What's the Word for….?

name-change-marker-board-april-2010Renaming the Community-Driven Institute has become a combination of deep analysis and serendipity. None of that would have happened to the extent it has happened without the input of everyone reading and participating in this discussion.

So first, thank you.

Second, if you have any doubts about the value of transparent engagement – sharing the kinds of conversations we have been conditioned to think should happen only behind closed doors – we hope this discussion is helping you see what such engagement can make possible.

Dimitri and Nick and I met last week, each of us holding a print-out of all the comments from last week’s blog post. Because we only had an hour or so, we tackled the strategic questions first:

What essence do we want the name to convey that makes it clear what we’re about?
What is no one else doing / accomplishing?

Those questions led to a question that is a hallmark of our work:

What does our approach make possible?

And from there, the questions flowed, and our thinking followed.

What Does the Community-Driven Institute’s Approach Make Possible?

• Community and Organizational Change happens FAST. (We are used to thinking change happens slowly. The work we do speeds up that change cycle.)
• The change is dramatic, transformational.  (We are used to thinking change happens incrementally.)
• The change feels natural, easy, it flows. It feels graceful. Going through the change process, we feel as if it is just no big deal. (We are used to thinking that change is threatening. We think “fear of change” and “threatened by change” are the norm. The work we do feels logical, natural, like it’s simply no big deal. Almost, “duh!”)
• Ownership of the change is shared. It brings people along. It brings together seemingly disparate interests and points of view.
• The work is exciting.

The most critical of these combined as follows:

Simultaneously fast and dramatic and elegant / graceful / natural.

Analogies: What Else is Simultaneously FAST and DRAMATIC and ELEGANT / GRACEFUL / NATURAL?

Natural phenomena:



Geography / Geology

Raging River
Snowball rolling



Seasonal changes


Swan (from an ugly duckling)


Clipper Ship


Wright brothers – We can fly!
Moon launch
Rocket fuel (John Haydon’s term for our work!)
Moon shot

What Criteria to Use in Choosing a Name?
We are big fans of Chip and Dan Heath’s work. We pulled Made to Stick off the shelf, noting that “sticky” names are
– Simple
– Unexpected
– Concrete
– Credible
– Emotional
– Tell a story (for us, what it makes possible)

Emotions: How Do People Feel When We are Working with Them?
Possible (Anything is possible)
Safe space
Forward thrust

What Words Embody All This?
Throughout the discussion, we tossed out words and phrases.  These don’t do it, but they were part of the conversation, and may spark thoughts for you!
Change and Possibility
Fast and Far
Go Fast Together

So that’s where we are as of right now. We are close – we can feel that! We could not have gotten this far without all of you, so please dive back in. Share thoughts, ideas, approaches – and mostly words and ideas about the name.

What name says “social change that simultaneously happens fast and dramatic and elegant / graceful / natural“?  I do believe we are ready for that name to appear!!!

If seeing an enlarged version of the white-board would help spark your thinking, that is here. Sorry it’s not a ton bigger – I’ll work on getting it enlarged and re-post.  Thanks to Debra Beck for suggesting it.

June 10 update: We chose a name! Now what?

14 thoughts on “What's the Word for….?”

  1. Germination/Seed
    Radicle – the growth tip of a seed
    Sprout (although sprouting is done by soaking)

    Nutrient (although too much nutrient will damage a seed)


    Paths to …communities to blossom

  2. Two more concepts that embody what you do: Simultaneously fast and dramatic and elegant / graceful / natural.

    Open Space Technology

    Wave Riders

    Find at http://openspaceworld.com/

    Underlying principles are self-organization for high performance, collaborative flow, resulting in emergent solutions for bizarre problems.

    Someone who knows your organization deeply may come up with the words, as in “In Pursuit of Elegance”, the book by Matthew E. May http://inpursuitofelegance.com

  3. The word “river” comes to mind – a river is graceful, natural, fast-flowing, and can change the landscape slowly or quickly. It’s a means of getting where you’re going while enjoying the ride.

  4. Someone yes-anded Rosebud with Blossom, Here’s a riff on that pattern

    Flower…Fleur de Lis…Fleur…Flow…Lure…Seduce… Entrance…Enchant…Spell…Scent…Scintilla…Scintillate…Intoxicate…Transcend…Transport…Deliver…Flowers…Message…Meaning…Essence…

  5. You may be more successful with an acronym than finding the word combination that strikes a chord. We were struggling with a similar naming challenge a few years ago. We liked the word SEED, but not the acronym that was originally attached to it (Solutions for Economic Empowerment and Dignity). We kept SEED and let it sit undefined until we came up with Stretch…Enliven… Ennoble… Discover, which is the 4-step creative planning process we take organizatons through.

