Something in the switch from December into January, with its earliest inklings of eventual spring, can ignite a powerful urge to create change in a certain kind of person. Over the years, Community Partners has typically received more inquiries about sponsoring new ventures during this period than in the rest of the year. Maybe it’s those brisk, wintry snaps of cold – just as many plants need low temperatures to blossom and thrive – that humans need to loosen the juices of civic and social enterprise. It’s natural and normal behavior in many ways, this resolve we have for renewal. In other ways, it’s crazy risky to believe oneself capable of making a difference in the public realm, let alone around personal habits and routines.
Think about it. Risk-taking goes against the basic human instinct for survival, stability and security, that is unless the potential reward outweighs the downside. Risks abound when setting out to make change in a community or society. The bigger the idea, the greater the possibility that any number of subtle stumbles or frenzied forces from out of the blue could throw it off course or crater it altogether.
What could go wrong? People could dismiss the idea as dumb or far out. Worse might be outright rejection at the hands of vested interests ensnared in outdated, unworkable ways. The energized venturer, blinded by the glare of grand ideals, might run up against crushing realities, one of which is having the money that frees them to try, perhaps fail at first, but try, try again after learning what works. They might labor to avoid the “we-tried-that-and-it-failed” Sirens crowding every rocky shoal in their ocean of imagined possibilities, only to have their boat drawn too close and stranded on the shores of skepticism and cynical passivity. So many things can go wrong.
But what if things go right?
Say that the timing of an idea that once looked far out, under new societal conditions looks not just workable but vitally needed? I recently wrote about TreePeople’s Andy Lipkis who spent his childhood and youth being misunderstood until now. Forty-five years later and well into his 60’s, Andy is experiencing unprecedented recognition of his long-held belief that trees and careful stewardship of our environmental heritage are critical pillars to preserve lest we succumb to the perditions of global and local warming. It takes grit and character to stick to a belief in the face of choruses harping on how odd or out of step you are.
Having the right partners helps from the outset. By that I mean the truth-tellers who can pour cold water warmly, supply stable footing as you stride onto unfamiliar landscape, or point right to the part of your passionate argument that sings out with universal resonance.
Fiscal sponsors and civic intermediaries like Community Partners are by no means always the perfect landing places for creative, committed people and groups advancing their ideas into action. But the best of us have been humbled by seeing so many attempts at getting things going and keeping them afloat that our instincts – and our services – have been polished with time into reliable tools for quelling the wobblies when they do show up, as they always will.
Change’s season – its evergreen constancy – holds pride of place in a free society. It’s more than just January into spring, but rather an occupying feature of our natural selves and the complex world we inhabit. Right now under the Community Partners banner, there’s 181 venturers shaping and steering the small craft, huge tankers and everything else imaginable that’s hoisting a sail in the Great Flotilla Southern California. Year round, day into night and again into day after that, we’re helping the fleet meet whatever the season brings. We’re more than just Community Partners. We’re Community Partners for Good.
Sagitta Sunset by Lee Coursey (CC BY 2.0)