Do you host post-mortem conversations in your collective for projects that fail? Do you have a hospice process for putting to rest a program that is no longer helping you meet your mission?
Starting around 2009, I was a founding member of Healthy Food Hub building deep relationships in communities around Chicago and working to sustain a peri-urban food web connecting Pembroke Township (a historically Black farming community) to the city. We hosted beautiful Market Days with vendors staging their goods alongside fresh, local produce sourced from Black farms and non-local produce from nearby suppliers.
Guests would come from around the city to shop the selection of goods and stick around the entire day in conversation with a community gathered there. I held the moniker "Dancing Cashier" because I worked the front end and played a rich selection of music throughout the day. Elders relieved of social isolation, were nourished with healthy, fresh food options leading to visible improvements in their overall well-being.
There is no work of which I am more proud. Healthy Food Hub paved the way for everything after with Kola Nut Collaborative, Cooperation for Liberation Study & Working Group, PATHS Chicago and a range of other solidarity economy initiatives. In the middle of each market, we would stop the music so those gathered could recite: "Our mission is to create a just, holistic local food system to transform urban to rural communities through education, entrepreneurship, and access to healthy, affordable food."
By the time of my departure in 2017, we had failed to meet that mission though the work to build that local food system continues today and I am still in deep relationship with Black Oaks Center to support their ongoing work. We never held a post-mortem for that period in the history of the organization. Sometimes the pace of work moves too fast to find a spare moment for reflection, but you DO need to find it.
During the November Monthly Community Forum, we deployed one of my favorite facilitation techniques called Council of Wise Ones learned during an AORTA Headwaters Apprentice facilitation training. Council of Wise Ones is an adapted version of the Liberating Structures' exercise known as Wise Crowds. The goal of this exercise is draw upon the wisdom gathered in the room to solve a problem one of the participants is facing. The deeper learning behind this exercise is that any failure we encounter is easier to bear when we fail in community.
Perhaps you are in some way failing to meet the mission of your collective whether that is building capacity, raising funds, transitioning leadership, or anything else. Whatever you do to address that momentary failure, do not fail alone. There are 6000 people on the Open Collective Slack who might be able to support what you are navigating through. There are 400 other collectives in the Open Collective Foundation ecosystem who might know something about what you are going through.
This episode of Simon Sinek's podcast "A Bit of Optimism" came up on my playlist recently. While there are moments of Simon railing at straw-parents who coddle their children that I could do without, the lessons shared by Suneel Gupta about crowdsourcing his failure into new learning and new innovation are valuable points of reflection on how to navigate past failure.
Join me at the OCF Monthly Community Forum for December to talk about an area where you are failing and how the power of community can help or has helped you to overcome that failure.
Mike Strode is a writer, urban cyclist, facilitator, and solidarity economy organizer with the Kola Nut Collaborative residing in southeast Chicago. He is a Program Manager at Open Collective Foundation and serves on the boards of the US Solidarity Economy Network, New Economy Coalition, South Deering Manor Community Association, and Dill Pickle Food Co-op.