Piece by Piece

“The first step,” someone said to me today, “is to not hyperventilate.”

That seems like generally a good place to start.

But it’s not always an easy place to start. Projects seem so monumental. Objectives so overwhelming, that it’s easy to go straight to panic mode when faced with the monumental.

In most of my work, this is challenge is relatively easy to overcome. Experience has taught me the guideposts and given me capacity to prepare for multiple contingencies.

Right now, for example, I am chairing the event committee for The Welcome Projects’ YUM: A Taste of Immigrant City event (save the date: April 10!). This is a relatively large fundraiser, with lots of people involved and lots of moving parts. But since this is my third year chairing, and since I’ve planned other events, I know more or less what to expect. There’s a lot of work involved, sure, but overall it’s not too stressful. I can take it piece by piece, working with a great team to put it all together.

And this type of strategy is also applied to community organizing.

You don’t start just trying to change the big thing on day one. You start with a little thing. A tangible project. You talk to people, get others involved, and grow your movement. You celebrate every victory. And you slowly chip away at your larger goal. Change takes time.

That’s all well and good, but the challenge is making sure your little victories really do culminate in the big change you are looking for.

Shifting culture is not the same as planning an event. You can gain experience from organizing and learn important lessons from historic progress, but there’s no 1-year checklist that you complete in order to meet your goal. There’s not event a 10 year checklist.

Our communities and our cultures are constantly changing. Sometimes for the better, and sometimes for the worse. And you need to focus on that big picture to ensure social change efforts are on the right track.

But don’t hyperventilate. Just take it piece by piece.

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