    If you got the acronym route, you probably want to get a “C” in there somewhere for Community. And another “C” for Change or an “E” for emergence.

  6. Your words bring images of African savannah to my mind.

    Other (really random) words in my head right now are “Pop!” and “Fish Kiss” (any parents who have read Dr. Seuss’s Mr. Brown Can Moo will hopefully remember the little surprise whispered popping sound of the fish kiss wedged in there among all the crazy sounds.)

    I guess what I’m getting at is… is there something else that perfectly describes the emotion – an image of something like a fish kiss, or a place like the African savannah? Maybe your name shouldn’t sound like an organization at all, because you’re actually about something surprisingly different.

    (as if you didn’t have enough directions to think in already!)

  7. Love Bonifer’s riff…My glass of red wine (east coast – it’s legit!) has me stuck on “ize” for some reason, so I’m going with it…


    What if it was a nonsense hybrid word?


    Okay, enough of that…new brain waves…

    What’s fast and elegant?

    Gazelles (you already have that, but I like it)
    Then, cats come to mind…


    Good jazz is fast and elegant, too (my husband’s a trumpet player), but improv (which I love) probably isn’t the right thing, huh?

    Okay, “Go Fast Together” instead…


    That’s all I’ve got now, but I’ll marinate and maybe something will spring or leap forth.


    p.s. Hildy – At some point I’ll share my story about elusive pot-bellied desert cows, but I’m fairly certain that it won’t help with re-branding in any case…

  8. Laura and Christine have me thinking of gazelle’s moving together explosively across the savannah. A synonym of joyful is popping which ties in with that image too (as does leaping) Still thinking, but expect I’ll be dreaming about gazelle’s all night!

  9. Been sitting here doodling, trying to coax ideas out of this noodle. This came to mind: How open are you to considering non-Anglo names? I’m thinking along the lines of the microfinance organization ‘Kiva’ (which translates to ‘unity’ in Swahili). Obviously the name needs to be accessible, memorable, and catchy – sort of like the Swahili phrase ‘Hakuna Matata’. 😉

  10. I haven’t heard back from my multilingual philosopher yet; I’ll send her this discussion link. I too like words like KIVA better than acronyms, or completely made up words like XEROX that you can define.

    The word I associate most with you remains “potential”, which also includes the word “potent” or strong. Here’s info from WiKtionary on “Potentiality”:

    potentiality (plural potentialities)
    The quality of being, or having potential.
    An inherent capacity for growth or development.
    An aptitude amenable to development; capability.

    And some info on its spiritual use:

    I can find one company with the name Potentiality; it’s a handwriting analysis person in Victoria, BC. But since we want to do communities to also act, how about:

    “Potentiality Plus”?

  11. You guys blow me away!
    Bill I am loving radicle. I am afraid the potential for mis-spelling will make the URL confusing to remember, but I can’t shake the image.

    CoCreatr – welcome to the discussion and thanks for adding those other perspectives. This is becoming a very rich stew!

    Barry, SOOO nice to see you here! We spent some time talking about acronyms in the prior post, and as your note suggests, felt the word was more important than the eventual meaning placed on it (the changing face of the letters in SEED). Your note confirmed that, and I smiled as i read it.

    Jenny, Mike, Christina, Nancy – I love the words and images. Loving the thought of a “sound” word like “popping.” And more and more, the thought that it wouldn’t sound like an organization is interesting – the Kiva example per Romi and Jane. And Laura, the “ize” grabbed me the minute you said it.

    Jane, I, too keep coming back to some themes like “potential” as well. One I return to again and again is one that Mark Riffey noted here from the prior post, and one to which I have had several queries off-line: “Why not just call it Creating the Future, because that’s what you’re doing.”

    Creating the Future of Our World

    Or is there a word that comes close to that in another language?

    Boy it feels like we’re getting close.

  12. I cant help but want to say something like
    Solidify ( i want the image of something solid) but the other word that hits me is Phoenix Rising. From where I sit, you are literally arguing that we can address the ills of the world but more than that create a better future. We can rise and be better and more beautiful than before.

    Again, just my two cents,

  13. On my grocery list for today was “AAA batteries.” So now, I’m all about charging and fuel, especially since you talked to @johnhaydon today… Add that to all of the river and water stuff, and here’s where I am tonight…

    ChangeSpa (really like this one…calm and good, rejuvenating, refreshed, nourished, ready to go)
    FutureSpa (sounds a little too scifi)

    Okay, I’m ready for some warm stones and a sugar scrub!


  14. I have been processing on this for a bit. You know me Hildy, I have to let myself muddle in the problem for a while.
    Pollyanna in Action:Creating a Better World/Community
    Potentialize is good
    What about “Pollytential” defined as the ability to make visionary change possible.
    More to come as I continue this process.


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