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How to make YOUR organization more OPEN

In this eJournal, you’ll find the mechanics of…

* Open meetings (and the invitation to our upcoming meeting re: Racial Equity)
* Openness and the 990
* Openness and Bylaws

Openness is embedded in Creating the Future’s DNA. We have described the multitude of benefits we’ve experienced over the years in venues ranging from Stanford Social Innovation Review to the Foundation Center’s blog to our own website.

Once folks understand those benefits, though, they often ask about small steps they can begin taking, to put a toe in the water of opening up their own organizations.Those small steps are what this week’s “Try this” exercises are all about!

Try this
Sometimes the most effective way to get ideas is to see examples. For each of the following examples, you’ll see an invitation to put a toe in by practicing with us, to learn by doing – and hopefully to get ideas for opening up at your own organization.

Opportunity #1: Annotating Your 990 / Tax Filing

Many organizations already post their tax filings (in the US, the 990) online. But let’s face it: Reading those documents is dull dull dull, reducing everything your organization does to a series of meaningless numbers.

What could that form actually make possible for the people reading it? For starters, they could understand what you are working on, how you are doing that work and why, how they can get involved, what you are accomplishing.
For that to be possible, all it takes is annotating that document.

Several years ago, we tried that as an experiment. This year, we are hoping to make that an annual practice – another simple thing you can do for your own organization, turning numbers into stories we can all learn from.
The logistics are simple:

Have someone interview your team members, asking about each line item. Type up those notes, and post them. It couldn’t be more simple.

If you want to get fancy, add some visuals (as we did in our example). Take photos of the actual 990, highlight or add arrows – the stuff all of us can do with our cell phones nowadays.

Put a toe in by practicing with Creating the Future!

We are about to annotate last year’s 990. If you would like to learn by doing – learning questions you can ask for your own organization’s financial disclosures – please hit reply here and let us know. Helping with our interviews will be great practice for your own organization’s work!

Opportunity #2: Annotating Your Bylaws

Almost as dull as reading an organization’s 990 is reading their bylaws. That is why so many people have been fascinated by the 2-page bylaws we adopted several months ago. That document describes in plain language how decisions are made, by whom, and what one can expect when working with us in any capacity.

Even if your bylaws are the standard fare, imagine what it could make possible if those bylaws were annotated, similar to the 990 discussion above. (And imagine the discussions your board could have as you did so!)
Put a toe in by practicing with Creating the Future!

Having recently adopted our own bylaws, our next step is to annotate that document – section by section, noting the story behind the words. If you would like to learn how to annotate your own bylaws (or if you’ve been interested in what it would take to create plain-language bylaws), helping with our interviews will be a great way to learn by doing. Just hit reply here and let us know if you’d like to be part of that effort, helping us as you learn!

Opportunity #3: Opening Your Board / Community MeetingsAnd finally, if you have been considering opening up even just small parts of your board meetings, imagine what that might make possible: Building trust, deeper relationships, increased participation, deeper community support, working with vs. for the community… that’s a ton of benefit!

The logistics of making your meetings more open start with the strategic decision to open up (hopefully using Catalytic Thinking to decide if that is a good choice for you!). Once you have decided to open your meetings, here are just some of the mechanical questions to consider:

  • What helps people feel welcomed and comfortable to share their thoughts?
  • What will help new people come up to speed quickly?
  • What are ways people can participate if they are more comfortable thinking quietly than being in the thick of the discussion?
  • How can topics be framed to be simultaneously universal (i.e. others would be interested) and specific to the organization’s needs?

Put a toe in by practicing with Creating the Future!
Next Monday, September 14, you can experience what it feels like to be part of our open board / community meetings. What you will see goes beyond the topic itself (and the topic is an important one for any organization – racial equity). You will experience the mechanics of what it takes to open up the doors to your own meetings.

Details about the topic and the various ways you can participate are at this link.

Creating the Future’s Board / Community Meeting
Topic: Walking the Talk of Our Values re: Racial Equity and Social Justice
Monday, September 14
10am-12noon US Pacific time / 1pm-3pm US Eastern time

Applying Catalytic Thinking to the success of your organization’s mission, you begin to see that being open is not an end unto itself, but a step towards building the trust, participation, and relationships that are such a big part of the future we all want to see. We hope these simple steps spark ideas for opening up your own organization’s work, and especially what it would make possible if you do.

Want to learn alongside other people who are also trying out Catalytic Thinking practices? Join our Catalytic Thinking in Action community on Facebook – a welcoming place where you can ask questions and learn from people like you who are experimenting with these practices. We look forward to seeing you there!

Help Keep Our Programs Freely Available
Most of the programs at Creating the Future are free or low cost, with liberal tuition assistance when they aren’t.

If you find our programs of benefit, we hope you will consider contributing, to help keep these programs available to as many people as possible.   Donate here …

eJournal Archives:
If you’re new to our eJournal, or just want to remind yourself of past practice exercises we’ve shared, check out our eJournal archives here.

Come Experiment with us!

Creating the Future
is a collection of people around the world supporting each other in a grand experiment:
To determine how much more humane the world could be
if the systems that guide our work and our lives
were rooted in questions that bring out the best in each of us.

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Creating the Future is a 501(c)(3) tax exempt organization in the U.S.A