anonymous, Mari Lane Gewecke, Judith LeFevre, Deborah Loesch Griffin, Linda Louie, Zan McColloch Lussier, Gail Meltzer, Stacey Monk, Bill Musick, Ray Nichols, Alexandra Peters, Raihana, Alison Rapping, Elizabeth Sadlon, Meryl Steinberg, Terrie Temkin, Erin Tierney, Kimberly Tso, Gayle Valeriote, Marcia White

One Response to 3 Lessons in Changing the Way We See Things

  1. Hildy,

    I really like your approach. I love how you stress the point that following one’s principles is easy. I’m definitely going to remember this when working on my own social change projects.