The unsettled uncertainty of 2021 was quite a backdrop for our work during this past year, as it was for everyone. Our goal in all of it has been simple: helping our Creating the Future family (you!) first find calm, and from there, to step into what is possible.
We took a two-pronged approach to our systems change mission this year.
First, we focused on supporting you in navigating the day-to-day, at a time when the world became even more polarized, and even less able to hear each other.
At the same time, we laid the groundwork for systemic change within the social change arena itself – to eliminate the barriers that seem to thwart social change efforts at every turn.
Here is just some of what that included…
- Helping YOU get past social change barriers:
This new program is the culmination of two years of research and inquiry into the effect of all the internal systems that guide the work of social change organizations. What is it that is stopping organizations from accomplishing more change?
The main takeaway from that inquiry: from accounting and marketing to human resources and evaluation, all those internal systems are rooted in power and privilege – from the military origins of strategic planning to the business origins of marketing and accounting, to so much more. In 2021, we began to design programs to realign all those systems, so that the internal work of those organizations reflects the results we all want to see in communities. You can also see that effort reflected in writings like this piece at the Community-Centric Fundraising blog.
We could not be more excited about the potential of this Systems Change initiative to make significant change, not just in how organizations work, but in their ultimate impact in communities.
- Tackling fear and uncertainty, helping people connect with our humanity:
Through our eJournal and through online convenings with groups from all around the world, we leveraged our research in brain science to help you find calm and connect more deeply during the uncertainty this year held. A focus on Catalytic Listening was a big part of that, as groups and individuals sought to bridge political divides.
- Centering values and integrity:
In our ongoing open experiment in the work of boards of directors, our own board formally reframed their role as the organization’s Integrity Body – ensuring the organization’s work is walking the talk of our values. In 2020, that work included rewriting our values statement, to focus more intentionally on social justice. In 2021, we stepped firmly into those values, infusing them into every action we took – from board recruitment and resourcing to succession planning. Doing that work openly models what might be possible for other boards, ensuring YOUR work is walking YOUR talk.
- Sharing what we learn:
Creating the Future is a grounds for experimenting with systems change, a place for learning. Importantly, it is a place for broadly sharing what we learn from those explorations. This year we took a leap into deepening that sharing – building practice cohorts around whatever we are already working on, so that people can directly apply Catalytic Thinking to subjects they are already thinking about.
Our first cohort began this year as a first step in our Systems Change initiative – applying Catalytic Thinking to Succession Planning. In 2022, we will start other cohorts, with topics including hiring and compensation, program development, and Collective Enoughness. Providing intensive Catalytic Thinking practice for folks who want to explore together has been one of the most exciting things we’ve ever done, all made possible because we openly share our discussions and our work.
- Turning “learning” into “practice”:
The more we focus on creating systemic change within the social change ecosystem, the more that changes the approach we take to the rest of our work. This year that was particularly apparent in our education programs.
- Substituting practice cohorts for what was formerly our immersion education programs – like the Succession Planning cohort described above.
- In addition to keynoting conferences, we helped one organization – Vantage Point in Vancouver – apply Catalytic Thinking to designing their entire conference, helping workshop instructors apply Catalytic Thinking to their own sessions.
- We began the year with discussions about reworking our eJournal, which resulted in a new newsletter – Tools You Can Use NOW.
Of course we still have our click-and-play classes, to provide the basics. But for those who are feeling ready to step into more, we look forward to finding more and more practice-based programs to help you do that.
- Case Studies:
2021 was also a busy year for new case studies – all of which we will be writing extensively about in 2022, to share what we’ve learned. One of those projects was helping a food bank with their community impact plan – using Catalytic Thinking to focus nonprofit and social enterprise planning on their huge potential for impact in their communities. We can’t wait to share what we learned in this effort, as the plan was built by the community – not the food bank. The food bank’s role became implementing what the community aspires to. Wow!
Two other case studies focused on incorporating Catalytic Thinking into college-level courses.
- At the University of Nebraska, Professor Angela Eikenberry – a Creating the Future board member – used Catalytic Thinking to redesign her fundraising class, then taught Catalytic Thinking and Community-Centric Fundraising as content in that class.
- And at Columbia College in Vancouver, the Institute for Equity and Advancement in Education – under the leadership of Creating the Future fellow, Mark Friesen – began a program to teach students Catalytic Thinking as part of their community service work. In 2022, we are hoping to extend that program to include all faculty who want to learn Catalytic Thinking, to apply to their own classes.
We look forward to sharing both the process and the results of all these projects in the year ahead.
There was so much more. Our online communities continued to grow, providing needed support during a year that was all about supporting each other. The many podcasts where we made guest appearances (like this one where Hildy talks about creating real change vs. just running organizations.)
And then there is the exciting news that we will be starting a podcast in early 2022, to share what we are learning in one more way!
As we head into 2022, we are grateful that you were part of all this. You shared our eJournal with friends and colleagues. You took classes, joined cohorts, and participated in online discussions. You volunteered to help with tasks both large and small. And you donated. This year, those donations meant more than ever to us, as our primary revenue sources continued to shift in this time of ongoing uncertainty.
Stepping into 2022, we are excited to explore with you, to step boldly into what is possible. Because these times call for a path to a future different from our past.
And creating that future isn’t just our name; it is our mission.
If our mission resonates with you, we hope you will consider making a contribution to keep our work going strong.