Here’s part two of the interview with Hildy Gottlieb, author of the book The Pollyanna Principles. The book launch is occurring all week. Feel free to checkout more on her website, www.hildygottlieb.com.
Q: The future is the book’s primary focus. In fact, the future appears on the book cover, the promotional materials, and throughout the book. Why are you so focused on the future?
Well for starters, we cannot change the past nor the present. The only thing we have control over is the future. That’s where our power lies. Whether that future is next month or next year or 50 years from now, everyday we have this great opportunity to create the future we want for our kids and our grandkids–and for ourselves!
Think about it–the present is simply the result of actions taken in the past. In other words, today WAS the future, before it became today. We were creating the future a year ago and ten years ago. Our actions back then created our current circumstances!
So we have the choice, right now–do we want to lament the present and focus all our efforts there? Or do we want to take control of the only thing we do have control over–creating a healthier, more vibrant, more humane future?
Q: What about the present? This time of recession (even depression) and resulting decreases in funding seem to threaten most of us in the field. How do we survive to do great work in the future?
The most productive way of dealing with today’s problems is to acknowledge that the present is not just a matter of reacting to an onslaught of circumstances created by our past actions. The present is also simultaneously creating the future. That’s not airy-fairy mumbo jumbo–it’s just a plain fact.
That leaves two choices. We can choose to focus almost exclusively on the survival of our organizations. In that mode, we will make each decision by putting our own organization first, and everything else second.
Clearly this does not bode well for the reason our organizations exist–to make our communities as strong as possible. These days, I’m hearing a lot of people say, “We have to cut services. The community will understand...”
Is that really the best we can do? When times are tough, our communities need us MORE, not less. What kind of Community Benefit Organization has as its mission, “We will serve the community, as long as times are good”?
So we can choose to hold ourselves primarily accountable for our own organization’s survival, or we can choose to hold ourselves primarily accountable for making our communities as strong as they can be.
When we focus on the question, “What is best for our community in the next month, or 12 months?” we come up with a set of answers that weren’t even on the table when we were only thinking of ourselves. One of those answers will include, “Our organizations must be strong,” but it will not be the only focus by far.
Focusing on building the future of our communities, we will work with other organizations towards common community-driven goals. We will tap into our collective strengths. We will build the collective capacity of all those groups.
So we have the choice–will we be victims of today’s circumstances or leaders for creating a better tomorrow for our communities? As leaders, what will we hold ourselves accountable for? As leaders, what tomorrow will we work to create? As leaders, how will we help others find their own strengths?
Those are questions that give us back our power and control. We build organizational strength while simultaneously building community strength. And all this happens while we are consciously creating the future we want for our communities, rather than looking back in 12 months and wishing we had done so!
Q: What people and organizations do you think will gain the quickest results from using the principles?
Really the answer is anyone. We have seen individual organizations accomplish mind-blowing community change, simply because they made the conscious choice to do so, and then took practical steps to make it so.
As soon as we decide we will aim our work at what is possible for the community, we immediately begin reaching out to others, building collective community capacity. We build an army for change, and it happens.
Q: Your past work includes starting the world’s first-ever diaper bank. Many people probably would say you’re unconventional. How were you able to turn your unconventionality into an asset rather than a liability?
Wow–it never occurred to me until your question that anyone would consider it a liability! My business partner, Dimitri, and I have always just seen what needed to be done, and then done it. It’s entirely a practical approach to life–it’s probably why we were so good at business turnaround!
With the Diaper Bank, we learned that no government safety net provides diapers, and yet diapers could stop a mom from getting a job, because daycare centers don’t provide diapers. A lack of adult supplies could turn an otherwise healthy older person into a recluse. A lack of clean diapers led to child abuse. The stories were horrible. If you know how to fix that, how could you not do so?
The Community-Driven Institute is the same. We have found an approach that creates significant, visionary change in communities, that mostly just requires we rethink and adjust the work we are all already doing. How could we do anything but share that with whomever will listen?
Q: Where should readers go for more information about implementing the Pollyanna Principles, particularly for sources beyond the book?
A lot of the resources we have for folks are free, because again, our goal is that people put these principles into action. In addition to the workbooks we have produced, there is a channel at YouTube with a series of videos, all of which is obviously free: http://www.youtube.com/pollyannaprinciples.
There is also good discussion beginning to brew at the Community-Driven Institute group at Facebook. And I am on Twitter way too much, with good discussion happening there as well. We know that as we change the way we see things in this sector, that will require a supportive and encouraging ongoing learning environment, and so those social media discussions are a vital piece in this work.
We also have begun teaching consultants how to focus their work on helping their clients create more significant community change. The curriculum for the Institute’s Consultant Education Program is here: http://help4nonprofits.com/ConsultantsEducation/ConsultantEducationCurriculum.htm.
We are hosting a free 90-minute Introduction to Community-Driven Consulting teleclass this Thursday at 1pm EDT, again to get people thinking differently about their work.
Paul Bachleitner is a communications, marketing, and development consultant. He has over nine years of experience working in communications and development in the nonprofit and philanthropic sector and over 11 years of professional communications experience. His current clients include Diversity in Philanthropy and the Marginalized Males Funders Group (MMFG). He has worked for and served the Minneapolis and St. Paul foundations and participated as a national leadership fellow during 2006-2007 with the Association of Black Foundation Executives (ABFE). More information about him is available at his website, www.bachwriter.com. Feel free to contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.