Stepping outside to look inside

December 19, 2014

One could argue that change rarely happens when we are completely comfortable. When I am operating at my best, I am consciously placing at least one foot outside my comfort zone. Other times, I need to be reminded to keep moving. Other times I need to be pushed a bit.

Organizations are the same way. And Resource Media will be nudged into that realm of creative discomfort over the next few months, as we respond to a new project launched by GuideStar and Green 2.0 to collect diversity data from nonprofit organizations; grantees and funders alike. Without even knowing all the questions, I know this first public accounting of our progress toward diversity and inclusion will find us lacking and lagging in many ways. That’s uncomfortable. I also know that, if we remain committed to learning, listening and building relationships with people different than us, future surveys will find that we have made progress. That’s inspiring.

In that vein, I am excited to announce that Danielle Dean, one of the guiding forces behind Green 2.0, is joining our Board of Directors in 2015. Green 2.0 is an initiative dedicated to increasing diversity across mainstream environmental NGOs, foundations and government agencies. Their report earlier this year called all of us in the environmental sector on the carpet for our lack of progress in becoming more diverse over the last 20 years, even though we all know that’s one of the most important opportunities we have to remain relevant. I look forward to Danielle’s expertise and her willingness to offer the well-timed nudge from her position on our Board.

At Resource Media, our external work also veered into new areas that required us to shed some comfort along the way. Women at the Center, a website we launched this summer, makes the connection between access to family planning and sustainability. Some in the environmental community had been so ham-handed and condescending in talking about this issue in the past (using terms like “population control”) that it had become almost toxic to make that connection. Women at the Center started from the premise that empowering women through access to family planning carries so many individual, societal and global benefits that we don’t need to be prescriptive about the outcome. It is still a tricky and, well, uncomfortable conversation at times. So glad we are providing it a platform.

More recently we launched another site that stows the warm comfort of predictable outcomes below deck. La Madre Tierra is a project that celebrates what Latinos have already done to protect the environment (which is substantial) instead of trying to teach them how to do it. Again, the notion is that empowering people to act in ways that are meaningful to them is a key part of building enduring change. You have to hand over the keys to the car. We all know how comfortable that feels.

So as we end 2014 and welcome the New Year, let’s reserve at least part of our toast, or a line in our resolutions, to celebrate what we can each accomplish outside our comfort zones in 2015. I know I will.

Scott Miller