For years, I’ve felt like I’m swimming, doggy paddling, in a giant ocean. I get a gasping breath and then am swept under the surf, rolling with the current under the mirror-like surface. I’m below for far too long. My lungs are pushed to their limits each time, as I flail, wholly at the mercy of the waves. Until randomly, I’m jettisoned into fresh air, able to grab on to a piece of driftwood and stay afloat for a short while. Just long enough to stop panting and catch my breath. And then a sneaker wave comes, and I’m towed back into the suffocating depths once again.
My instinctive approach to any clean up, discovery, or big decision making moment is to make a big, gigantic mess. It’s cringe (as the youth say), because messiness can be seen as a sign of inadequacy. And that leads to vulnerability. But without vulnerability there would be no growth or influence. Without making a mess and cleaning it up, what have you learned? Without driving around and getting a little lost, would you have discovered the gorgeous wildflower patch by the stream? You get my drift?
In late June, 2023, NEW’s leadership got together to discuss participatory budgeting and what it’s like at NEW. Here’s a recording of their conversation. Featuring Yodit Mesfin Johnson, president & CEO; Carrie Hammerman, chief strategy & programs officer; and Linda Tam, chief finance & operations officer.
It’s been a while since I’ve penned a blog for NEW. That was on purpose. Blogs are just one of the ways we share our perspectives and work as we strive to influence radical transformation. By having other NEW team members contribute, we rebuff the single-leader, single-voice paradigm. It also helps me and others balance capacity. Sharing this space is one way for me to share and cede power with my dear colleagues – people who inspire me daily. This is especially true since so much of my focus this last year has been on the NEW Center Transformation. (And dammit, we’re gonna make it happen, together!).
In mid-February, I had the opportunity to visit the Green Door Initiative for the official launch of their Tech Hub. Green Door Initiative is one of 22 locations throughout Detroit where Connect 313 is working with organizations to create community Tech...
Here at NEW the financial services team gets questions about financial best practices for nonprofits regularly in our work. This post will focus on best practices for nonprofits who have experienced a surplus of cash - what’s the best way to use these resources? One...
Fatigue and burnout can get in the way too. Certainly, the last three years have taken a toll on most of us. For me, it feels as if 2020 has been one long, perpetual year that won’t end. Three (3) years later COVID is still here (recently joined by the flu and RSV). Extremism and strife within our political systems persist, our democracy feels fleeting. Nonprofits are still clamoring for resources that should be flowing to them and the communities they sit in.. Not only is the work challenging, our collective and personal mental health is weaker. Our physical bodies and minds are exhausted. We are in an existential crisis. The mission, vision, and core values of our country, its states, and our sector are in shambles. And, so too, I believe, are our personal commitments to them.
As you can imagine, their puzzle collection is massive. It literally spans decades – some of the oldest I’ve seen date back to the 1950s. They’re a record of intergenerational connection, a time capsule. When working on one, I can imagine aunts and uncles as children, touching those same pieces, while their parents (our grandparents) worked beside them.
If the word success begins to sound weird after reading the sentences above three times, well you’re not alone. Each person who answers will likely have different responses. It’s also likely that they’ll each interpret the questions differently, as well. Even with consensus on the definition of success, the range of experiences between people may prevent us from defining the group experience as successful.
As NEW always has, we’re placing our values directly at the center of this process of expansion. Our values were central as we reflected on our needs to thrive and grow. They were central in our community engagement and design processes, and now in the first architectural drawings. And they are central in our fundraising practice, too. We’re “walking the walk” as we enter into a fifteen million dollar ($15M) campaign to expand our programs and evolve our physical space. As we do, we invite you all into the process with us.