One of the great perks of doing consulting work with foundations and nonprofits is that I get to work with and talk with a lot of very awesome and talented people.
So as we leave 2017 and greet the new year, I asked a few of those people to share their thoughts and insights and perspectives on the year behind and the one ahead.
What was your favorite thing or best moment in 2017?
Julia Coffman, Director, Center for Evaluation Innovation: Sometimes small changes make big differences. In the summer I wrote a piece on how our ability to learn with one another is very connected to the way in which we work. This includes the physical spaces we occupy and how they are configured, the software choices we make, how we communicate with our colleagues working remotely, etc. I realized I needed to make some real changes in how I worked, including small (big to me) changes like ditching my beloved paper calendar and moving to an electronic one. Being cognizant of how I do this work and not just what I produce has been hugely humbling and motivating.
Kristen Grimm, President, Spitfire Strategies: My favorite moment was participating in the March for Science. By far the best signs. Mine is below although it pales in comparison to the cleverness of the scientists who are my role models for braving the rain and standing up for what they believe in.
Deidre Johnson, CEO and Executive Director, Center for African American Health: My favorite moment in 2017 was attending the Colorado Health Symposium and hearing the leadership of the Colorado Health Foundation take the lead in acknowledging that inequity must be addressed and biases overcome if we are to ever achieve health equity.
Deepti Sood, Senior Consultant, TCC Group: All the grassroots work being supported by larger institutions as more and more people become involved in advocacy. Examples include this fabulous twitter thread talking about GOTV activities in the Alabama Senate race and work within philanthropy happening via the Emergent Fund to quickly mobilize resources to orgs in need – and shift the burden of proof of impact from the grantee to the funder.
Michael Booth, Senior Counselor, The Bawmann Group: The best part of 2017 for those who continue to seek progressive change in the way Americans access and receive healthcare was the public outpouring of opinion supporting the most important aspects of the Affordable Care Act when those vital programs were threatened repeatedly by political maneuvering. The massive effort not only sent clear signals to policy leaders what Americans want from their government -- it also served as an invaluable reminder to average Americans that their voice can be heard. Personally, I was honored in 2017 to be asked onto the board of directors of the Colorado Consumer Health Initiative, which has long been the most powerful voice fighting for the consumers of healthcare in Colorado, as well as those who don't yet have access to the system. They have some exciting things planned for 2018, and I hope to contribute a little.
If you could go back and do one thing differently in 2017, what would it be?
Kristen Grimm: I would have stayed longer in my airstream trailer. After the science march, I decided to get out of DC and bought a trailer and hit the road for four months. With my husband and two dogs, I drove all the way to Oregon and back and tried to get to know Americans better. It was my Bubble Busting Tour 2017. Campgrounds are a great equalizer and it is amazing the conversations you can have with people while borrowing toilet paper and discussing which dumps are the cleanest. I wish I had stayed on the road longer. Much clarity to be gained there.
Deidre Johnson: If I could go back and do one thing differently in 2017 I would have taken more time to always pause, share and celebrate the quiet little day to day victories along the way.
Deepti Sood: Be less scared. Well into Spring, I had total panic around the direction of the country which paralyzed me from taking action. I wish I had taken a breather and reflected more on what sustainable forward progress and movement could look like for me. Turned out to be this (300 postcards and counting)
Michael Booth: Invest in bitcoin? In policy, I would have gone through less personal agony if I had been more optimistic earlier in the year, realizing that people speaking out collectively for progressive healthcare policy can still make a difference even when the political environment appears challenging at first.
Julia Coffman: Worked harder on being “more present” in the situations in which I find myself—in the conversation I’m having, the room I’m in, in the relationships I have, in the broader context in which I find myself. A colleague recently sent this excerpt from Sharon Lebell's Epictetus: The Art of Living a New Interpretation. Yes.
Caretake this moment.
Immerse yourself in its particulars.
Respond to this person, this challenge, this deed.
Quit the evasions.
Stop giving yourself needless trouble.
It is time to really live; to fully inhabit the situation you happen to be in now.
You are not some disinterested bystander.
Respect your partnership with providence.
Ask yourself often, How may I perform this particular deed
such that it would be consistent with and acceptable to the divine will?
Heed the answer and get to work.
What are you most looking forward to in 2018?
Julia Coffman: Collaboration on field-building work. I’m an introvert and I like to work alone. But that’s just a personal work style and not what I really love about the work I do. I get the most enjoyment out of working with others, collaborating with other evaluators, funders, and advocates on any number of topics that have a field- or movement-building focus. That’s the way that work has to be done; there’s no other option that has any chance of success. This year will feature multiple opportunities to do that, and it’s where I’ll find my energy.
Kristen Grimm: After the Alabama win, I feel like people everywhere are realizing we decide the direction of this country. And I believe people will stand up against hate, racism, and misogyny when given the choice. And I am really looking forward to Bon Jovi getting inaugurated into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Here’s hoping it brings big hair back. Man buns are so 2017.
Deidre Johnson: I am most looking forward to increased partnerships and collaborations with new, nontraditional partners and deliberately celebrating the small victories along the way. Maybe with a monthly silent disco.
Deepti Sood: Seeing what happens with the #metoo movement – after Nov 2016, I did not think we would see another woman running for president again soon. Little did I know how much women would rise up this year to take power
Michael Booth: I'm most hoping for an early reauthorization of the CHP plan for Colorado families so they can get that awful worry off of their backs and refocus on helping their families move forward in the New Year.
Any other predictions for the year ahead?
Julia Coffman: The Republican party will start to re-align and become less asymmetrically polarized. The #metoo movement will gain further momentum and bring new power to women. The Washington Nationals will win the World Series.
Kristen Grimm: After Trump resigns, he goes on SNL and starts his next career as an Alec Baldwin impersonator.
Deidre Johnson: 2018 will be a year of innovation and creativity – not only because that is what happens when you bring diverse, smart and determined minds together, but because we have no choice. We have a white nationalist in the White House working to dismantle government. Whether it will be finding solutions for the 75,000 Colorado children about to lose health coverage or preventing the coming wreckage of other looming impacts - We will find a way.
Deepti Sood: Advocacy – all types of advocacy – becomes a normal and expected part of philanthropic strategy
Michael Booth: Bitcoin is due for a correction. The Broncos are due for a better quarterback. Reading more poetry will be good for just about everyone.
It’s probably only fair that I answer those questions as well.
So, my favorite thing in 2017 was marching with my wife in the MLK Marade and the Women’s March in Denver, within days of one another. It was a terrific reminder of the strength and resolve in the community in a year that needed a lot of it.
If I could do one thing over again in 2017, it would be to ride my bike more. Being on two wheels is good for my body, mind, and soul, and it also makes me better at my job, and an all around nicer person to be around. I sometimes default to feeling like I can’t spare the time to go on a ride, because of guilt or obligations of my own creation. When really there are few things that merit a better use of my time.
Other than seeing Wes Anderson’s Isle of Dogs and running the 2018 Pikes Peak Ascent with my wife, the thing I’m looking most forward to in 2018 is the uncharted potential of some projects that - as of yet - only exist in my head. And in pursuing those, the opportunity to work with great people to help do some good.
And lastly, in 2018, I predict that most everything will get worse before it gets better. But I also think that more women will be elected to public office than ever before (which would be a very good thing). And eventually there will be a more widespread reckoning that politics isn't something that should exist as separate from our daily lives. And when that happens, change will follow.