I think it is fair to say the times we currently live in uncertainty is very real. Uncertainty is the norm. It is the unknown. Keeping people safe is a priority. Keeping organizational talent to meet mission is essential. We juggle the threats daily, working to ensure mission flows forward. In doing the right things, this juggling can also keep us tied to the status quo.
However, I propose that status quo no longer serves us well. Especially in the days, months and years ahead. Now is the time to courageously look at our work and ask the hard questions. The world – our work – needs something different from us. The first, critical questions?
If you were launching your nonprofit today…knowing what you know now…how would you build it? What would you change?
How does your answer compel next steps?
I challenge you to take the time to honestly reflect on your answers. And if you’ve answered these questions quickly, then I propose you are not doing the hard work. Step back. Assess. Reimagine. Redesign. The world has changed and will continue to change. While this is nothing new, the speed of this change is beyond anything we may have anticipated. And it asks more of us. It asks us for clarity and hope. It challenges us to not let uncertainty overwhelm and pull us up short. It asks us for the certainty of doing what’s right.
I strongly believe our purpose in this, our social sector, is to truly solve problems that allow us to proudly proclaim “Mission Accomplished”! We’ve created a better world! We may evolve into a new kind of organization – if needed – but our purpose is not to sustain our existence but to drive and achieve social change.
If we agree that solving social problems is the priority, then this commitment also begs the bigger and more important questions.
What kind of social change do we envision for our communities?
No matter how you define it, a collective of people, institutions and ideas are needed to make the change. This network of minds and resources will be willing to address the far more complex issues than any one organization can address. And so acknowledging the work required of us moves well beyond what we’ve typically provided. It is time to redesign the traditional systems of accountability and modes of governance.
o Who is part of that collective? And how do each contribute to the bigger picture?
o How do new governance structures evolve?
o How do we ensure reporting holds us accountable to demonstrated impact?
To leverage this network and drive lasting impact, we will also seek new partnerships and powerful allies. Our voice will be shared and carry notable influence. We no longer hold on to turf and contrived positions, because we know this only leads to false leadership.
o So, what role do we play as social leaders? What do meaningful partnerships look like?
We ask hard questions of ourselves.
o How do we foster REAL change?
o How do we measure that change?
o What do we give up to do more and do better?
o What do we do new or differently to catalyze profound change?
o How do we ensure effective, constructive and sustainable change?
What is the story we are compelled to tell? And how does this story flip the narrative to shift perceptions and drive a better, kinder and more beautiful world?
How can we best change policy that anchors a more kind, inclusive and just society?
And we must not forget our financial partners – our donors – who invest in a brighter world. It is up to us to respectfully acknowledge and more deeply engage them as social investors and change agents. This means we provide proof of change…change that moves beyond the number of people served and day-to-day activities.
How can we hold ourselves accountable to a higher standard of engagement and accountability?
If we think of our work as leading “movements for social change”, then we are compelled to build a new platform and approach to transforming communities through the arts, education, health, training and all ilk of social services that feed the mind, body and soul. We will demand more of ourselves and our missions. We will design systems that allow us to solve broader, more complex problems because we share a common goal – healthier and stronger communities.
We all benefit when we embrace social change. We are all part of the collective. And when we take this courageous step…one that can no longer wait…we lead our communities to fairness and justice. The work is too critical to do otherwise.