Frustrated at the Pace of Social Change? So Are We!

Note: Because this is an ongoing effort, this post is being updated regularly, along with the slide deck referenced herein.
Most current update: January 8, 2020

Do you ever feel like Sisyphus in your work to create a more humane world – like you’re taking two steps forward and 1.9 steps back? Does it feel sometimes like the struggle to raise money, to stay competitive, to do more with less… is just as hard, if not harder, than the “real” work of your mission?

With the health and humanity of our planet increasingly at risk,
changemakers shouldn’t have to ALSO battle the systems intended to sustain their work.

For decades, people working to create a more humane world have complained about the reality of simultaneously battling the conditions they are seeking to change in their communities, while also battling the very systems and structures that are intended to help get that work done – systems like competitive funding and marketing, structures like hierarchical organizations, planning systems that embed reactivity into the process itself.

During those same decades, consultants and other intermediaries have sought to fix those problems. Yet despite all those well-intentioned reform efforts, changemakers still struggle against those same forces.

Cover Page: Beyond Sisyphus Project Slide DeckCreating the Future is therefore embarking on a project to re-imagine the systems that support social change efforts, to help social change efforts accomplish what they dream is possible for their communities.

And you are invited to be part of that!

Our Inquiry
Ideally the systems that support the work of creating a more equitable, humane, and healthy world would themselves walk the talk of equity, relationship, trust, and enoughness. Unfortunately, that isn’t the norm for the systems upon which social change efforts rely. (See a comparison of aligned vs. current systems here).

Creating the Future is therefore seeking to re-imagine those social change support systems – sometimes labeled “capacity building” or “organizational effectiveness” systems.

• Imagine if the norm for resourcing and funding reflected the equity we want to see in the world (vs. power dynamics of “He who has the gold makes the rules”)

• Imagine if the norm for communications strategy was about linking arms to work together with all the people who care about your cause (vs. positioning your organization to compete with those caring individuals).

• Imagine if strategic planning routinely led to plans for visionary community improvement (vs. incremental, reactive steps to intervene against current problems).

• Imagine if the most commonly reviewed reports documented the number of relationships and conversations, and the changes happening in community (vs. the profit and loss statement that documents the dollars used to create that change).

In this very early stage of thinking about this huge project, we are using Catalytic Thinking to listen, learn, and think things through. Several first steps are happening at once, and because all our strategy work at Creating the Future is done as openly and inclusively as possible, we’re asking you to be part of all those steps!

Here are some ways you can be part of this inquiry right now:

1) Help clarify:
We’ve assembled an initial draft slide deck, describing the observations that have stemmed from our inquiry so far.  You’ll find that here. As you page through it, please help us make that document as solid as possible. Please respond in the comments at this post, or personally to us via our “Contact” page here.

• Does the document provide a clear sense of what we are hoping to accomplish and why?
• If not, what would make it clearer?
• Our intent is that this slide deck stand on its own. To accomplish that, what would you add? What would you delete?

2) Help connect:
Are there others you know who are talking about similar big-picture questions re: changing how social change infrastructure is supported / how the social change arena thinks about capacity building? Whether they are seeking to re-imagine everything at once or seeking to create more narrow shifts in how social change is done, we want to meet those people! Send us a note to suggest folks, and if you can make a connection, that would be awesome.

Together We Can Accomplish Anything!
If you are tired of feeling stuck – like Sisyphus rolling that rock up the hill, again and again…

If you are tired of feeling conflicted between the values that underpin your mission and the stuff you have to do to support that work…

If you ever feel like the systems that are supposed to support your work are more trouble than they are worth…

And if you want to be part of creating systems that smooth out all those bumps in the road…

Please share your thoughts in the comments below.
And let’s begin to change the questions
that have the potential to change everything.

2 thoughts on “Frustrated at the Pace of Social Change? So Are We!”

  1. Hi Hildy — Thanks for putting this into the world. You invited feedback…so here goes.

    The Deck: On “Why Reforms Have Not Worked,” I long for as courageous an acknowledgement as possible of inequity as intentional — that our current approach, our systems are working as designed. (To keep current systems of power and privilege alive and well.)

    Communicating: The conversation you invite, it seems to me, is about consciousness. Quite literally waking up (from the Stockholm Syndrome?). What would it look like if we woke up from the lie that I am/we are broken and communities have needs and are not capable? What would it look like if we were 100% enfranchised, and unapologetically and joyously creating the world we want (see Detroit)? This is already happening. Now, more than ever, I crave stories.

    Participation/Format: If you host long Zoom calls about this, I will be hard-pressed to participate. I am motivated. What would it take to have many people around the world host conversations in person, collect written notes, record it all? Meetups? A conference? A quarterly in person conversation. A brown bag un-conference.

    That’s all for now — Thanks again. Look forward to reading other comments.

    • Andrea:
      Yes to everything you noted here. An updated deck is coming, and this will inform that tremendously. Thank you for so thoughtfully considering it all!


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