Remembering the Revolution: Grace Lee Boggs

Are any of you wishing for clarity of purpose among American citizens, and leadership that recognizes the imperatives of the time?

Grace Lee Boggs is as consequential at 92 as most activists and writers at 50 or 60. Good work has energized her with a refreshingly clear vision of America. Interviewed on Democracy Now (I recommend taking time to listen to her perspective from a half century of social activitism) Boggs describes the revolution begun with the 1960’s civil rights movement; the speech by Jimmy Carter that called upon us to look at ourselves and which created the counterrevolution demonstrated by the Reagan years, then 9-11 and the Bush Presidency.

“Human relations matter more than economic growth,” Boggs sites as the revolution, first brought to light in the civil rights movement, then extended to women, and then into the environmental movement.”

She believes that racism is still a profoundly strong fact of America’s psyche, responding to the recent attacks on the Obama administration, Obama’s denial that it is racially derived, and the comments of Jimmy Carter that racisim against Obama is strong and abominable.

Boggs is voicing something I have felt missing in the last twenty years: that dialogue begun in the 60’s that addressed the most important ideas of democracy and that were lost in a wave of economic bottom-line thinking with Reagan and which as we see through the next three administrations did NOT result in economic security for this country.

She feels the Obama administration has missed where we are as a nation, that he and his Harvard-trained staff, are unaware of what is happening – she described as “linear thinking.”

Boggs has written a new introduction to the The American Revolution written by her late husband James Boggs. I just ordered it.  Another good source  exploring true democratic movements under the media’s radar but none the less vibrant, is Democracy’s Edge by Frances Moore Lappe.

Are any of you wishing for clarity of purpose among American citizen’s, and leadership that recognizes the imperatives of the time: as Boggs points out, this is about downsizing our expectations and realizing our previous wealth was dependent on impoverishing the rest of the world. 9-11 was the resounding message that the rest of the world is no longer going to tolerate that. This is a time of having less and accepting that as not only okay, but a way into a better future.

Winning Grants – Its All Upfront

Avoid having your grant proposal stuck in a “stranger pile” in some far and distant foundation office. It’s not about a grant writer: it’s about a team and a grantwriter.

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I recently read an article in the Journal of the American Association of Grant Professionals that rang true in my experience as a nonprofit consultant. The article referred to the lonely pile of unsolicited grants on a foundation officer’s desk  –  the “stranger” pile (Lundahl, Journal of the AAGP, Fall 2008: Vol. 6, No. 1).

Odds of being funded from this pile are small to improbable.

If a foundation has no clue who you are, you have not done your homework, the upfront preparation that makes all the difference. It takes time.  The message: plan ahead.

Grant writing is not about putting a proposal together, though that is an important component of it. I think of the proposal writing as the culmination of many steps that have taken place upfront.

  1. Clear definition of what your organization needs.
  2. Compelling justification that you are the one to fulfill those needs.
  3. Staff and/or partners have met to discuss the strategic goals and objectives.
  4. Research has taken place to identify a group of funding agencies whose mission is a bullseye for your project.
  5. Board members and staff are ready to visit or call the foundation, corporation, or government office when possible. When the investment in your organization is critical (usually capacity building or start-up) then a face to face meeting is really productive. *Investment in airfare and hotel to meet personally with a foundation clearly #4 in this list is well worth it. My experience is that it may take a year before it pays off. But they may fund you significantly and if you meet your objectives and the need is great you be funded over and over again.

Before you think of applying for a grant, ask yourself how you could get the job done without it. Can you trade services with another organization, share a staff member, charge a fee for service, partner with a group that will donate the services inkind? This should always be your question even when it is clear you’ll need grant funding as well. Most foundations are more certain of you if your project is recognized as worthy by other funding agencies.

So, the message is this: it’s not about a grant writer, it’s about a team and a grantwriter.  It is about long range planning.

Check out Grant Champion Web Site which is full of free products and very excellent advice. See my website, WriteForChange,  for more about grant writing and nonprofit consulation.

Good Books Are Food for My Imagination

One of the greatest pleasures of my life is reading a good book. I am reading Per Petterson’s Out Stealing Horsesthe cleanest prose of riveting power since reading Hemmingway. I feel the Norwegian soul and walk its wooded shorelines with Trond Sander and gradually learn about his life in a plot that reaches back and forward, an intrcate weave of life’s experiences as a youth comes of age, reflected by the man.

