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“Sharing is Scary!”

October 30, 2017 by Leena Waite0

Warning: Halloween puns abound in this post.

“Mommy, I don’t want to lend Nicholas this toy because he might not give it back,” says my 4-year old the other day. Nicholas is just over one, so in some ways, my child might be deducting a logical conclusion. (See This American Life’s endearing Kid Logic episode.) He is learning that a toddler barely understands what sharing is, and we have to help teach him that. On the flip side, my son has had many sharing experiences where he does get his toy back. Still the idea of handing something over that is near and dear to him is a scary proposition.

As much as us adults try to teach this to children, we must continually re-learn this aspect as well. It is something NCN actually talked about in our 2016 Event, Streamlining Social Good. And now we are spending a whole day in November focused on sharing AND innovation – another spooky term.

Both sharing and innovating involve taking risks, letting go of what’s been working (or maybe more appropriately, our work-around), and venturing into the unknown. To then share that with an audience locally and abroad over the internet (a big open scary world) takes guts.

In the nonprofit world, some of us are programmed even more so to not share (services, space, or collaborative efforts), because we’ve worked so hard to attain what we got, even if we deserve better. (See Vu Le’s recent post: “Your Crappy Chair is Not a Badge of Honor”.) We get nervous that our ideas, our funding or our copy machine will be usurped or broken. We picture handing that toy over to a one year old (insert your unknown entity), never to see it again. Or maybe we don’t want to reveal the skeletons in our nonprofit closets. It’s too vulnerable, even if we might learn how to do something better.

As parenting book advice infiltrates my brain, the thought occurs to me to not focus on what we think is “ours”, but what purpose does it serve. A toy brings enjoyment that is not meant solely for my son. Our respective non-profit missions do not belong to us; its purpose is to provide what’s needed in our communities. A recent talk by a spiritual director took the Buddhist’s philosophy around attachment, and, I thought, wisely interpreted our need to focus on nonattachment – the space between attachment and detachment. Staying engaged, but not gripping too tightly, so that we can move and dance with the change that comes our way.

But I get it. You want proof, you want data. Our future blogs are going to be focused on just that: impact. You’ll get to hear snip bits of the innovative ideas shared by the speakers themselves after Sharing Innovation. You’ll hear more about how centers evaluate their work. Not to mention, our membership of 150 established and prospective centers as well as 400+ centers on our Find a Center map is hopefully proof that nonprofits are not folding by sharing in innovative ways. They are prospering.

So stay tuned, stay engaged, and search for those places you are gripping too tightly. Sharing space may be full of surprises, but we promise it is not a haunted house.

Author image

About Our Blogger:

Leena Waite

Before arriving at the Nonprofit Centers Network, Leena Waite was the Director of Programming for five years at America’s Grow-a-Row (AGAR), a New Jersey based non-profit that grows and gleans fresh produce for hunger agencies and food desert areas across the state. Before AGAR, she served as the Director of Children’s Ministries of Chatham Township, running the church school program for 150 children from birth through 8th grade. Leena holds a BFA and Jazz Minor in Violin Performance from Carnegie Mellon University, a Masters of Music and Masters in Improvisation from the University of Michigan, and a Masters of Arts in Ministry from Drew Theological School.


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