Long ago, I traded resolutions for intention-setting, a more impactful process for me. I declare my intent and then identify the practices and needs I have to support those intentions. For 2024, I’ve chosen “surrender” as my intention. This involves resisting the lures of scarcity, perfectionism, and control that emerge when I’m stressed, dealing with trauma, or just trying to navigate being human in a world determined to devalue life. It feels fitting for the year ahead, as I aim to accomplish transformative goals at NEW and in my personal life.

Two significant objectives on my list include: 1) finishing my first book; and 2) raising $12M to turn NEW into a regional ‘lighthouse’ for social justice. I’ll be relying on the power of “surrender” to quiet unhelpful internal and external voices. Especially the ones that suggest my dreams are too ‘big’ or audacious for Black women like me. Let’s just say that being a Black woman in leadership is its own special journey.

Beyond setting intentions, I also weave a personal vision—a tapestry of what I long for in the year ahead. I do this with reverence to the ancestors who prayed and imagined freedom and justice for all. This vision serves as my compass –a touchstone and a constant reminder that dreaming is a liberatory practice. When I revisit my past visions I’m always astonished. Articulating our desires and trusting in their realization is powerfully transformational. It’s alchemy.

We write visions at NEW, too. Often, they are the start of a planning process. In 2023 we spent a fair amount of time co-creating our ten (10) year vision (which we’ll be sharing with you very soon). In the coming years we’re envisioning a completely transformed social sector and region. One that thrives, is resilient, and harnesses unbridled joy. 

By 2034, our commitment to progressive change within mission-driven organizations has broken new ground. We’re evolving, setting new standards for collective work, and transforming nonprofit governance and leadership. We’re collaborating across disciplines and industries to partner with those most proximate to the issues. We trust that they are leading us towards durable solutions.

“Without vision, the people perish,” (proverb). A shared and inspiring vision is the cornerstone of any organization’s journey towards meaningful change. But, vision alone is not enough. It needs a companion in the form of a well-crafted strategy rooted in core values. Core values are the guiding principles that define an organization’s identity and shape its actions. Aligning vision and strategies with these values ensures authenticity and cohesion. Our core values – humanity, justice, collaboration, relationships, learning and growth, and collective liberation – show up in every decision we make. They guide how we’ll advance our vision. A few highlights from our 2024 vision include:

  • Transforming Philanthropic Relationships:
    • Staying true to our Fundraising Manifesto, courageously reshaping our ties with philanthropy and wealth.
  • Fiscal Sponsorship For Impact:
    • Expanding programs for social change makers.
    • Liberating them from nonprofit management burdens.
  • Addressing Gaps In Field Offerings:
    • Providing benefits that enable us to care for today’s nonprofit workers and attract more talented people to the sector.
  • Advocacy and Awareness:
    • Continuing to bring attention and awareness to policies and practices that promote justice and equity.
  • Prioritizing Diversity:
    • Systematically increasing diversity in recruitment, hiring, and promotions.
    • Fostering inclusivity without tokenization.
    • Consistently seeking out and listening to the voices and ideas of people of color and those who’ve been marginalized. Ensuring that the people impacted are at the decision-making table, whenever possible.
  • Innovative Financial Strategies:
    • Leveraging subsidies, safety nets, and continuous improvement.
    • Demonstrating profitability while paying staff well.
  • Emphasis on A Healthy Culture:
    • Prioritizing a values-driven culture buoyed by skills in conflict and transformative justice
    • Staff are trained in identifying and dealing with trauma to support our folks working to change a traumatizing world.
    • We resist artifacts from professional culture that denigrate joy, celebration, pleasure, and expression.
  • Knowledge Production for Impact:
    • Bringing the attention of our families, friends, communities, and nation to the injustices and oppressions of our existence. Also bringing their attention to the solutions and changes we believe will set us free.
    • Understanding, deconstructing, and interpreting the world to serve change, not the production of knowledge. 
    • Offering and promoting ideological education org-wide so that there is common vocabulary among staff.
  • Feedback as a Constructive Tool:
    • Leveraging critique and feedback for creativity and innovation.
    • Constructing new ways of being in relationship with each other and the world, rather than just tearing things down.
  • Social Enterprise Expansion:
    • Expanding our offerings for social enterprises and small businesses aligned with our mission and vision. Like the nonprofits we work with, these organizations see themselves as part of the solution to alleviating societal ills. They work alongside nonprofit and community leaders to create financially sound,mission-focused solutions. Our collective impact goes beyond reactive response towards transformational outcomes.
  • Knowledge Sharing and Enablement:
    • Sharing, not hoarding, our organizational philosophies and models including our approaches to culture and how we work with clients and partners.
    • Equipping our peers with more robust and just knowledge of management philosophies, theories of organizational design, and models of collective labor. 
    • Nurturing relationships with mission-driven organizations and informal networks of people empowering us to imagine and implement new futures, together. 
  • Impactful Sector Engagement:
    • Delivering knowledge, learning, and experiences that support economic recovery.
    • Strengthening the sector’s understanding of social enterprise, solidarity economies, and Just Transition.

Within our 10-year vision, our ethos, structure, practices, and collaborations have positioned us as key influencers in the ecosystem. The culture and work experiences of our team members are deeply rooted in love, trust, accountability, and care.

Our influence is not just based on our work, but is ingrained in the way we operate. Our culture becomes a powerful force that ripples through every interaction, decision, and collaboration. We recognize the responsibility that comes with our position, and the potential to inspire transformation.

Because our vision cannot be achieved in isolation, we work in collaboration with values-aligned partners. Whether grassroots or “tree-tops” organizations, we understand the importance of working at all levels, all the time. Our collaborative approach ensures a holistic impact that transcends organizational boundaries.

We’re planning to wrap all of this powerful work together in our new space. The NEW Center Transformation will provide the region with a physical space that embodies all of our values. Fostering deeper connection and collaboration, it will become a lighthouse for those devoted to transformation. This is not about bricks and mortar – it’s about proximity. It’s about the power of witnessing one another’s pain and committing to healing it, together.

In the upcoming blog on strategy, we’ll delve into how we’ll bring this visionary decade to life. From pioneering programs to deepening collaborative efforts, NEW is a driving force in shaping the future. Let’s create one where social change is a lived reality, felt in every corner of Michigan and beyond.

Let me know what speaks to you about our vision. You can email me directly at: ymesfin@new.org.

Cheers to radical imagination and surrender