On another page herein I have listed the Ten Books of Enduring Relevance to me, and today on Yoga Journal I found a list of “Ten Spiritual Classics” by Gerald Rosen that remined me of great books in that genre. Autobiography of a Yogi kept me enthralled for weeks as I listened to the books on tape.

I’ll admit to being a reader who still likes to hold a writer’s creation in my hands, feeling the pages, and cover, imbibing the fragrances of old books… leather bound, or mildewy. I enjoy going to used book stores, finding a buried treasure that has a dedication, underlining perhaps or scrawled notes by previous owners. I’ve not ventured to a Kindle or its like but would like to know if you have and what you think of the experience.

My sister brought Library Thing to my attention. She is using it to set up her own library catalogue and share books she is reading with other avid readers. You might want to check it out on her blog. Scroll down on right.

May you find yourself reading an enthralling book in some cozy corner with a cup of hot tea at hand. I am off to the main library to find one or more books from Gerald Rosen’s list to reread. Sighhhh

Susan

What Truly Motivates Us? It’s Not What You Think!

This period of time for small business owners like me  challenges the imagination. It is a whole new playing field and a differenct set of rules. I am confident of my products, have a proven track record of success but the truth is funding dollars have dwindled and nonprofits, at least, are thinking up new ways to leverage their impact that may or may not include monetary methods.

During this time I’ve decided to do more creative writing and spend time in the presence of creative entrepreneurs who offer light in the shadowy path of an evolving new economy. TED.com is a constant source for innovation in business, social and scientific thinking. This link takes you to a presentaion by Dan Pink, career analyst. Pink’s address is startling: he debunks the old idea that money is a  motivation for performance. I highly recommend you put your feet up and take time to listen to this. It encouraged me to view the new business environment as one that is creating an opportunity for the best kind of work to evolve in America.

GoingGreenJobs.com – a new resource

Last week CareerBuilder.com launched a new employment service site for green jobs:

“GoingGreenJobs.com specializes in connecting job seekers interested in environmentally friendly jobs to quality employers. Whether you are looking for a specific green-collar job or a position with a company with sustainable business practices, GoingGreenJobs.com provides opportunities at all skill levels and varying industries.”

GoingGreenJobs.com is facinating to dip into. For one thing it may help my community learn what other communities are listing as “green jobs.”

At the top of the page are twenty categories to search under. I have perused the list of jobs under each and have been surprised by the variety of jobs that don’t necessarily seem “green.”

Also, I find that the categories are not intuitive. For example, under “Earth Jobs” are numerous listings for writers of software, as well as the expected GIS jobs. I would be interested in what others think about this site and its usefulness.

I commend CareerBuilder for making a stab at this developing workforce area and will keep playing with it and give you an update later.

Another site online since 2008 is JustMeans.com which is a site that connects socially consicous people with jobs one might call “good work” in the wake of E.F. Schumacher’s little book, Good Work (1979.)

Good work is socially responsible, encourages the creativity and good nature in people on both sides of the counter, and may or may not make you wealthy but is sure to make you happy. Good work leaves the environment in tact or improved, promotes local entrepreneurial efforts, creates community among people, supports good health, and is spiritual in nature.

Just click on their client link and scan the companies that advertise jobs with JustMeans. You can click on any of them to follow their activities and news.

Be well,

Susan

Green Job Dollars Flow Away from Pensacola

I’ve been frustrated that our community is not able to apply for the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 grant dollars ($2-5M) in green jobs areas maybe because we have not spent the time identifying all the job areas that could be considered “green.” In a short research effort this moring I found a green jobs listing for Canada, under the title “Good Work.” There is a broad range of what it means to be green and I think could lead us in the right direction.

Also, Escambia County has a Green UP program but when I went to the url it was no longer a hot link. I could find no reference to it anywhere on the MyEscambia site. I called their number today and got the Engineering Department for Escambia. The receptionist did not know anything about the Green Up program and transferred me to another person whose voice mail clicked in. I left a message and hopefully will know more by the end of the day.

Is anyone else finding it difficult to come up with a list like this for their communities. Conversely, do any of you readers live where it has been done and have a link or a contact that I can research or speak to?

This is money flowing right past our community. The grant initiative is here.

Chilling Predictions

New conversation develops on the Hill regarding climate change as a security threat.

