Blazing New Trails: Juggling Hats

Nine months ago, my Texas roots were in high gear. I struggled to grip the reigns as two organizations dear to my heart began preparations to come together for a Trailblazing Boards of Directors meeting in February. As we galloped toward our time together in Atlanta, I tried to hold onto my different hats—my Wisdom & Money Board Chair hat, my Be Present Vision-Based Social Change Fund Development Co-chair hat and my own personal hat as a participant in both organizations. That’s a lot of hats for a two-handed woman.

Part of my preparation was to let go of my attempts to grip all the reigns, while simultaneously learning the art of hat juggling in the service of stepping deeply into collaboration.

In my last blog, written just before I headed to The Trailblazing Boards of Directors Meeting, I wrote, “Here I am. Living a dream that has grown far beyond anything I could ask or imagine… It is not just possible, it is happening…right now.”

This gathering blazed new trails of partnership between Wisdom & Money and Be Present, Inc. In these times when so many partnerships and alliances are shattering on the national and local stage, we faithfully walked a way of collaboration that supported both organizations to fully embody their unique vision and mission while manifesting new opportunities of joint work together.

First, the cast of characters in this Trailblazing adventure: Clearing the trail are leaders within the networks of Be Present and Wisdom & Money. It is an “unlikely” organizational partnership: Be Present raises the visibility of Black Women’s leadership–from its founding to now–of a diverse, collaborative network of leaders. Wisdom & Money is a network rooted in Christianity that convenes wealthy people, almost all of whom are white, to engage with money as a doorway to spiritual transformation at the personal, communal and systemic levels. Wisdom & Money understands that the journey of spiritual transformation leads to diverse partnerships and sees working with wealth as one part of the larger societal movement of spiritual and economic transformation and justice. A part of Be Present’s mission is to collaborate with other nonprofits to advance a more resilient and equitable society.

Second, the road we’ve already traveled together: We didn’t just meet. This partnership began fifteen years ago in the midst of a crisis within Wisdom & Money, then called Harvest Time. Shortly before stepping into Harvest Time, I’d glimpsed Be Present’s ability to walk boldly into the middle of what looked like a hot mess (in this case, an honest and hard conversation about race taking place in a large, racially diverse gathering). The process I witnessed supported everyone involved to speak what was true for them, as together we collectively found a way through the discussion in a manner that honored everyone’s spirit and was faithful to the vision we were seeking. I was convinced that Be Present could help Harvest Time navigate its crisis in a way that could help us live more boldly into our mission.  Again, I rode in full speed ahead (though it took time) to support a consultancy with Be Present because I’d tasted the power of the work of Harvest Time (and now Wisdom & Money) in transforming the individual heart/Spirit and the economic system. I wanted the organization to thrive.

Much slower than I’d hoped for (but I can now see the rightness of the timing) began with hiring Be Present as a consultant. After a general consultancy, Harvest Time stepped into a Human Resources consultancy which supported Harvest Time to develop a prophetic and practical organizational policy and structure to make sure the Vision and Mission aligned with our organizational practices. In addition, we traveled the wild and demanding road together in a nine-year partnership in Mississippi.

The key that Be Present brought to Harvest Time/Wisdom & Money was the Be Present’s Empowerment Model, a model powerful enough to provide a process for the transformative work both organizations are doing: Stepping OUTSIDE the distress of oppression, our own historical distress and the culture’s glaring oppression. Each time we take that step, we find ourselves standing more INSIDE the clarity of our true and unique selves and thus more able to listen to others in a conscious and present state. From there, we can build effective relationships and sustaining true alliances.

In other words, we’ve been building this partnership for a long time. We were ready for this next step of collaboratively preparing for our Trailblazing Boards of Director’s meeting. A joint team of leaders from both organizations spent months collaboratively crafting an agenda where both organizations fully shared practices and leadership, as together we envisioned the shared trail ahead of us.

Drawing by Khara Scott-Bey

By early February, the time of preparations had passed. I was saddled up and ready to ride toward our meeting in Atlanta, spurred on by Sara Evan’s singing “I Could Not Ask for More” to all my gathering partners.

*I returned from this Trailblazing Boards of Directors meeting in mid-February. Once home, I wrote and I wrote and I wrote…but the experience and all that had opened up, both for me and organizationally, needed a bit of time to settle into me before I was ready to share my writings publicly. More “reports from the trail” to follow.

For more info about how these two trailblazing organizations support my work, check out my refocused and expanded website—specifically The Practices tab.