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  • Amy Clark

The Box of Originality



Every day we are bombarded with a constant flow of information and external influence. The digital environment has enhanced, and in many ways, changed our methods of interacting with the world. Social media has greatly expanded our ability to reach more people and help others understand our unique mission work and programmatic impacts.

However, with all the information accessible to us, originality still holds significant value in our culture. The “we did it first” flag can tempt us into action sometimes more than asking ourselves if the flag even matters.


We are seeing nonprofits considering more and more collaborations, innovations and shifts in business models to keep up with the demands and pace of change in the world. We also see many that become focused on navigating defense against many social, political, economic and environmental threats.


When resources are tight, and passion is high, people like to hold onto their work; particularly if they have made personal sacrifices to nurture its growth and success. It can be hard to quantify the passion, sweat equity and original ideas that make it all come together. Though individual success is worthy of acknowledgment, the trajectory of impact is short. To truly make a dent in solving complex problems, we need to embrace collaboration for maximum value creation, and ultimately, exponential impact potential.

This tension of idea protection and sharing creates a teeter totter of risk.

  • Do we hold the great work close, protecting what is good and ours?

  • Do we share our working models to invite others to join in?

  • Should we risk someone not playing fair by taking what we earned from our time in the trenches?

In the seventies, the Doobie Brothers wrote “Takin' it To the Streets” a song www.songfacts.com says was written to take a stand against bootlegging. Many who have created something special can relate to the core message at some point along the professional continuum.

“You, telling me the things you’re gonna do for me.

I ain’t blind and I don’t like what I think I see”

Someone promising to respect boundaries and play fair, but not honoring their word wouldn't happen in this sector, right? The reality is, the fear of a bad collaboration bringing down a small nonprofit can be enough to send us back to the comfortable zone of doing what we know. On the flip side, the benefits of the right collaboration can quickly propel a small nonprofit to the next stage of organizational growth, dramatically improving capabilities to achieve the mission.

  • How do we overcome the fear of the copycats capitalizing on our specialized work and free ourselves to new ways of thinking?

  • When can collaboration be truly purpose-focused leaving egos and fear behind?

We can’t change the fact that we are humans wired to detect threats, and the digital age makes it easier than ever for our work to get swiped. We can focus on our human need for community and choose to model a posture of true collaboration while proudly nurturing our unique organizational identity at the same time.

In doing so, we are empowered to break out of a box built from striving to plant the flag of firsts, and we enter an open place of building each other up and awakening ideas we didn’t know were there. In short, tapping into an abundance-minded way of working.

The world may tell us we’ll be eaten up by the lions and takers out there if we let our big ideas out of the box where we can control them. Perhaps we will suffer if we aren’t intentional and wise in our approaches, but imagine the potential if we spend our days compounding our strengths and taking our ideas further together than we could ever take them alone.

Take on your day and awaken the potential in your nonprofit organization.

Amy

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