Anthony C. Zinni, former head of the Central Command and retired Marine, made a chilling observation that we’ll either pay for reduction of green house gas emissions now or pay later with human lives in numerous conflicts induced by worldwide destablilization. His remarks were covered in a NY Times article reported by John M. Broder on a new conversation develping in Washington about climate change as a security threat. Mass migrations due to food shortages, conflicts over water and resources, and resentment toward the country that has put more carbon emissions in the atmosphere per capita than any other – U.S. – have long been sighted as potential impacts of a warming planet by the scientific community and governments  (IPCC Reports). The Pentagon is taking climate change a lot more seriously and none too soon.

Coal Industry in a Death Spiral

The American coal industry, rather than fully embracing the imperative to transition to a low carbon based economy, is gathering its resources to keep the status quo.  A recent article in the NY Times reports continued use of fraudulent letters and “guerilla war” campaign tactics to lobby Democrats on Capitol Hill.

With leaders in the coal industry making absurd rationalizations such as the Appalachian people’s need for “flat land” as a justifications for blowing off mountain tops, how can public officials take them seriously?

I can only surmise that rather than getting on with development of  green energy technologies, coal industry leaders and their armies must realize that the path toward “clean coal technology” is flawed and that the coal industry is in a death spiral. Why else such desperate measures? Bookmark  Open Source Coal a new resource coming online soon.

Countdown to Copenhagen Climate Change Summit

350.org coalition calls for more actions in support of the Copenhagen Climate Change Summit when benchmarks for reducing [CO2] will be set.

If you are not connected to 350.0rg I highly recommend that you put this coalition of hundreds of organizations around the world on your radar. 350 parts per million (ppm) of carbon dioxide concentration is the international target for protecting the Earth’s biosphere from impacts of global warming. We are at 387 ppm now.

What’s happening at the Copenhagen Climate Change Summit? In December world leaders will come together to establish the benchmarks for saving the planet’s living systems. Nothing less. 170 countries will be represented. Information from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) provides the basis for planning and discussion. Find the abstracts. You will find the data riveting. We cannot ignore this anymore.

To read timely and in depth analysis of U.S. Climate Change policy and environmental news, I recommend Dot Earth, Andrew Rivkin’s blog.

Susan

Wendell Berry Goes to Washington…again.

The Washington Post interviewed “three wise men” who presented their 50-yr plan for a new agriculture policy to Congress that ensures sustainable food systems in the U.S. At issue is their plan that spans fifty years, or ten farm bills. The Post’s Jane Black, asked these three experts whether our representatives can think that far ahead!

Good question.

Wendell Berry, a farmer and philosopher, whose writings illuminate the politics and ethics of modern agribusiness versus sustaining agriculture, told Janet Black he was not particularly hopeful (since the same issues he wrote about are the same issues he presented three decades later).

The long-term plan for a sustainable food system (conceived by Berry and geneticist Wes Jackson from the Land Institute,  and sustainable-agriculture advocate Fred Kirschenmann with the Leopold Center) emphasizes perennials, not annuals. The reason has to do with cultivation of living communities in soil that foster resiliency to stress.

Drought and increasing temperatures, followed by flooding are some of the stress factors impinging on agricultural land. Industrial scale practices that ignore how soil communities sustain the productivity of land has been the U.S. approach to farming since the 1950s when fertilizers and pesticides ended widespread hunger in the U.S.

But the land is reaching exhaustion. With the new impacts of climate change, many experts fear a collapse of our once productive fields.

As a member of the Society of Environmental Journalists, I read the discussions about “deniers” of climate change, even in the face of mounting evidence of its progress, and causal elements from humankind. As yet we don’t seem to know how to convince a large segment of our society which holds a view that climate change is a left-wing plot.

maslows-hierarchy-of-needsFor any long-term change the public has to be able to think long-term. When our economy and political focus causes citizens to worry about basic needs (food, job and home) we put them at the base of Maslowe’s famous hierachy of needs. At the level of existence, people feel anxious.

Perhaps the long-term thinking that concerned leaders wish people to exercise is not possible under current political, social, and economic circumstances, or, even if people are willing to engage in long-term planning, misguided by leaders deny climate change as a threat.

Mrs. Obama established an organic garden at the White House and the the First Family dines on the garden’s sustainable produce. Will that sensibility spread beyond their table into national policy.

The jury is out. I would love to know what you think.