A BIGGER BOX FOR DOING GOOD
I’m indebted to a new book for these thoughts. I hope I’m not plagiarizing but here’s the thoughts I have as I read Forces for Good, by Leslie Crutchfield and Heather Grant:
One of the “big issues” that makes up my thinking as I write each week is related to the principle stated on p. 19 of this remarkable book: “greatness has more to do with how nonprofits work outside the boundaries of their organizations than how they manage their own internal operations.”
I’m concerned with how not-for-profit organizations think – not how they operate. For the past 13 years, since 1999 when I left my last full-time job for “retirement”, I’ve been trying to think inside the box. I’m now 70. If I live as long as my father did, I have 20 years to go. Thinking outside-the-box means literally starting over for me. Frankly, I ain’t got time for that kind of start over! Thinking inside the box means using all of what I’ve learned, including from all the mistakes I’ve made, to empower those who will come after me to create more efficient, effective ways of doing the work I care about. Inside-the-box thinking lets me use what I’ve learned, what I’ve experienced, what has worked and what hasn’t, to enlarge my ability to change the things I need to change in my world. I think that kind of thinking can change things for others as well – maybe even you, my reader.
Think about it. As you get older, your ability to DO things diminishes. At the same time, your ability to AFFECT what gets done after you’re gone increases. THE THINGS THAT NEED DOING STAY THE SAME. You and I (the older folks) have learned stuff. We’ve had experiences – some good and helpful, some not-so-good and not-so-helpful. We’ve discovered things about helping and doing good that we didn’t expect would have the impact we thought they would have. Some of those impacts have been results we are not particularly proud of. Agreed?
Here’s my point. Greatness (to restate the premise of the Crutchfield/Grant research) has more to do with what nonprofit entrepreneurs do with what they’ve learn from their experiences and are able to pass on to others (including future generations) than how they actually operate their internal operations in real time. What you and I do with the last decades of our experience needs to change things for those who will succeed us. Thinking inside the box (not outside it) allows us to pass on what we’ve learned. It also encourages our kids – those who follow us – to see the future through the lens of the past. The new will come. We won’t recognize it. The past will enlighten. We dare not lose it.