Florida Weekly Column

Creating Change Through the Noise (With A Little Help)

Creating Change Through the Noise (With A Little Help)

by Kelsie Ozanne. 2015 Florida Fellow

Lately, I’ve been hearing a lot of noise: fumes tumbling from car exhaust pipes, birds squawking from the treetops, people struggling to over speak the other, and electronic music booming from speakers. So much noise can be overwhelming, and it can mask what really matters. This summer, I’ve learned the importance of focused ambition— how to break away from the noise of people telling me why something won’t work and listening to the people telling me why it can.

As I drove over the white rocks of the Clinic for the Rehabilitation of Wildlife’s driveway, I watched the circulating dust fade and two hurricane-proof buildings appear. A wildlife hospital and visitor center became my home for the summer. My first day was filled with press, sea turtles, baby birds, nametags, new faces and Florida heat. But, beyond all the excitement, I was left with one major hurdle to overcome. How could I make a lasting impression and effect on an already well-established organization in just eight weeks?
Dave Fleming, the Southwest Florida Community Foundation’s strategist, described the answer to my problem beautifully. He said I needed to focus on doing consistent, great work and using emotional intelligence, being not only self-aware but also aware of others, to better myself and those around me.

With this in mind, I’ve went to staff members and asked what they would like me to work on and tried to anticipate what needed improvement. I’ve redesigned programming and presentation descriptions to increase attendance of CROW’s programs; I’ve started a video project recording the interconnectedness of students, volunteers, staff and animals at our organization; I’ve developed messaging for wildlife rescue 101 and conservation medicine; I’ve strived for educating new and younger audiences by starting a CROW activity book.

From where we are now, I’m surprised and proud of how much I’ve already accomplished and how much I still can do. CROW and the foundation’s goals have aligned and created the right mix of strategic storytelling with hands-on development.

By definition, phenomena are supposed to be difficult to understand. But, the phenomenon I’ve experienced this summer isn’t. The Pygmalion effect happens when higher expectations lead to an increase in performance. It is clear to me that the foundation’s acceptance and appreciation for new ideas and open communication is the key component. Ambition isn’t always well received, but in hands of those who want to foster and harness the power of innovation, ambition transforms ideas into reality.

It’s easy to get distracted when surrounded by noise, but I’ve found purpose in this community’s effort to create change. This summer has shaped me into a true change-maker.

In an added effort to assist nonprofits funded by the SWFL Community Foundation this year, the Foundation is hosting four students studying public interest communications at the University of Florida as part of the Foundation’s Florida Fellowship program. Funded by the Al & Nancy Burnett Charitable Foundation, the students are working in three of our nonprofit grantee organizations this summer for an 8-week paid fellowship. For more information on the SWFL Community Foundation, its grants processes or to be part of the change that the grantees are working toward in the region, contact us at [email protected], or call us, we’d love to have a conversation, 239-274-5900.


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