“If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.”
This coming Sunday, my colleague Gibran Rivera and I will be presenting at the Connecting for Change Conference (Bioneers by the Bay) in New Bedford, MA. This is one of my favorite events each year, as it gathers many thoughtful and innovative presenters and participants from local/regional and national/international levels to talk about how to create whole (just and sustainable) communities. In our workshop, “Are You Down With D-I-T? Skills for Change in a Network World,” Gibran and I will guide attendees through an exploration of the convergence of two of today’s powerful memes – the DIY (Do It Yourself) movement, which seems to be fueled in great part through younger generations and social media, and “collective impact,” made popular by FSG in its SSIR articles.
DIY might be understood as an economic and political necessity in an age of struggling institutions. More people are taking it upon themselves to carve out niches of creativity and prosperity, not “waiting for superman” to solve all of their problems, and leveraging the technology that makes new ways of working possible (see Seth Godin’s message about education in Gibran’s blog post this week). In addition, there is an excitement around reclaiming a deeper sense of purposefulness in the world through greater autonomy, leading with one’s talents and inclinations, and perhaps some pre-industrial artisanry. One concern that comes up is DIT emphasis on “yourself,” harkening back to what was heard from on high in the 1980s with the end of the social safety net, an abdication of any expectation of public accountability, and what we know to be true in these times, that we need each other perhaps more than ever.
With the rising chorus around collective impact, we see more and more institutional actors coming to the realization that their work requires some systemic focus to be successful and that they cannot do this alone. Many people have also come to appreciate the need to have some kind of new organizing infrastructure, or “backbone,” to make this happen. Some concerns here are that the emphasis can be mainly on formal institutional actors and leadership, at the expense of community engagement and those most affected by the issues we are trying to remedy; on metrics that are easy to track but not necessarily what matters most (such as indicators of structural and systemic change and qualitative values-based metrics); and on orchestrated collaboration at the expense of understanding the value of self-organizing network activity and what happens on the so-called “periphery.”
If we bring the two memes together, we get something like “Do It Together.” At its best, DIT embraces a creative and self-organizing entrepreneurial spirit, and does this with an understanding of who the larger “client” or “customer” is – diverse, resilient, and thriving community and ecosystems (see Carol Sanford for some wonderful thinking on this front). It understands that entrepreneurialism is not purely heroic or an individual endeavor. DIT takes place with an awareness of the interconnected and networked context in which it operates, leveraging the best of organized collaboration (and skillfulness) and leaving space for emergent value-creation. It understands the need to avoid analysis paralysis, the quest for perfection, fear of failure and the unknown. It seeks to move mindfully to action, with good decision-making, and enthusiasm for learning, and seeks to create conditions for shared responsibility.
So are you down with D-I-T? If so, what does it look like? We certainly hope to see some of you on Sunday from 2:00-4:00 PM at the UMass-Dartmouth bookstore in New Bedford!