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CAUSE & EFFECT: Let’s Do Our Change-Making Homework

CAUSE & EFFECT: Let’s Do Our Change-Making Homework

The low hum of homework grumbling has been a backdrop of my life for a least 20 years.  On the journey of raising three kids, there are bound to be moments of both mild and extreme coursework stress and belly aching.

In our house we have a saying, “I don’t want to, but I got to” that we apply when mundane or challenging tasks are facing us.  We have tried to instill in our kids that life is full of both inspiring, exciting moments and the less compelling times that require grit and perseverance.

I recall my own struggles with homework blues and the exhilaration of reaching a point in which what I was learning didn’t feel like work because I cared about the subject matter so deeply.

Recently I took part in some professional training that required about five hours of homework.  The content included videos, reading assignments and case studies.  The work was a prerequisite to participate in a day long learning community focused on creating the impossible and dreaming big about possibilities in community change making.

My fellow attendees were board members of nonprofit organizations in our region, so the content did not center around their “day jobs,” but rather their volunteer roles visioning and caring for causes close to their heart.  The Southwest Florida Community Foundation is dedicated to walking alongside both nonprofit executives and their boards to support and encourage their work.

I was excited about the prospect of spending an entire day with a group of people who had prepared diligently to discuss untapped potential and possibilities for change in our region.  How often do we set aside this type of bandwidth for learning and dialogue in the non profit world?

A few days before the training, I began to hear the rumble. It was the homework grumble.  Some folks withdrew from the day, while others reached out to ask if I understood what type of time commitment was required.  These are compassionate, intelligent, dedicated people who volunteer their time to making our community a better place and were willing to dedicate a springtime Saturday to the organizations and causes they care about. This full day was a follow up to a day they had spent together in the fall.  Clearly, they were engaged.  Those I spoke with were open to doing the extra work but were concerned they had not set aside enough time to get it done along with their other work and personal responsibilities.

This got me thinking. Do we intentionally set aside time to read, think, study and plan impact and possibilities for the causes we care about?   Do our organizations know how to create the bandwidth for these kinds of discussions?  How many of us have been in nonprofit board meetings whose primary goal is finishing in one hour?  That may be a sign that additional time needs to be dedicated, outside of the meeting to vision, learn, plan, work and dream together.

If we look back on the moments in history that created impact for our society, we will find that decades were spent getting to those groundbreaking change making events.  We risk the tendency to romanticize these moments because we focus on the results and not the work and dedication that got us there.  A great example is the space program and what it took to fulfill President Kennedy’s dream of  getting a man to the moon and back safely.  The spacesuit design alone took years and multiple failures.

The time spent prepping for the Saturday course and the day itself provided time, space and a sense of shared commitment to creating possibilities for impact, imagining the impossible and an expression of love for our community.  The group committed to continuing to create the needed bandwidth for this type of work, and will continue to meet monthly to support one another, in addition to the conversations that will take place around our board tables and with the people we serve.

If we want to see the big possibilities happen in our communities, we need to do our homework.

The Southwest Florida Community Foundation, founded in 1976, cultivates regional change for the common good through collective leadership, social innovation and philanthropy to address the evolving community needs in Lee, Collier, Charlotte, Hendry and Glades counties. The Foundation partners with individuals, families and corporations who have created more than 400 philanthropic funds. Thanks to them, the Foundation invested $6.8 million in grants and programs to the community. With assets of more than $126 million, it has provided $78.2 million in grants and scholarships to the communities it serves since inception. The Foundation is the backbone organization for the regional FutureMakers Coalition and Lee County’s Sustainability Plan. The Southwest Florida Community Foundation’s regional headquarters are now located in the historic ACL Train Depot at Collaboratory in downtown Fort Myers, with a satellite office located in LaBelle (Hendry County). For more information, call 239-274-5900 or visit









Sarah Owen
Sarah Owen

Sarah Owen, President & CEO of the Southwest Florida Community Foundation, leads a passionate and diverse team dedicated to driving regional change for the common good. The Foundation is committed to engaging the community in conversations and action that creates sustainable positive change and provides the funding to make those changes a reality. More