Organic or Institutionalized

There are many healthy tensions in civic work. One I’ve been thinking about a lot recently is the tension between organic processes and institutionalized processes.

Both have benefits – organic processes feel more genuine, more creative, more tailored for the moment. Institutionalized processes feel more efficient, established, and well-resourced.

Of course, both have drawbacks – organic processes tend to be more disordered, institutionalized processes more hierarchical.

Organic processes tend to be perceived as less strategic, which may be a downside, but a misstep in an institutionalized processes is often assumed to be intentional.

I like the tension between these processes. I like the interplay between each approach.

Perhaps our goal, as individuals moving through the world, shouldn’t be to commit to one approach or the other, but rather to embrace the tension between the two.

If you’re following an institutionalized process, ask what you might learn by loosening the process a little bit. If you’re following an organic process, ask what you might learn by formalizing it.

Really no approach is perfect. Things will go right and wrong either way. But there’s something in that middle ground – innovative and organic, but institutional and efficient.

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