Ellen Friedman

Softening a skeptic

I entered the Future Forward process with a skeptical mind – while I am usually a process friendly person, I was worried about whether the focus on process would distract from Forward Together’s inquiry into new strategies to support and scale its work. There were the concerns about getting funders too mucked up in a grantee’s inner workings; then there was the basic concern about time – would there be enough given all that was on my plate?

While I still have some remaining questions about the long term implications for Forward Together, the value of participation, especially the Muscles and Mindsets work, has reminded me of how useful it is to stop for a moment and learn. My top takeways at this point in the process:

  • Slowing down allows us to see problems in new ways, create stronger connections, and appreciate the complexity of many issues we deal with. There IS enough time!
  • Having colleagues with whom one has regular contact about the substance of our work expands the way we can lean into the work. Trust is essential for this aspect of the work to happen expansively.
  • Humility as grantmakers is underrated as a practice: we talk about it a lot but it is hard to actually practice it.

The Future Forward process forces a level of authenticity that is often lacking on my side of the table – and it reinforces that we – grantees and funders – are in a deeply interconnected web of relationship and work. We are all part of an ecosystem of change – and working together, weekly striving to share our work and our challenges, changes the nature of our relationship – opening up new possibilities for thinking about the future together. The skeptic in me is softening….


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