I’m excited to announce that I have finished the draft of my book, “Reinventing Social Change”, which has consumed my blog writing time (among other things) over the past few months. There is still much work to be done — editing, publishing, launch, etc. — but I feel that the hardest work is now done. And I want to share with you, my loyal readers, what I have discovered about Social Change through this process.
But first, let me step back and define what I mean by “social change.” Social change is any effort — organization, network, movement — aimed at creating a more equitable and healthier world — a world where we are taking better care of each other and our planet. And I define a “social change leader” as anyone who has the ability to direct people and/or money toward creating a more equitable, healthy world—no matter how big or small their part of the world is.
When I refer to a “social change leader” I include:
- the executive director, CEO, or board member of a nonprofit that works to address larger systemic problems or inequities;
- the head of a movement, collaborative, or network charged with creating a solution to a social issue;
- the CEO, board member, or program officer of a private, public, or community foundation aimed at creating change to a social problem;
- an individual philanthropist committed to attacking underlying problems facing society;
- the decision-maker at a government agency focused on solving social problems;
- the head of a business that exists to create financial and social value;
- a corporate leader who allocates philanthropic or social responsibility dollars toward social change efforts.
I realized that in drafting this book I am articulating a new vision for the social change sector. I am charting a path for how the social change sector could be radically different — more powerful, wealthier, more networked, more effective at creating the social change we so desperately need.
Because here’s the thing — “We are the ones we’ve been waiting for.” No one is coming to save us. We are here — in this very critical moment when it feels that division, despair and destruction are all around — to save ourselves. And to help save our fellow travelers.
So my book, the draft of which I just completed last week, is perhaps my treatise about how we together uncover the dysfunction that holds social change back, gather our power, embrace abundance, start using money as a tool, and truly start connecting to those around us and each other to chart a new way forward.
It took me a long time to get here. Not the actual book writing (that took me about 3 months), but the journey that brought me to this point. The point at which I now believe that something much better awaits the social change sector — both the nonprofit leaders with solutions to the challenges we face in our communities, our countries, our planet, and those who fund those solutions.
This journey started for me after the 2016 election when I felt that the country I knew and loved was suddenly very foreign to me. I wrote on the blog about how it brought me to my knees, as I know it did so many of you. And then the subsequent years of relentless assaults on the social change sector I had spent my career trying to bolster. Blow after punishing blow to the many social causes and social change leaders who I knew were simply trying to make the world a more inclusive, more equitable, healthier, kinder place.
So I took a break. I spent four months off of the blog and away from social media and the news. As I recounted when I returned to the blog, I spent that extra time meditating, reading, thinking, searching. I jumped back in at the beginning of 2018, but I still hadn’t figured out what my role was in this new reality. I knew that I wanted to do more, that I wanted to help point a new direction. I witnessed so many of the amazing social changemakers I worked with feeling increasingly beaten down, demoralized, burned out.
And that simply did not sit well with me. You social change leaders are among the best of us. You deserve more, and the solutions you offer the world definitely require so much more.
I spent 2018 and 2019 continuing my search. How could I help change this brokenness I saw all around me? How could I contribute in a bigger way to a fundamental shift in how we invest in, connect, support, and empower social change efforts?
This past November it started to crystalize in my mind. I took to my computer, and the book poured out of me. And I realized, as I madly typed, that I was writing this book to myself as much as I was writing it for you, my fellow social change leaders.
I’m always encouraging you as social change leaders to create your Theory of Change — your argument for why your organization exists, what social change you hope to create. So, in this book, I’ve taken my own advice and created my own Theory of Change.
And it is this:
I believe that if we can lay bear the dysfunctions present within the social change sector, which are (to name a few):
- Nonprofit leaders and efforts are not sufficiently valued in our society
- A power imbalance exists between nonprofit leaders and their funders
- Nothing close to enough money is flowing to social change efforts
- Nonprofit leaders are not empowered
- The egos of individuals and organizations get in the way of solutions
- Our social change leaders are overwhelmed and burning out
And if nonprofit leaders can realize that by empowering themselves, embracing an abundance mindset, using money as a social change tool, and marshaling the many people inside and outside their walls, social change will take hold. If we can stop the madness and create an environment where nonprofit leaders fully step into their power, we can actually start solving some of the many challenges we currently face.
That’s my vision. And I deeply, firmly believe in it. Because I’ve seen it happen so many times for so many of my nonprofit clients.
Things have got to change. We can no longer go on as a society that cripples the very leaders and organizations that are here to bring us back to a more connected, loving, healthy world. We have got to start realizing that change is possible.
But we all need to step up and lead that change, myself included. I have made a very conscious decision to stop hiding behind my fear, my anger, my frustration at the world as it is, and instead take a huge leap toward the world I want to help create.
And my role, I have come to realize over these past couple of years, is to fully step into my power as a leader of a new way forward.
So I’m going to start writing and speaking and connecting in this new vein. Over the next several months on this blog I want to help create a space where you amazing social change leaders can find inspiration, discover new paths forward, find fellow travelers. A place where you can come in from the cold and gather ideas, connections, courage to lead us forward. There is a way for you amazing, dedicated, inspiring social change leaders to do your critical work in a way that doesn’t frustrate, demoralize or cripple you.
I hope you’ll join me.
And in addition to my efforts to help lead the social change sector forward as a whole, I will also continue working one-on-one with individual nonprofit leaders and organizations. So, if you want to explore working directly with me to move you and your nonprofit forward, let’s talk.
Photo Credit: rob walsh