More Field Theory Fun

When change happens in our lives, organizations, or communities, it often happens either because we are pushed away from something and/or because we are pulled toward something different. In my personal life, I felt pushed away from my job as an executive director but it wasn’t until I re-envisioned the Fruition Coalition that I was able to make a change. I am currently feeling pushed from my current home and pulled toward something different. Once we start to feel pulled, the possibility for detachment emerges. We then become free to reattach to a new and better reality. Push is external and repellant. Pull is internally driven and is a magnetic attraction. Push creates disorder while pull seeks to create a new harmonious state.

Charity Police

Philanthropic organizations are increasingly demanding that grantees measure impact. It is not the measuring of impact to which I object, it is the way this expectation is unidirectionally communicated and enforced. This paternalistic practice is an abuse of power that emphasizes control and containment over partnership and possibilities.

The MacArthur Fellows Program is an amazing example of trusting philanthropy (and I hope to be one someday!). Grantees are selected according to their contributions and are then trusted to make decisions about the best use of the funds; reports are not required. As a teacher, I take a similar approach with my students in the community or online setting. I expect students to take what we learn in class and to use it to the best of their ability in their context. My hope is to inspire change that can’t be captured in numbers or even words, and to provoke changes that are multiplicative.

With trust and freedom, great things will happen. Let’s share with each other out of love rather than fear.

Community Cooptation

The nonprofit/community benefit/social change sector has coopted much from business organizations, and the pressure to do so is increasing from many foundations and professional associations. In my experience, the business models that are appropriated are outdated and a poor fit for our sector. We are victimizing and marginalizing our community organizations through this practice; we are also limiting our ability to provoke meaningful and sustainable change. Rather than us borrow from business, I think business should listen and learn from us. Not because we demand it, or because we attach contingencies to it, but because there is an opportunity for mutual learning and growth. Perhaps by coming together intentionally we can envision new models of organizations that will truly transform our world.

Harmony

Harmony is the middle way between anarchy and institutionalism. Harmony flows gracefully and steadily while anarchy is chaotic and institutionalism is stagnant. There are times when each degree of control, or lack thereof, can be useful. Perhaps it is most helpful to be aware of the circumstances and intentionally choose the degree of control that will promote progress and peace.

Intersecting Levels of Change

I believe that social change is the result of both individual and organizational action. I further feel that social change is impossible without significant personal change – within both ourselves and others. Organizations, formal or informal, can be a conduit for collective action, amplifying – and morphing — personal change. To move from personal to organizational to social change, three factors are necessary: passion, vision, and commitment. Passion motivates movement toward the vision and commitment sustains us along the journey.