Taking it to the Streets

CommunityThis April will mark the 3 year anniversary of Creating the Future’s immersion courses, where consultants have gathered from around the world to learn how to help their clients change the world.

People sometimes scoff when we say that. We’re all so used to learning about fundraising or marketing or boards – the means for doing social change work. But no one teaches how to actually change the world – the reason we’re all doing this work in the first place!

However, that is precisely what our grads have learned. And as individuals within their communities, they are proving the powerful ripples that can be created when even just one skilled teacher is guiding others in effective changemaking.Mural

After three years of their own successes, watching the organizations they counsel make dramatic leaps forward to impact conditions in their communities, many of our graduates are stepping onto the faculty track, preparing to teach the immersion course themselves. And that means Creating the Future’s goals can now leap forward as well!

The First Goals – Done!
The long term goal for the Consultants’ Immersion Course is that community conditions actually improve – that communities fulfill their potential for being healthy, vibrant places to live. To that end, our short term goal has been that education about creating that community vitality be just as ubiquitous as education about fundraising and marketing is now.

The most logical first step in that process was to teach people who would become the teachers. As the pollinators who spread new approaches to numerous organizations throughout communities, it made logical sense for consultants to be those teachers.

The second step was to create a faculty track for graduates who had put this work into practice successfully, who could then teach others to do so.

MuralNow that approximately 50 people have graduated the course, both those goals have been reached. We have watched our graduates create community change that no one thought was possible. We have seen them transform attitudes, approaches, and language in their communities – one group and one conversation rippling out to become more and more groups and conversations, more quickly than even we imagined.

Seeing the power of having just one person in a community, skilled in dramatically improving community conditions, we are now ready to leap forward, creating whole cohorts in communities, all with those same skills.

The New Goal
Creating the Future’s mission is to change how social change work is done, so that everyone, everywhere, knows how to create the future we want for our world. To accomplish that mission (and we do intend to accomplish it), our next goal is about leveraging the one-teacher-at-a-time results we have seen so far, to help whole communities improve conditions.

And so, after Class #12 convenes in April, we will begin taking our immersion courses to communities where our graduates are already working successfully.

Just thinking about what that will make possible makes our heads spin!Mural

Imagine the impact of all the consultants / teachers in a community learning how to improve community conditions, and then using what they learn to teach all the organizations in town!

Imagine the impact of that cohort meeting monthly to learn together and expand their skills, to practice together, to support each other – and to then head back out and create even more community change!

Fast forward a year or two, and imagine the impact of those consultants becoming qualified to teach other consultants and teachers – having these skills and this education remain in the community forever.

Imagine the power of building partnerships across silos, just in the very act of bringing these approaches to a community! Funders and educators, community conveners and capacity builders – all coming together across functional silos, not just to bring this education to town, but to participate in learning these skills themselves.

And perhaps the most meaningful possibility – imagine that finding a course in “how to create a healthy, vibrant community” is just as easy to find in your community as it currently is to find a course on fundraising or marketing.

Why This Matters
For decades, social change proponents have been demanding more impact, more results. For decades, they have been frustrated that despite their attempts at demanding measurement and evaluation, that nothing much has changed.

The reason for that frustration has been so clear to us: No one is teaching people how to create that impact! We’ve just assumed they already know how.

MuralAnd isn’t that silly? We don’t assume that changemakers know how to raise money; on the contrary, we assume they must learn how to do so. We don’t assume they know how to lead or govern – we assume they must learn that as well. University degree programs and industry-wide Standards for Excellence are built around the assumption that changemakers must learn the internal business side of doing their work.

And yet, even after decades of frustration about impact, those same capacity building programs simply assume that changemakers have the skills and mindsets needed to create change. Those programs assume that someone with a good idea or innovative solution will know how to implement that idea in a way that increases their chances for creating strong, vital, humane communities.

Jokes about assuming aside, it is time that effective education about what it takes to create the future of our communities was as ubiquitous as education about internal business practices.

And so, after April, Creating the Future’s classes will be taking it to the streets.

If you are in a community where our graduates are already working, we hope you will seek out those individuals, to begin building partnerships to bring this education to your town.

Art Credit: #1, #3, #5 Wall decor at a McDonald’s somewhere in the midwest US. #2 Mural in Calgary, Alberta, Canada (advertising condos for sale). #4 Outdoor Window Decor, Bemis Center for Contemporary Art (Omaha, Nebraska).


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