The Not-New in the New Year Can be Just as Inspiring

Thursday, January 21, 2016 - 11:45

When stepping into a new year, we often force ourselves to focus on what we’ll be doing that’s new and innovative and exciting. We flipped the question around and asked a few Community Partners project leaders and friends a different kind of question: What’s ORDINARY and still exciting in what you’re doing to pursue your project and professional activities?

Here’s a few of their answers:

Raymond Ealy
Executive Director, STEAM:CODERS
The prospects for “ordinary and exciting” have never been so good as we introduce our services to a new and excited group of students who have lacked access to science, technology, engineering, art and math. Our project is expanding rapidly and a key goal is to “stick to the knitting.” That means improving quality and staying true to our core business, as opposed to searching for new ideas and to go deeper, as opposed to wider. We have barely scratched the surface.


Kaile Shilling
Executive Director, Arts for Incarcerated Youth Network
As I start coordinating this new network, what is ordinary and continuing and wonderful is my relationships with my existing colleagues. The conversation and connection never ceases to excite me as we improve systems that build healthier families, communities and young people. Opportunities to come together and share our joint learning aren’t new but, rather, serve as good touchstones and ways to feel like we're all moving forward together, that the path ahead is still there and no one got lost along the way.


Emily Cummins Polk
Program Director, Juntos
The everyday “ordinary” at Juntos brings new connections, possibilities, even crises as we focus with kids who have experienced trauma and adversity and their families on relational work, and the power of connection to transform, heal, and change life trajectories. The ordinary of returning to work each day or after a short break reminds me that it’s never new – and always new – to meet students with empathy and genuinely be with them. Time spent in the wider community in ordinary networking, collaborative work and partnership fuels and invigorates me. And I am excited to spend more time on fundraising! Did I just say that? Yes. More funding means we don't have waiting lists and never have to turn anyone away.

Chris Essel
President & CEO, Southern California Grantmakers
Since I took on this role at SCG, I remain impressed with the optimism, devotion and attention paid by people working in this sector to being informed on their issues, producing effective results, and making a difference in our world. I feel so fortunate to always be surrounded by people who care so deeply about what matters most, and I truly get energized by their shared sense of purpose and commitment.




Bridget Hogan Cole
Executive Director, Institute for High Quality Care
Ordinary means asking myself: where does the work have the most impact? How do I find the most energy and joy in it? Routine activities like trainings, presentations, facilitating meetings and designing initiatives point me toward deepening relationships with clinic teams and funders I’ve worked with for a long time. Starting relationships with new teams – same content and perhaps the same delivery of the same bad jokes! – invariably leads to new projects and new challenges. I feel great excitement in the launch, in taking a fresh perspective on the materials and the presentations that will strengthen clinic teams. How can I tweak the message and help people reach their “aha” moments, keeping the content crisp and new? 

Nike Irvin
Vice President/Programs, California Community Foundation
What is ORDINARY and still exciting to me is our quarterly practice of peer review where grantmaking staff come together to collaboratively examine a series of grant requests to check assumptions, think differently, and ultimately emerge with grant recommendations that are stronger than if made in isolation.


Mario Fedelin
Executive Director, Big Citizen Hub
The desire and need of our young people to make things better, to challenge the status quo, is the only ordinary thing in our program. We know that a whole lot of things may go sideways in a start-up, but the enthusiasm, energy and idealism of our young people will always go right. That’s what makes the other things we do to run the program -- delivering on our promise, accelerating, cultivating and nurturing that idealism -- so much easier.


Yvette Chappell-Ingram
President and CEO, The African American Board Leadership Institute
As AABLI embarks on its fourth year of board leadership training, specifically for African American professionals, we find ourselves on track for what we had envisioned. When our co-founder and board chair, Virgil Roberts, and I set out to create a pipeline for African American professionals to be placed on governing boards, we knew we had tapped in on a void. In just a few years we continue to provide stellar programs that yield phenomenal results. Since 2012 AABLI has trained and certified over 300 participants in board governance. We recently announced our 75th assisted board placement and have accepted over 85 applications from nonprofit organizations looking to diversify their boards.

AABLI continues to stay the course of its mission while expanding its wings in the field of board development programs that deal with racial diversity.


Besides the bright, shining significance of doing the work with excellence and integrity, another theme gleams in every answer: the importance of making, keeping and nurturing relationships with others. This matter of keeping faith with human connection seems to say just all that needs saying about how tending to the essence of the ordinary turns caring work into extraordinary – New! Innovative! Exciting! – change for people and communities.