I just spent four days at the Whidbey Institute at an invitational gathering dedicated to “actively engaging people in shifting the catastrophic course humanity is currently on.” I was uncertain what to expect. Rick Ingrassi and Peggy Taylor organized the event beautifully to allow a mix of new ideas, deep conversations, art and laughter. We enjoyed picturesque winter weather as we gathered around the heath and over delicious meals to discuss how to achieve a better future. The emphasis was on learning from and being inspired by the amazing work already going on, discernment of what is needed next, and support and community building.
I was inspired by hearing directly social innovators such as Chris Jordan (visual artist known for his “By the Numbers” series), Jason McLennan (founder the Living Building Challenge and author of Zugunruhe), Joshua Gorman (founder of Generation Waking Up).
One of the things on my mind entering the conference was this: many believe we are in a time of profound change, where our “old economy” institutions are failing us and need wholesale replacement. My hunch is that there is some truth in this, and I wonder what it means for our nonprofit organizations. Can they evolve, or will there need to be a process in which new types of organizations emerge and old ones fall away?
It was very helpful to talk with several people who are not playing by the old rulebook, and have been able to accomplish some very interesting things. I was particularly struck with Joe Brewer’s approach to “crowdfunding” his policy projects rather than relying on traditional funding channels.
I also learned about new ways of sparking and organizing collaboration from Leif Utne of ?Zanby. They facilitate online community in a way that allows for different groups to collaborate and organize without losing list privacy and brand identification, a very practical approach to overcoming several common fears around collaboration among nonprofits.
There were many good ideas to ponder. I came away with an expanded sense of possibility, and curiosity about what may be possible breaking out of traditional boxes. I also feel it is not an either/or proposition. I agree with Heifetz, Grashow and Linsky in Leadership in a Permanent Crisis that “Executives today… must develop “next practices” while excelling at today’s best practices.”
It was a pleasure to get an inkling of what some of these “next practices” might look like at the WWG. Stay tuned!