Wednesday, April 16, 2008

From criticism to complimenting community organizations

Jan Masaoka rocks! She is the former Executive Director of CompassPoint Nonprofit Services and just started a new website/blog/magazine for nonprofits called Blue Avocado. I am continually amazed by her expertise and experience in the sector--I personally benefited from her consulting expertise when I lived in the Bay Area.

She and her team of guest contributors are writing about issues and topics of interest to community-based nonprofits. Here's my favorite quote so far--Jan explains why Blue Avocado focuses on
"building the movement of community organizations for community good and social change."

She says, "Community organizations are criticized by everyone these days: consultants tell them they're doing everything wrong; government tells them they're too small or mismanaged; donors tell them there are too many nonprofits, and foundations tell them their logic models aren't good enough. This very large group of organizations and people--the overwhelming majority of the nonprofit sector--are actually the ones doing most of the work and coming up with the most innovative ideas and energy. But too often they've gotten infected with the self esteem crisis and victim mentality that is constantly being pushed on us."

Frankly, I was humbled by Jan's statement because all of my work experience has been in community organizations. Yet, it has been so easy for me to judge these organizations that I work in even though these organizations are doing amazing things! I do have the best intentions because I want them to improve their operations. But clearly I don't spend enough time praising community organizations.

Maybe its a generational thing--it seems like so many of the colleagues my age are also writing about the need for huge change in the sector. Change is good, but this also reminds me of what Audrey Alvarado of NCNA and Nonprofit Congress said when she was interviewed by Rosetta Thurman. "
What I would challenge the Gen X and Y’s to do is to be a bit more patient to work on aspects of how we can go about changing our work and approach and not toss everything out but take what works and improve on it. Many times I see a strong disregard for what we (older ones) have created and no recognition or appreciation for the context that led to the practice. Let’s work on improvements together."

So, I'm trying to take to heart Jan and Audrey's statements and work harder to be more complementary towards Community Organizations!

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