From Anger to Love

When we feel angry, we may also feel disconnected and stuck. As we come into awareness of this anger, we start to loosen up and open up. Things start to fall into place. Angst is the process of transforming anger into passion. Throughout this process, we continue opening up and aligning our life pieces. Ultimately, we find love in our hearts. We are free and wholly integrated.

At any moment in time, we can be in multiple parts of this chart depending on our interpretation of our experience, our perceived options, and our perceived capacity to change. Right now, I am writing this blog out of a place of pure love, integration, and freedom. Yet, I am living in a place where I am in the movement phase. It is much easier to change our inner countenance than our outer material reality; however, they are interconnected. By continuing to act with love, I will ultimately find the place to which I am going. In my lifetime, I hope to align and integrate all aspects of my inner and outer life having fully explored the possibilities and choosing what is best for me.

The Privatization Equation

There is an ongoing movement in Pennsylvania to publicly fund private schools. Like other organizations, such as hospitals and the emerging fourth sector, for-profit organizations are touted as more efficient – and more effective – than their nonprofit counterparts.

I am not able to intellectually process the efficiency argument. I envision the expenses of each entity as follows:

Business expenses = costs + all taxes + profit

Nonprofit expenses = costs + payroll taxes

From my perspective, the nonprofit expenses are by default much lower than those of business. Perhaps I am missing something.

In my experience, nonprofit – or community benefit – organizations are also more effective in the delivery of public and community services. Community benefit organizations are driven by community need. Businesses, particularly those that are shareholder owned, are driven by making profits. Isn’t that a distraction?

Let’s look at a personal example. The Fruition Coalition is a social enterprise; a for-profit organization. When I first started the organization in 2001, I toyed with the idea of creating a nonprofit organization. Lacking scale and the technological capacity that is available today, it seemed simpler – and less expensive –- to stay a for-profit (although it has yet to be profitable). Today, as the Fruition Coalition is relaunching, I am grateful for this decision. Being a for-profit gives me the latitude to be politically open which is so important to the core of what The Fruition Coalition is all about. In addition, I can cover organizational expenses – including my time – through program service fees. This way, there is no need to compete with nonprofit organizations for limited grant funds. I can also proudly contribute taxes to the things that I value like public education (unfortunately I can’t direct how all of my tax money is spent)! While The Fruition Coalition is technically a for-profit organization, its purpose and activities are fully community-driven.

So, yes, there are times when a for-profit business is a better choice to meet a community need; The Fruition Coalition is just one example. But I believe that this is the exception rather than the rule.

The Leaves

How easily individual leaves are taken for granted

carelessly picked pressed too tightly between the

fingers and thrown away.

We sometimes don’t see the forest for the trees but also the

leaves for the trees.

Each leaf is the promise of life

and is filled with great beauty and

is central to our ecosystem.

Leaves need the trees, the trees need

the soil, the soil needs

the sun, the sun needs

the air, the air needs

the trees, the trees need

the leaves.

Charting the Organization

In an organizational behavior class last year, we were given an assignment to create an organizational chart for our place of work. I created the following chart to represent how I saw the structure of the organization.

At the time, I was working at a social service/education agency serving both children and families. I felt that program participants were at the center of the organization; everything that we did as an organization was centered on their needs. I therefore represented them as a large circle that overwhelmed the entire diagram. Surrounding the program participants was another circle representing the larger community; this includes foundations, neighbors, elected officials, etc. The executive director (me) was at the periphery of the program participants and community circles, holding everything together. That position was also connected to the board of directors and program coordinators (who were supervised by me). Direct line staff were placed next to the program coordinators as a link to the people served.

I would love to see how creative organizational designs or representations. Please share them with me and other blog readers!

Changemaker Chat – Kevin Easterling

Kevin Easterling is a native of the Lehigh Valley. As executive director of the Martin Luther & Coretta Scott King Memorial Project of the Lehigh Valley Inc., he coordinated the construction of the only memorial in the world dedicated to Dr. King and his wife Coretta Scott King

How did you first become interested in social change?

Well, as a Black man and descendant of American Slaves, born and living in America, (Specifically the Lehigh Valley) my life experiences (and love of true history) has made it most important that I be engaged in what is now termed social change. If I had to pick a defining point however, I would say the first time I knew I was classified as different was when I moved to Allentown in the mid 70’s…the Allentown School District at that time still had the integrated busing system and I was required to (because I was Black and I lived in a certain neighborhood) attend an all white elementary school across town. It was part of the school integration laws in those days. My experiences back then as a child ingrained in me that things needed to be different.  I couldn’t put my finger on it back then but I knew something had to change.

