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When art meets social change #CultureOfPhilanthropy

December 21, 2016

 

In the theatre, we always worked in ensemble. 

 

Taking risks, building connections, discovering possibility and unleashing the potential of humanity to tell a necessary story. Moving together, towards a common objective, we always understood the need for us each to transform individually as well as collectively if we were to achieve our goal.

It is with this same ensemble-based approach to creating art, we should also create capacity. 

 

Now, more than ever, we need to connect & collaborate. 

 

Today, I spent the day with Little Kids Rock in New Jersey. I sat in a room full of 'artivists' (my new favorite word for describing the artist/activist). Surrounded by development staff, administration assistants, program people and a visionary founder, I asked, "how do we choreograph the scaling of this organization? How does it become the work of art that we need it to be, if we desire the full visionary picture we can see on the horizon?

 

What will be required of this ensemble to execute this?" 

 

They answered. There were the 'normal answers', we hear often in the non-profit world. "Execute a powerful strategic plan" and "craft compelling messaging" and lastly, "place an emphasis on relationship building". 

 

I agreed with them all, smiling warmly back at these enthusiastic artivists. 

 

"Of course," I said, "but to do all these tasks well and with the grace that building capacity so often requires of us... I would like to have us all practice RESONANCE** before we think about executing that strategic plan." 

 

In that moment , I realized that I may have thrown this high-energy, dynamic bunch for a loop but I kept moving forward. 

 

"Let's practice listening, shall we?" I asked this with no idea of the reply and yet they then sat for the next hour, in pairs, soft expressions on their faces, practicing resonance. 

 

I walked throughout the room listening intently to each individual sharing all the ways in which what he/she was being brought closer to the person sitting next to them throughout the activity. There was no judgement, no self association, no asking questions, no advice given. 

 

The room felt powerful, spiritual, human. 

 

As we concluded, I shared after how important it was for this team, as a whole, to practice resonance frequently. They agreed. Feedback rolled in as to how much they realized they missed by not truly hearing each other in their day-to-day interactions and, how they must also learn to listen well with the organization's donors and partners.

 

One young man, from programs, approached me during the break, eager and said, "I realize now I was listening without really hearing what our development team needs from me to be successful. I always kinda felt as if they were just trying to add to my to-do list. I didn't ever hear how much they needed me to do this with them to make it last." 

 

Lasting change. 

 

That's why we are all in this, right? To create lasting, beautiful, systemic change. It will be what we artfully & thoughtfully design for our children, ourselves, our Earth, for all of humanity. If we can only learn to truly hear each other and learn to love this simple skill with which we can delicately master the art of sustaining social change.

 

**Resonance directly connects us to our vulnerability & empathy. These two deep and important characteristics are the hallmarks of a successful Culture of Philanthropy.

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