Sustainable Principles of Organizations

Question: List some key terms and principles that are important for any sustainable organization and explain how understanding these terms can help Giants of the Earth Heritage Center “begin with the end in mind.”

Key terms and Giants of the Earth Heritage Center’s relationship with these terms.

Community: We will be uncompromising in our desire to make our community a continuously better and more nurturing place in which to raise a family by investing our limited resources in a way that brings about the greatest long term good for that community.

Committment: Giants volunteers are “all in.” We don’t think that our children, our families, our community, our ancestors, our values, or even our land, for that matter, are things to be taken lightly. This isn’t something we are sitting on the fence about–or that we do to pass the time between episodes of Young and the Restless. The torch has been passed to all of us in this generation of the living, and we, like you, do not intend to let it go out.

Humility: Even though we take ourselves seriously, we make allowances for the likelihood that we sometimes will only recognize some of the key variables concerning multivariable issues. Further, we realize that many things done by committee or non-profit organizations sometimes bear certain common weaknesses. Thus, we are willing to laugh at ourselves and try to understand why others might laugh at us too.

Empathy: Because misfortune might effect anyone, we will try to provide for people that understanding and support which they need in order to move on from a difficult time.

Integrity: We want to create a fair and balanced historical narrative that optimally challenges everyone to do their best and is not class biased. We recognize that arbitrariness, luck, greed, theft, and indifference are part of existing systems of empowerment as much as self-discipline and hard work. In the case of creating narratives for wealthy people, we hope to restrain ourselves from being influenced by hypocritical narratives that overly emphasize the role of their own personal virtue and hard work in obtaining their wealth, and in the case of poor people, to restrain from narratives that overly emphasize the role of chance and misfortune in their failures, when poor choices sometimes do play a role. While there might be many examples of people who, despite some setback pulled themselves up by the bootstraps, 95% of wealthy people could not have gotten to their position without a great deal of family or other support, and good luck. Similarly, while there may be many people who, due to no fault of their own, lost their ability to earn or keep wealth, it is within many peoples’ power to improve their lives, at least a little, and frequently people fail to do this due to lack of will power. Thus, a narrative with integrity will accurately reflect that good things sometimes happen to bad people and bad things sometimes happen to good people and will first seek to understand rather than to judge. Thus we will grant respect to historical narratives that are designed to accurately reflect history rather than to merely justify the arrogance of the powers that be or the envy of the have-nots.

Respect: We hope to always recognize that we must compromise with our neighbors, and listen to their concerns and values.

Value: Though nonprofits are often made up of diverse volunteer efforts–each faction with its own sacred cow agenda that make a concerted effort difficult, we believe that our diverse projects all in their own way deliver valuable services to the community in a way that promotes multigenerational stewardship.

Appreciation (of Members and Donors): Because the people who support Giants’ mission are crucial for making our community a better place to raise a family, they deserve continuous special recognition for hearing the call and answering.

Appreciation (of Volunteers): When working with an organization of volunteers, appreciation is important. Rewarding helpfulness with appreciation rather than demanding results leads to more results.  As Stephen Covey writes, “When dealing with people, slow is fast, and fast is slow.”  For volunteer organizations such as Giants of the Earth Heritage Center,  it is not just about where we are right now that matters. It isn’t just about how flashy our group looks or sounds; how sexy our branding is; or how fast we appear to be accomplishing our goals (although these things are good).  What matters ultimately is that the group is headed in the right direction; that its workers understand and are committed to its core mission; and that they all are acting in a respectful manner that allows them to get along well. As long as the group is developing properly, and its workers are following sustainable principles, it will be unstoppable.

Trust: According to the late Stephen Covey, “You cannot build trust without trustworthiness.” We will be dogmatically and unconditionally honest, fair, ethical, law-abiding, and transparent in all our activities and we will not tolerate those who are not.

Efficiency: We intend to deliver services in a cost-effective way which recognizes the opportunity cost of individuals’ and families’ time and money.

Friendship: We hope to be ever friendly to those in our community–as no one joins the cause of unfriendly people, no matter how good their cause.

Sustainability: We intend to always reflect critically on the long term implications for our actions and to remember that organizations are destroyed as frequently by over-committing as by under-committing. Balanced and judicious appropriations of limited resources is the only way to sustain an organization.

Authentic Communication: No community ever developed without authentic communication–which is an exchange of ideas rather than simply talking about the weather, or posturing oneself as fun, easy going, macho, politically correct or incorrect, etc. Conflicting ideas are the building blocks of greater ideas that resolve conflicts by subsuming the truths of the two conflicting ideas. Thesis+antithesis eventually leads to synthesis. Growth is good.

Literacy: Communication in the absence of accurate or relevant information is simply exchanging ignorance. This is a frequent occurrence in small towns where gossip embellishes on reality to such an extent that there is little truth in the latest news. Reading authoritative books in any field is a time-tested means of preparing oneself to be a good contributor to a discussion in that field. Small towns have many virtues, and also many vices: quaint idiosyncracies arising from a lack of critical attention to words and small town small-mindedness can eventually turn into pseudo-religious dogma that hinders understanding and creates unnecessary rifts between generations. Reading diversely keeps older generations’ minds more open and helps younger generations understand things from an historical perspective.

Attitude of Gratitude: We hope to recognize that we are not entitled to community support, but we must continuously earn it by demonstrating our effectiveness at delivering services. And even if we do work for it, to still be grateful for others’ support, in any way they can deliver it.

Discernment: We recognize that diverse and extended experiences plus intelligence tends to yield wisdom and that one wise person can solve a complex problem better than a milllion fools. Thus, in applicable situations, other things being equal, it is more sustainable to grant decision making powers to the wise rather than the loud, the numerous, etc, so long as oversight and full disclosure of conflicts of interest are made transparent, and trust can be maintained.

Respect for our town’s unique ways: We want to recognize that some marketing techniques that work in big cities may be “offputting” to people in a small town.

Openness: We intend to embrace all those who seek to be good stewards of themselves, their family, and our community no matter what their background (even Swedes).  😉

Prosperity: We hope to bring employment, funding, and friendly people to our community.

Resilience: We hope to maintain realistic expectations for community approval. Realistically speaking, we will never be able to please everyone, and there will always be some naysayers for any activity. Therefore, we will do our best to serve the vast majority of the community and all our member and we will ignore the congenitally negative community gossips who have nothing better to do than complain about progress, technology, and change.

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