Pop-Up #2: To Create Real Change, You Gotta Shake Things Up

Pop-Up #2: To Create Real Change, You Gotta Shake Things Up

// By Debra Rainey

Creating transformative change often requires doing something different.

You’ve gotta take different approaches; be open to different ideas from new people; collaborate with different people who share your dream; and after thoughtful consideration, forge ahead with dogged resolve to make a difference. And sometimes, with determination, grit, and a little luck, you do.

That was the focus of Upswell Pop-Up #2. People who saw injustice, inequality, human beings in dire need of relief – and plunged ahead to confront those challenges and make a difference with innovative ideas, new bridge-building alliances, and an unflinching commitment to create change.

Pop-Up #2 began with an acknowledgement by Independent Sector President and CEO Dan Cardinali of the deep and multi-facet crisis our nation is experiencing, and our country’s insufficient response to the 400 years of discrimination, hate, and systemic racism. He also led a moment of silence for all who have suffered at the hands of injustice, for the more than 100,000 people we have lot to COVID-19, and for our sector as the heart and conscience of our nation.

He then was joined by Lynne Twist, author of The Soul of Money, for a conversation with Jody Williams, a life-long advocate of freedom, self-determination, and human and civil rights who was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1997 for her groundbreaking work to ban landmines. She also co-founded the Nobel Women’s Initiative, which uses the prestige of the Nobel Peace Prize and six courageous women peace laureates to magnify the power and visibility of women working in countries around the world for peace, justice and equality.

Clearly someone who does not suffer fools gladly, Jody captured our attention and imagination with her story, showcasing how just one person can focus the attention of larger society on tragedies happening around the world – such as the devastating impact to lives and limbs caused by landmines – and propel larger-scale actions to turn human suffering into lasting, transformative change.

So, what does Jody say is needed to successfully lead and collaborate with others to achieve the change you want to see in the world? Here are some key takeaways:

  • Bring who you are to the table. If they don’t like who you are, you don’t belong there.
  • Keep your word; do what you say you will do; don’t do what you say you won’t do.
  • No one person changes the world; the “we” is fundamental for change.
  • Invest in and trust the people in the moment doing the work.

Before closing out this dynamic conversation – far too soon, if the flood of live audience questions was any indication — Dan announced that this was just the start for an even bigger initiative: a new Upswell Nobel Women’s Initiative series. The big idea is that we’ll hold energetic conversations with other women Nobel Peace Prize winners around the world who now work together to spotlight, amplify, and promote the work of grassroots women’s organizations and movements globally.

While Jody’s model of courageous leadership is about putting the focus on others, renowned Pittsburgh artist Fred Fu followed by making a powerful case for looking inward to find the agency to lead in the face of devastating adversity. He constructed a soul-stirring reflection on the challenges we face as a nation.

And then we turned again to making a difference by shaking things up — this time in Illinois. Acutely aware of COVID-19’s devastating impact on families, nonprofits and the structure of the health and human services sector, philanthropy, business leaders, and donors quickly joined forces in an innovative way to create two response funds that raised $60 million in just 30 days and deployed funding to front-line agencies in only one week.

Led by Fred Blackwell, CEO of The San Francisco Foundation and IS Board Vice Chair, the panel shared how their organizations quickly reinvented processes to set up fundraising roundtables, create grant guidelines, and review applications. They also coordinated their fundraising and marketing-communications teams to manage donors and promote availability of the response funds. And Austin Coming Together, a network of more than 50 nonprofit, faith-based, public, and private entities focused on increasing collective impact to improve the quality of life in the Chicago’s Austin community, shared how they quickly utilized the grants they received to help families meet their basic needs during the pandemic.

What does it all mean? Acknowledging the somewhat ironic frame that the heath crisis, in fact, was the catalyst for this collaboration, these are the key takeaways:

  • COVID-19 pulled us into a space for more collaboration. It helped create a unified understanding of the issues and constraints as we work toward solutions.
  • Our communities are stronger because of COVID-19; we have enhanced coordination because have built relationships and trust.
  • This is an “enough is enough” moment. The intensity creates momentum in deeper and more authentic ways. We can’t go back to business as usual.

Whether as an individual who refused to let the eyes of larger society turn away from human tragedy; or a group of organizations that dared to try something new to help community residents weather the impact of COVID-19 – Pop-Up #2 proved that shaking things up is sometimes the only way to get down to the brass tacks of using the power of the sector to make a real difference.

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