Wednesday, July 28, 2010


I've been taking my sweet time writing about the various organizations that I've talked with down here in the south. Mostly because I feel I need a few days to reflect before I jump in with any thoughts or criticisms, but brain does not function in weather that is hotter than 90 degrees. I don't remember the last time it was less than 95 degrees and humid. Like walking into a shower, only instead of's sweat, and it's not refreshing. Since there is no cooler weather in the future, I will attempt to describe the orgs I have visited, but you'll have to excuse my half-formed thoughts...

Right before staying at The Farm, we drove to Hohenwald, TN to meet up with a woman who started the Center for Holisitc Ecology (CHE). Unfortunately we were unable to meet person to person, but I had a good phone conversation instead. From what I learned about CHE, the few things that I took away with me were:

1. Do not take on huge projects alone. You can be the coolest, most ambitious, super hard working person EVER, but without major will be the end of you, and ultimately the end of the organization you put so much time into. The woman who I spoke with has started most of the projects run by CHE and it is up to her to find the funding, do the ideas work, do everything promotion-wise, and STILL teach at Gaia University, the other endeavor she is a major player in. Sure, there are other people on staff, but only until September...then what? Instead of enjoying your life AND making a major impact, it would seem that neither can function well...stress and little sleep seems what you'd be signing up for.

2. Decide: Global? National? Local? An organization can be all three. It is really important though to maintain an organized structure, and if the organization is pretty global, there must be strateges in place for how to connect on a local level within a community you're working in. Reading about orgs making large impacts, one of the suggestions was to make the volunteers and the people who are cheerleaders for the organization feel like they are wanted. When others are convinced of what you're trying to acomplish, it is that much easier to convince local leaders that you are doing good wouldn't have a lot of cheerleaders if you weren't well intentioned. I have become interested in organizations' sizes and am curious how EDs manage larger, more national/global organizations. I can barely handle keeping in contact with a handful of people, let alone a whole world! My worry is that big organizations, while they may have more capacity to help and often can make larger impacts, end up being really impersonal. But...impersonal for who? Perhaps the local chapter of an org has a good relationship with that specific community and people involved on both sides of the help feel completely engaged! Maybe it just ends up that the ED and the staff in the big national office are the ones who lose out on that personal interaction...

3. I am still interested in this idea of the role that women play in the green movement. The idea of the 7 sisters program started by CHE is all about telling the stories of inspiring women in the green movement. The hope is that other women reading these stories will be inspired to become engaged...but...who will read these stories? And stories are stories...not money for you, not a job, not a real life experience that makes you feel empowered, etc. I need to brainstorm what sort of program would work for me, make a bigger impact, etc.

4. Find an income generator! CHE conducts permaculture classes and makes other money somehow through grants, but hearing of their financial struggles in funding staff I immediately began thinking...couldn't they start selling the stuff produced at their permaculture farm? Couldn't there be a consulting/building component for strawbale housing or for even landscaping using permaculture techniques? I know the org is all about education, but there must be something that makes money...

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