Honor the work, and the work will honor you.

—Omowale Satterwhite

If you are passionate about bringing positive change to the world, you’ve probably reflected on ways to have a deeper impact. I’ve spoken with many people who love what they do, yet question the way they are doing the work or wonder what result it will ultimately have.

Such thoughts are often not about ego, but about an genuine desire to make the organizations and places where we live, work and play healthier. The work of inspiring change and making a difference is ancient work—as a species we yearn for progress and for improvement, though we might have very different perspectives on what that means.

In the realm of sustainability and social change, I’ve worked with some of the most authentic, generous and talented people I’ve ever met. But those skills alone don’t make our work last, they don’t get us where we are hoping to go. As an example, just yesterday, I had an experience with two colleagues which made me realize that I needed to ask different and more powerful questions to frame a current project.

I’ve learned a great deal from colleagues, and also from elders in the field like Omowale Satterwhite, who started the National Community Development Institute, and encourages community leaders and capacity builders to “honor the work” that they do.

We are always challenged to respond to complexity and to changing circumstances—whether working on new policies, building communities, or giving voice to people and places who often go unheard and unheeded. But HOW are we doing that—and do our methods result in working in healthy, effective ways to make the impact we envision?

Reflecting on this question, and surfacing ways we can be more effective is at the root of the Transforming the Work Initiative. With Raquel Gutierrez of One Tree Many Seeds, DIG IN invites change agents, community builders, and social entrepreneurs across sectors to participate in a conversation that you shape. We’d like to share successes, address challenges, and create practices that help those engaged in social change work in healthier ways over the long haul to make a more transformative and profound impact.

This initiative is informed by and recognizes the inspirational work in this arena done by organizations such as NCDI, stone circles, the Leadership Learning Community, and the Movement Strategy Center, among many others committed to transformational social change.

FEATURED RESOURCE: Transforming the Work

The Transforming the Work initiative relies upon your input and I invite you to join us in participating in a few different ways:

  • Join our monthly calls—beginning April 6—on the first Friday of every month at 9:30 AM Pacific for one hour (760-569-9000, 160031#); we’ll share and discuss new approaches to sustainability and social change work
  • Join our Facebook Group to post questions, ideas and resources related to this topic
  • Contact us about regional practice groups in the SF Bay Area or in Greater Phoenix (or start/connect us with one of your own!)
  • Let us know if you are interested in a longer retreat with other change agents to explore transformative practice—we have four day retreats scheduled in California this September, in Arizona in February 2013, and on the East Coast in August of 2013

FEATURED POEM: For a New Beginning by John O’Donohue

As part of a new feature this year, I’m including a poem related to the month’s theme. John O’Donohue was an Irish poet and mystic who wrote beautifully and profoundly of the power of transformation—both personal and societal.

You can read the poem below, and feel free to listen to an inspiring interview with John O’Donohue here.

For a New Beginning

In out-of-the-way places of the heart,

Where your thoughts never think to wander,

This beginning has quietly been forming,

Waiting until you were ready to emerge.

For a long time it has watched your desire,

Feeling the emptiness growing inside you,

Noticing how you willed yourself on,

Still unable to leave what you had outgrown.

It watched you play with the seduction of safety

And the gray promises that sameness whispered,

Heard the waves of turmoil rise and relent,

Wondering would you always live like this.

Then the delight, when your courage kindled,

And out you stepped onto new ground,

Your eyes young again with energy and dream,

A path of plenitude opening before you.

Though your destination is not yet clear

You can trust the promise of this opening;

Unfurl yourself into the grace of beginning

That is at one with your life’s desire.

Awaken your spirit to adventure;

Hold nothing back, learn to find ease in risk;

Soon you will be home in a new rhythm,

For your soul senses the world that awaits you.

                                                                              -John O’Donohue

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