How do you define social justice?

The abolition of American Chattel Slavery and South African Apartheid, the American Freedom Movement / Civil Rights Movement, pretty much defines the need for and definition of social justice for me. The need to change laws, institutions and economic inequalities that make a certain social, ethnic or economic class of people unequal or second class citizens to other human beings.

What has been your most exciting experience as an activist?

I’ve never considered myself an activist…it seems like when you’re engaged as a Black man, people (or the Press) often label you as an activist. I’ve pretty much somewhere down the line gained a self-empowering attitude for much of my life. Life in itself is exciting when I’m engaged. In my life time though, I had the experience of observing several major world and local changes that were exciting to me…a few that stick out are the fall of Apartheid in South Africa, (Nelson Mandela becoming president), Obama becoming the first Black president. While I wasn’t directly involved in these two events they were very exciting to me.

(Note: This raises an interesting point…what is an activist? What is activism? This is a great conversation starter for local communities! – Editor)

What is the most interesting project in which you are currently involved?

There are several, but if I had to pick one I would have to say the work I’m doing now as the executive director for the Martin Luther & Coretta Scott King Memorial Project of the Lehigh Valley.

What is your vision for a better world?

People have been so conditioned by the rich and powerful that they have settled for injustice because they don’t feel like they can make the world different. The capacity for moral outrage is in much deficit all over the world. A better world will come when all of man-kind understands how we are all connected. There is enough fruit and wealth for everyone on this planet… senseless war and greed has crippled this planet. Remove these two things and things could be a lot better for the world.

What are your plans for the future?

Not sure yet.

My American Dream

People don’t deserve good jobs; we all deserve a meaningful vocation.

People don’t deserve affordable housing; we all deserve a lovely home.

People don’t deserve adequate nutrition; we all deserve plentiful healthy, whole foods.

People don’t deserve access to health insurance; we all deserve radiant health.

People don’t deserve a subsistence income; we all deserve a sustainable and harmonious lifestyle.

The Illogical Model

Yesterday I posted a logic model for the progressive macromovement. I truly do see value in using logic models to think through our intentions and goals. Yet, we live in an illogical world where there is constant change and uncertainty. An illogical world calls for an illogical model to complement the standard logic model.

The illogical model suggests that we focus on those areas where we do have control, given that we live in a dynamic and uncertain environment: our values, intentions, and actions. These three areas are interconnected as they influence and/or reinforce each other both intermittently and over time. Our values are the core of who we are and what we believe. These shape our intentions, or our purpose for acting. Our actions are the place where we connect our inner selves with the outer environment, interacting with its intellectual, material, and emotional conditions. Because this environment is fluid and open to interpretation, our interaction with it can lead to both intended and unintended outcomes.

The illogical model forces us to focus our work on the present moment. It does not project what will happen in three, five, or 20 years. It demonstrates that we have the power to change the world by integrating our values, intentions, and actions — right now. By detaching from the outcomes and releasing illusive prediction and control of the environment, we might just realize lovely unimaginable surprises.

Progressive Macromovement Logic Model

A logic model is a visual tool to conceptualize and communicate a program, organization, or initiative from its raw materials to its ultimate ends. I have created a draft of a logic model for the progressive macromovement. Creating this model helped me think through what I see as the ultimate ends of progressive activism and what it will take to get us there. This model is certainly not representative of all people who care about progressive social change; it is heavily biased by my own ideas and values. I would love to see how you envision the progressive macromovement. Please share your logic models with me and other blog readers!

Alpha-Omega Testing

You may have heard of beta testing. This is when software companies share their most recent developments with a select audience to uncover bugs so that they can be fixed before the product’s full release. At this stage, a team of developers has likely already invested a great deal of time conceptualizing, planning, creating, and refining the software. In a wolf pack, the omega wolf is the one who is most often hurt and excluded yet creates harmony within the group; she or he is submissive and may stray from the pack.

I like to think of this blog as an alpha test for ideas. This is a space where I share my somewhat moderated thoughts and ideas so that they can be collectively thought through and tested. I do so with an omega spirit. Opening up myself in such a way requires humility, vulnerability, and risk of ridicule.