Thursday, July 24, 2008

Seeing the Horizon Beyond the Forest

Perhaps I should stop reading all of the non-profit blogs. I haven't had time all summer, so I'm attempting to catch up. But it is so discouraging. Our vision for MYO and Scrollworks doesn't fit much of what I'm reading.

Somewhere this morning I skimmed a blog post discussing 'Constituent Relationship Management'. This post discussed a half dozen titles and job descriptions for people working in this corner of the non-profit world. There is a large body of software aiming to streamline 'CRM'. I don't want to work in an organization that needs software to 'manage' the people it serves.

When we envision the structure of our organization, we don't see a tree. We see a horizon. A simple line, maybe just a few dots. Why? Because we want someone from Hale County or Orrville or Fort Payne to come to us and say, "I want something like Scrollworks in my community!" and we hand them a booklet with 5 pages telling them how to do it. To get music education to our children, to bring communities together in harmony shouldn't require an MBA in non-profit management. It should be simple. It has to be easy.

I have been rereading Carse's 'Finite and Infinite Games'. Last night I substituted 'Scrollworks' everywhere he mentions the Renaissance. The substitution worked:
Scrollworks is not an effort to promote one or another vision. It is an effort to find visions that promise still more vision.

Each person whose horizon is affected by Scrollworks affects the horizon of Scrollworks in turn.

Scrollworks is a people, a people without a boundary, and therefore without an enemy. Scrollworks is not against anyone.
Whoever is not of Scrollworks cannot go out to oppose it, for they will find only an invitation to join the people it is.

I think that is why Scrollworks doesn't fit the non-profit mold and also why it is unstoppable. It is not simply a 'program' of the Metropolitan Youth Orchestras. Everyone feels it. It is a movement, a revolution.


Marc A. Pitman said...

Wow, do I feel your angst. It's frustrating seeing such blog posts, isn't it?

But may I push back a bit? :)

Scrollworks sounds like it is indeed pushing a vision: "Scrollworks is not an effort to promote one or another vision. It is an effort to find visions that promise still more vision."

"Finding visions" is in itself is a vision. And a commendable one!

So is: "I don't want to work in an organization that needs software to 'manage' the people it serves." That seems to be part of the guiding vision of Scrollworks.

If it just remains a "feeling" it won't be a revolution. It'll just be a warm feeling that passes like the flush after a couple glasses of good wine.

Have you hear of centered-set theory? I blogged a brief intro to it in the context of a church plant, but it seems to apply here. You can read it at:

Without some sort of structure, Scrollworks will remain "fuzzy set," an ameoba like blob with little impact.

It sounds to me like you want huge impact...a "revolution." Good for you! The world needs more of the passion you exhibit.

But I agree, you don't need hierarchy and complexity and expensive software. Not at all.

Can you tell I have an MA in Organizational Leadership? Structure is important, even if it's minimal. :)

And the world needs more people that can cut through the complexity!

Jeane Goforth said...

Please, push away. I read your centered-set theory post. We do have a central vision, a mission. It's stated on our website.
But, to a certain extent, we want to be like an electron--a cloud of possibilities. So far, every teaching location, indeed, every day, has required us to change and adapt. We don't want to define away the cloud of possibilities such that we can't quickly adjust to new situations. Many of the grant applications require just that. We've already decided we won't go there.
We have structure. But it is as flat as we can get it. Ideally, we'd aspire to a fractal structure--a simple formula repeated at every level.
You've been a tremendous help. Thanks for listening and commenting!

Marc A. Pitman said...

Your's is probably the hardest, although most rewarding desire!

In the Vineyard USA, we've strived to keep the movement from either devolving into a "mob" or becoming a stationary "monument" to the good 'ole days.

Sounds like your electron cloud! I love the image. I figure: if we're not growing and adapting and changing, what's the point?

Thanks for a great post.

Anne said...

Fantastic post - Jeanne! What resonated with me most was the passion for our organization and cause that comes through...

I find the most significant issue with most non-profit blogging is that a large portion of it is targeted at what I would consider - "established" non-profits who may actually need a CRM system to manage their organizational information - be it clients or donors. Very little of the writing takes into account an organization's (or program's) stage of development - meaning that there are amazing moments of innovation and creativity and learning in the initial stages - and as the organization/program grows - for it be successful the formalization of some policies/procedures/quality assurance - is helpful to ensure the mission is still being acheived... but that takes time -- and typically external pressures around formalization -- which it sounds like you are are working hard to push back on -- and that is 100% alright -- for it is exactly where you are and an extension of your values. Rock on -- and keep the music coming!

Jeane Goforth said...

Thanks for the encouragement, Anne. Yesterday I spent two hours talking to a man who had the protest sign ripped out of his hands by Bull Connor in 1963. He said, "So you want a 'colored' youth orchestra? As in Crayola?" He had already been mobilizing on our behalf, and immediately got on the phone to do more. I think this is so powerful and exciting. A much better fit for our mission.