A running guide of what NOT to do. The first iteration of Tim's Ta-Don't List was a goodbye gift from Foresight's summer staff person Rachel Young, left behind on my whiteboard. Now, I'm keeping it going with weekly updates, in the spirit of better, more impactful change-making.
1. DON’T conflate systems change with large scale. Transforming complex systems requires building capacity at all levels—from the grassroots on up. To forget this can lead to top-heavy, inaccessible processes.
2. DON’T miss an opportunity to color curate your jellybeans. Consider this a motto: Design in all things!
3. DON’T just give your time and money to the usual (largest, most visible) suspects. Dig deeper, and discover the organizations whose fights began long before our current crises, and with much less access to resources.
4. DON’T be afraid to pet a puppy, if you see one on the street that needs petting. These are the self care strategies that sustain our work over the long haul.
5. DON’T rush to resolve your cognitive dissonance. We all feel the disjuncture between our actions, and who we believe ourselves to be. Inhabit this discomfort–it’s fertile ground for transformation, and our eagerness to leave it behind us often inflicts harm.
6. DON'T waste energy on avoidance. It takes significant work (mental and emotional) to keep our worries at bay. Instead, externalize your deepest fears by writing them down, or sharing them with friends and colleagues. Then they can no longer control you.
7. DON'T miss out on opportunities to make change with style. For example: An eye-catching reusable bag draws attention and starts conversations—transforming your individual consumer choice into a potentially more catalytic culture shift.
8. DON'T fetishize your tools. Whether a technical device like GIS systems, or a framework like collective impact, a resource is not a methodology, and the most impactful methodologies incorporate others' fresh insights, and evolve to meet the needs of each unique challenge.
9. DON'T hesitate to eavesdrop. As an intern (or even as an established professional), remaining attentive to your environment and your colleagues' (public!) conversations is the most efficient and effective way to learn about a new workplace and broader field.
10. DON'T delay responding simply because you don't know what to say. Most of the time, the people waiting to hear from you will prefer an imperfect message to silence.
11. DON'T forget to make a "car agenda." Long drives can be considered a gift of time and, if undertaken with colleagues, attention. Come prepared to make the most of it, by floating that idea you've been meaning to share, initiating a brainstorm, or working your way through your call list.
12. DON'T speak. Not immediately, or at least not always. Working with the high school student participants of the Foresight Prep @ Oberlin College summer program, I have learned that if I curb my urge to fill every silence, young people will rise to the occasion with unexpected insights.