Signs of Hope 2017

It might seem that turbulent times and times of hope cannot co-exist. At times that may be true. And yet, they can take place in tandem. Change and turbulence are always present, some eras seem to be more turbulent than others. Hope for a better future continues even when things are difficult. In fact, it’s that hope that allows us to create the better world that allows us to be better humans (Solnit, 2016).  There were some signs of hope even during this difficult past year.

Here are just three of 2017’s signs of hope:

Hope through Connection: In July, I had the honor of facilitating a workshop as part of a Catonsville Cooperative Market’s potluck dinner. We shared a meal, and then we shared hope and inspiration. One of the women who attended said, “I didn’t know what to expect, and I was amazed that I found myself speaking so openly and emotionally with a group of people I really don’t know that well. It was such a great conversation! I left feeling invigorated and full of possibility.”

Hope through Activism: Hope leads to action and action strengthens hope.  In the wake of our presidential election I have attended protests and rallies, stayed in constant communication with my legislators, written an op-ed for the Baltimore Sun, collaborated with Kerra Bolton to offer a workshop that integrated personal development and building activism,  and continued community volunteer work.

Hope through Healing: I spent much of 2017 completing and recovering from breast cancer treatment. As I emerged from this process, which began in 2016, my husband called one morning to tell me he was on his way to the emergency room. He expected he’d be admitted and get a pacemaker.

There was no time to panic, only to cope. It was afterwards that we processed what had happened and reflected on how we can view what’s happened to us this year. Seen one way, it was a story of a terrible year. We both contended with major health challenges. Yet the year’s story is also one of hope. We  discovered that around us and within us, we have the resources we need. Despite the threat we both experienced, we have every reason to expect a healthy future for many years to come.

There have been so many other signs of hope this year. I found some in solitude as I walked, biked, read, and reflected. I discovered others in connections with family, colleagues, friends and clients. I will remember to see signs hope in 2018 and in the years ahead.

Solitude and Collaboration – Signs of Hope for 2018

Movements and personal dreams don’t grow in isolation.

~ Jeffrey Davis 

In the third week of Quest 2018 we consider what solitude and collaboration mean to us as creatives, business leaders, and entrepreneurs seeking to do business as unusual.

This week’s roundtable discussion with Jeffrey Davis and Visionary Leaders Pamela Slim and Leo Barbauta revolved around solitude and collaboration.

Their discussion emphasized that making time to be alone is not about isolation; nor is it something that’s just for introverts. It is time for us to think our own thoughts, to stir our own wonder and creativity, and to bring what we discover forward into our connections with others.

Collaboration – An Unnatural Act?

In the 1990’s I was still working in Pittsburgh PA ’s nonprofit community. A number of our leading funders jumped on the collaboration bandwagon. They scolded agencies for being competitive and “working in silos.” They offered substantial funding that would be available only if we formed and actively participated in their version of community collaboratives.

Though the initiative eventually foundered due to it’s design problems, the funders were correct in identifying the issues created by competition among nonprofits. This competition exists because of how nonprofits are funded. Government dollars are restricted to specific populations and activities. Foundations change priorities every year. Private donors often choose to limit the ways their contributions can be spent. Few funders are willing to cost the true costs of overhead, grants and contracts are typically short term and private donations are unpredictable.

This is a huge topic and one I don’t want to digress into. Not more than I already have, anyway! If you’d like to read more on this topic, check out this and other thoughtful posts from Nonprofit AF. I’ll conclude these thoughts by saying that the realities of funding have everything to do with nonprofit competition for dollars that is in the end harmful to agencies and those they serve.

While there’s much to be said for collaboration, the “collaborate or else” approach leads to a fair amount of resistance. At one local conference back in the late 1990’s, there was a lot of laughter when a speaker described collaboration as an unnatural act between unconsenting adults.

But collaboration shouldn’t be forced. In fact that sets up the collaborations to fail.

When entered into by choice, and built on trust and respect, collaboration is productive, stimulating, robust and creative. At it’s best collaboration’s results are a greater and stronger whole than any individual could create.

Based on their extensive experiences, Jeffrey, Pamela and Leo describe successful collaboration this way:

There’s deep communication
The work is based on a shared purpose
Everyone is excited – everyone wants to play
There’s community – you’re part of something larger than yourself
There’s acceptance, mutual love and respect
The workload is shared
You inspire each other
Each person is motivated to do their best.
There’s a willingness to be direct.
Different experiences and perspectives are shared.
There’s an openness to learning from diverse experiences.
You can change others’ thinking, and you are willing to be changed.
You’re willing to let go of some of your ideas.

Now this is the kind of collaboration I love being part of!

I’m committing to 2018 as a year for shaping creative solitude and participating in successful collaborations as #signsofhope for a meaningful and successful year ahead.

Quest 2018 – Week 3’s Prompts

Leo asks us:

How can you challenge yourself to carve out separate blocks each day for solitude? What new or modified daily habit will help you do so? Whom can you call upon to help you cultivate this habit?

When you’re in your solitude block, notice your resistance and relax into it.

Pam’s question is:

What kind of collaboration is the most fulfilling for your creative growth? What one project or goal this year could benefit from your pursuing that kind of collaboration? What will you do on a monthly basis to pursue that kind of collaboration? With whom possibly?

Committing to Shaping Solitude

In 2018 I commit to consciously shaping time for creative solitude that allows me to think intuitively and openly. Leo’s prompt reminds me not to allow myself to get so busy with completing tasks that I fail to hold the needed time for reflection, wonder and creativity.

Committing to Successful Collaboration

I commit to continuing current collaborations, which, as I think about them both, have at their core bringing my experience in promoting resilience and hope together combined with the expertise of those working to build and strengthen their own and others’ activism.

I will remain open to learning from others and committed to sharing what I have learned over the years.

I am a solopreneur who chooses the simplicity and flexibility of running a one-person business. By nature it’s comfortable for me to spend a lot of time of my own, and by structure, that is what I do. Yet my business — and I — need both solitude and collaboration to thrive.

These commitments create #signsofhope for the coming year. Keeping them will be gifts to me, gifts to colleagues and gifts to those I serve.

References and Sources

Solnit, R. (2016). Hope in the dark. Chicago, IL: Haymarket Books

Photo: Death to Stock Photos

Many Ways to Quest

See what some of the other members of the Quest 2018 pack are saying!

Kelsey Blackwell – Week #3: Solitude and Collaboration

Alicia K. Anderson: What Does an Introvert’s Network Look Like?

Jamie Hanson: The 2 Solitude Collaboration Instigations

Barbara Buckner Suárez: #SolitudeCollaboration 

Suzi Banks Baum’s Instagram post

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