Speaking the Future: If Not You, Who?

What should we do as members of the nonprofit sector to assess the impact of this election on the sector’s future well-being? What should we pay attention to as we try to figure out what the election means for the landscape of ideas in which we operate, the work that we do, and the goals that we strive to achieve? How are we to think of our roles in bringing communities together to improve outcomes for all people, protect habitats, and make the world a more peaceful place? How can we continue to lead organizations with long histories that transcend presidents and parties to successfully provide services? The current context is fraught with both peril and puzzle.

So write Nat Kendall-Taylor and Susan Nall Bales in their masterful article on “Your Nonprofit’s Role in Reframing the Post-Election Discourse.” In it, they remind us of the awesome power of the way we talk. Take the time to read it—really read it—and you will likely find yourself, as I did, stopping now and then to think about your own ways of speaking to the world as it is, post-election.

The fight between different ways of seeing the world is never entirely won and done, and…

So, what are nonprofits to do going into 2017? For starters, if we want smarter citizens, we must promote better explanations of how the world works. This is not about slogans or niche marketing. It requires real community conversations about the nature of the problems that confront us and our options in addressing them. Those conversations will likely begin in problem mode, so they require significant reframing if people are to be able to enlist slow thinking and train it on solutions. This has been the fallacy of community convenings and deliberative democracy efforts that ignore the cognitive sciences in favor of a “truth will set them free” approach. Perceptions of the truth are frame dependent. It falls to those of us who want to work with our neighbors, coworkers, and all whose fate we share to figure out how to get us back into the commons and reasoning together. Remind people of the values they hold for their communities, of the places they want their children and grandchildren to enjoy, of the institutions that have served people well in the past, and of the responsibility we share in building well-being for all Americans. In true American fashion, there will be hundreds of imagined Americas that result from that thinking as we experiment with various ways to bring it about.

This is our gift to you this week. Share it around among your networks, with your board, among colleagues. USE it!