Every so often I get a sign that I'm not just talking to myself. Last week I got a voice mail from the head of a foundation that I've been working with for the last few years. She was excited to share that her board had committed to a multi-year grant to accelerate systems change.
Since her foundation is a traditional, programmatic grant maker a grant designed to improve the performance of a key civic system was a departure from the norm and therefore a significant risk. The board had acknowledged the risk in approving the grant. This both pleased the head of the foundation and made her nervous. She said she felt like she was out on a ledge and was hoping I could talk her off. I called back and declined her request. Instead, I congratulated her on persuading her board to make and acknowledge a risky grant. And I encouraged her to enjoy the view from the ledge. Because she was definitely on one. And I said she should make sure her board comes out on the ledge with her.
Indeed, we should all be willing to get out on the ledge more often and we definitely need to enjoy the view when we are out there. The only way we're going to achieve sustained positive change is to support efforts to advance systems change and that means taking more risks. Granted, theses efforts won't always work as planned. That's to be expected. We'll be more willing to go back out on the ledge again if we at least enjoy the view while we are out there.