When I’m traveling the country for various conferences, I am amazed by how resilient we are in the social sector. We have truly been pioneers over the past four years – changing our business models during COVID, keeping our communities unified as we fight for the common good and now navigating large shifts in our societal culture. As we head into fall, I wanted to share some of the inspirations I shared with audiences from Charlotte, NC, to Austin, TX, about the nature of change and how we can continue shepherding our organizations and communities through the inevitable challenges ahead toward positive change.
Some of the greatest lessons I have read on the subject have come from Rising Strong, one of my favorite books by one of my favorite authors, Brené Brown. Rising Strong cuts deep into subjects such as failure, trauma and the courage to get back up, and helps us truly understand why some who fail stay down and some “rise strong.” For those of us in the social sector, this is especially important research to bring into our work with clients.
Like Brown, we have also been preaching about the importance of having “courageous conversations,” or “failing forward.” One of our favorite posts was “Top 10 Moonshot Goals for the Social Sector.” Today we thought we’d add to this by sharing some inspired resolutions for rising strong.
1. We will admit defeat early and hit the restart button often.
We all know when momentum is lost on a project or coalition, but we have a hard time admitting defeat to ourselves and one another. Instead of prolonging a lost cause, we will admit defeat early so we can recover more easily. We will hit the restart button and start over smarter.
2. We will assume the best of others instead of playing the blame game.
When mistakes occur, we often try to explain why, but sometimes the stories we tell about others aren’t accurate and don’t serve the best interests of our collective goals. We will commit to uncovering all sides of the story before jumping to conclusions or laying blame. We will seek solutions together and assume we are all committed to the greater good.
3. We will strive to see things from multiple perspectives.
We assume because we understand something that everyone understands it in the same way. Peter Senge calls this “mental models.” We all come from different experiences and biases that change the way we interpret the same information. This leads to miscommunication and, worst of all, disconnection from one another and our work. We will strive to over-communicate and never leave anyone in the dark.
4. We will resist the temptation to bury failure without analysis.
We don’t have to like failure, but we need to accept that it will happen, especially when we take big swings at social impact. We need to be intentional about learning from failure – analyzing our mistakes from all angles to better understand traps and missed opportunities. We will conduct an after-action review to understand how a mistake happened and how it can be prevented in the future.
5. We will get comfortable with being uncomfortable.
We know that the best social sector work – the work that really pushes the boundaries of what is possible – is uncomfortable and messy. This is where we grow. We will forget about what others think and instead focus on results.
6. We will favor action over status quo.
We all want to make a difference and have a passion for our work, but we also get lost in forms, grants and meetings. Along the way, we begin to believe that these tactics equal success. It is important for us to remember that impact is the bottom line of the social sector, and we should push ourselves to spend our precious resources on the things that matter most.
We hope you approach this fall with a renewed sense of what is possible with some new tools to help you dig deeper. If you have tools and techniques for “rising strong,” please send them our way. We’d love to share them with our readers.