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CEO Message: The New Normal

Thursday, August 16, 2018

I’ve recently started a yoga practice. (OK maybe it’s a bit premature to call it a “practice,” but I have been to four classes so far, and I plan to keep going.) Because I am truly a novice – with the world’s tightest hamstrings, I might add – I am choosing classes with words like “Foundations” and “Gentle” and “Beginner” in them to start.

The instructor at the class I attended last night emphasized that we all need to find a balance between effort and ease in our practice. She invited us to pay close attention to our bodies so we could know when to push ourselves further to reach a new plateau in our growth. She encouraged us to accept when it’s time to hold steady, and to even be willing to pull back as necessary to ensure we do not cause ourselves harm and diminish our capacity to keep going. And through it all, she reminded us to breathe.

We are confronting significant challenges in our world and our work. Locally, we continue to grapple with the paradox of an economic boom that, while driving regional growth and expansion, also exacerbates income and racial disparities and an exponentially rising cost of living that hits the poor, working class, and middle class the hardest. We are coming to terms with a “new normal” of sustained extreme heat and dry conditions that fuel destructive fires in our ever-more populous state. And we are confronting myriad affronts to the rights and well being of our nation’s most vulnerable populations in an ever-shifting federal policy landscape.

It can feel daunting and overwhelming to keep up with so many rapidly emerging developments in our communities and in our world. It’s never enough, and there is always more to do. This is another “new normal,” it seems.  In a recent meeting, I found myself doodling as a colleague described her fatigue as she struggles mightily “just to make it to the next plateau” of change she is trying to achieve in her work and world:

It occurs to me that my yoga instructor’s guidance holds true in our work as well: to be effective – indeed, to be formidable – in our practice, we must constantly discern when it’s time to exert more effort – to push ourselves and others harder – and when it is time to be easy with ourselves, so that we can sustain our strength for the long haul.

To be sure, there is no shortage of opportunity to dive in when we are ready to push.  Here are just a few examples of the ways NCG is partnering with members right now to do so:

California Fires: NCG continues to play a significant role in supporting a coordinated philanthropic response to the regular eruption of disastrous fires in our state. We are calling attention to emergent and ongoing funding needs in these areas and lifting up the role philanthropy can play in partnership with community leaders in affected regions.

Stockton Reinvention: Over 60 funders representing 26 private, corporate, and community foundations joined NCG and Mayor Michael Tubbs for a day-long journey to understand the history, challenges, and reemergence of the city of Stockton, an exciting example of how a community can come together to create change. NCG is proud to have played a key role in making the incredible efforts of the citizens of Stockton visible to funders throughout the state, and we are excited to helm efforts to continue the conversation to support Stockton’s reinvention.

Census 2020: With $76 billion dollars in annual federal funding and a seat in the House of Representatives on the line, the stakes could not be higher for California to ensure that every resident is counted during the 2020 Census. NCG is supporting the coordination of philanthropic effort and funding, partnering with local government and community-based organizations to ensure cross-sector alignment, and amplifying philanthropy’s voice on key Census-related policy issues.

Through it all, we hold onto our ideals. I was reflecting on the extraordinary wisdom that emerged from our colleagues at our Annual Conference in April, where together we considered what it will take to tackle some of the deepest questions of our time. These principles – which transcend politics and partisan division – are worthy of printing out and putting on the wall in every room we occupy:

  • We raise strong children
  • We value civil and human rights
  • We recognize our privilege
  • We hold space for all people to be seen and heard
  • We find common ground
  • We change the conversation when it moves towards division and avarice
  • We tell truths
  • We witness
  • We show up
  • We hold on to our hope

It seems to me we need look no further when seeking a way forward in difficult times.

And of course, we must remember to breathe.


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