The vision of the Community Driven Institute is a healthy, vibrant, resilient, peaceful, humane world. To make that vision a reality for all of us, the mission of the Institute is to encourage and support the Community Benefit sector to leverage its considerable resources to do so.
In developing our plans for the next 12-24 months, we started with that vision of a peaceful, vibrant world and reverse engineered the cause-and-effect conditions that would ultimately lead to that vision. The following are among the immediate conditions we want our work to create:
* There must be ample proof that it is not only possible but practical (and simple) for “nonprofit” Community Benefit organizations to create visionary community transformation
* There must also be proof that functioning according to The Pollyanna Principles is a practical way for organizations to do their work.
* Social Change agents must be able to easily learn about and engage with the principles that undergird visionary community improvement. They must be aware that there are more effective options than “the way we’ve always done it.”
* Those who are ready to take the step of transforming their work must have access to teachers and mentors who can help them do so.
* Individuals who are on the path to creating transformation must have a place to learn together and support each other in their work.
To create these conditions, we have three major goals (and a lot of smaller goals / objectives) for the next 12-24 months. Those three include
• A Demonstration Project
• Expand Education Programs
• Engage and Expand the Conversation re: Creating Visionary Community Results
Demonstration Project: The Community-Driven Institute!
Over the last 2 years, we have kept an eye out for demonstration projects that could provide evidence of the results that happen when work is rooted in The Pollyanna Principles. The more we sought such projects, though, the more it has become clear that the first demonstration project is the Institute itself!
As the Institute separates from its nurturing incubator in our consulting firm (ReSolve, Inc.), we will be doing the kinds of things every organization does in the beginning – building a board, applying for tax exempt status. We will also be doing the kinds of things strong organizations do throughout their whole lives – ongoing learning and exploring about effective governance, building sustainability (financial and otherwise), and all the rest of what it takes to run the day-to-day of a community benefit organization.
The difference at the Community-Driven Institute is that we will be basing that work as consciously as possible on The Pollyanna Principles, determining at every turn what it means to walk that talk.
For example, what does it mean to build open, transparent, engaged governance? To recruit transparently? To build bylaws by engaging the wisdom of others? To make choices and operate by engaging transparently? To develop resources and form collaborations transparently?
How do we ensure our vision and values are infused in every action and decision, large and small, this new organization will make?
Over the next several years then, we will be exploring all our organizational infrastructure choices and actions openly, here on the blog and elsewhere. We will begin in the next week or so, engaging conversation about the decision-points we encounter in filing for our tax exemption – asking for advice and wisdom from the very people who will be not only benefiting from our work, but some of whose taxes will, in part, be supporting our work!
Similarly, we will engage conversation about how to build the board, about how to fund the Institute’s work (currently it is being supported entirely by Dimitri and me – certainly not a plan for sustainability in the long term OR the short term!). We will engage dialogue about changing the name of the Institute – a huge effort in the next few months, as the current name doesn’t come close to describing the work we are doing to engage this sector in creating the future of the world.
Being our own demonstration project infuses every action we take, no matter how seemingly “internal” or “unrelated to the mission” with the knowledge that those actions indeed have consequences for our mission. In reality, that is already true for each and every organization in each and every community. We are just vowing to be as conscious as possible and to transparently engage beyond our “4 walls” as much as possible about how our vision and values influence that seemingly “non-mission” work.
If our being a case study helps others learn what it looks like in practice to aim all our work at the difference we want to make in the world, it will be well worth the effort.
Expanded Education Projects
With our classes for consultants and MSO leaders already underway, we will be expanding the Institute’s learning opportunities to other leverage points in the system. Over the next year, those points will include:
• Consultants. We will continue to teach consultants and MSO leaders. Teaching the sector’s “Johnny Appleseeds” continues to be the fastest way to spread the mission.
• Social Entrepreneurs. This year we will be developing an immersion course for social entrepreneurs, one of the fastest growing areas of this sector’s work. Social entrepreneurs are passionate about creating visionary change, often employing innovative methods for program delivery. However, in most cases they are using the same infrastructure systems for governance, planning, and resource development that have proven to preclude the very change they want to create! As a result, most social entrepreneurs are quietly struggling – frustrated at what it takes to run an organization, frustrated that their ideas are not immediately springboarding into incredible community results, and all the while thinking they should know better.
• On-the-Ground Learning Communities. As word of the Institute’s work spreads, and as more people read The Pollyanna Principles and want to put that work into practice, it is becoming clear there is a need for supportive learning communities – not just virtually, but on the ground. These learning communities will convene and leverage the passion of otherwise disparate individuals, who believe they are alone in their belief that visionary change is not only possible, but practical and happening. By convening and supporting these groups of passionate community leaders, can you imagine what they will accomplish?
Engage Broader Dialogue / Change the Conversation in the Sector
I’ll be honest: the old drumbeat of blame and shoulds has become almost unbearable. The battle cries for more rules, more regulation. Huge publicity for competitive prizes coming at the same time as huge outcries about the need for collaboration. More checklists and standards and rankings of things that create no impact in communities but create stronger, more competitive, individual walled organizations. The myth that if we have effective organizations we will necessarily have great communities…
It is time that a new conversation become the pervasive conversation. The conversation about what is possible for our communities and how practical it is to achieve it. Conversations about how to build upon our interconnectedness, how to identify and build upon our assets and strengths. Conversations about the vibrant healthy world we are creating, and the vibrant healthy aspects of the world we are part of right now.
The goal of igniting and keeping a fire under a new conversation will include ongoing discussion at this blog, as well as the development of other blogs. It will include social media. It will include speaking engagements and writing in mainstream publications.
And it will include encouraging other bloggers and speakers and writers to also aim at what is positive and affirming and working well in this sector full of individuals who care passionately about our world. (Because if it’s just us, we will not get very far!)
The goal will also include a new means for engaging the dialogue – a new website for the CDI is clearly long overdue.
But beyond that, we are extending a challenge to the world, to ensure that every group working to “change the world” has the web presence it needs to do so. In our minds, one cannot separate the dialogue from the tools for dialogue, as those who don’t have the tools will continue to be excluded from the conversation.
And so we will simultaneously be
• Re-working our own CDI website to include considerably more avenues for conversation;
• Engaging that conversation elsewhere both online and off-line;
• Carrying the torch for an open source platform to ensure every group in the world has easy access to creating an engaged web presence.
That’s it for our 2010-2012 goals. For each of these goals, you will hear more soon. For now, we hope you will share your thoughts about all or part of what we are presenting here. And we look forward to having you be part of this amazing journey.
So hold onto your hats, kids. The fun is just getting started!