We agree to pause
By Jennifer Lentfer, Director of Communications
Thousand Currents believes that the learnings we cultivate as individuals are the building blocks for social transformation. But amidst a warming planet, donor deadlines, the pressure we put on ourselves, and the urgency of the injustices before us, how do we invite learning within our team, let alone usher it in to the world?
We agree to pause.
We pause at Thousand Currents because we owe it to our partners, each other, and to our community. We pause to take stock, to reflect, to ideate, to dream new dreams.
We pause because we are in this for the long haul.
One form of this commitment is our annual “Breakthrough Week,” where we invite spaciousness and time to cultivate our hearts’ desires in our work and think expansively. At the start of each fiscal year, our staff have no obligations to regular meetings or to stay on top of emails. A practice inspired by our partners and their commitment to shared learning and intentional reflective processes, we as staff are encouraged to structure our work days in ways that are most inviting to our creativity and our natural rhythms.
Breakthrough Week is about respecting what our staff see as most needed to advance our work and our goals. It’s also about a response to a question that I assume many people in the social good sector have asked themselves: “What if I had some time unencumbered by meetings, calls, day-to-day stuff so I can work on this one new, crazy idea I have?”
During Breakthrough Week, we allow ourselves to re-imagine our work, explore and try new approaches, and replenish. Here was the guidance offered to our staff for our 2017 Breakthrough Week:
“Work all night. Sleep all day. Don’t sleep. Cook. Eat. Garden. Spend quality time with people you love. Draw. Write. Listen. Read. Play. Hike. Dance. Nap…No one is watching. You alone know what will help you rejuvenate and power up.
“Do whatever it is that floats your boat and has the potential to make Thousand Currents that much stronger. This is your chance. No schedule. No 9-5. No disruptions. Set your out of office message… take the week and embrace this creative process.”
We take this time away because we have learned from our partners just how powerful these pauses can be in shifting organizational strategy and mission. Some people use the time to research something they’ve wanted to know more about. Others work on art or writing projects. Others take the time to strategize and devise/revise new systems or ways of working together.
Breakthrough Week is nothing fancy, but it turns out it’s a tactic akin to those used by gurus like Oprah, Einstein, and Buffett. And it works. The following Monday, the staff assembles to share out their breakthroughs. It’s so incredible what people come up with when given this freedom and permission to pause.
Potential “innovations” have arrived across our team in that meeting over the years – big time. In the past, Breakthrough Week has led us to expand to other regions, articulate why and how we want to work with social movements, devise a strategy for the Buen Vivir Fund, donor organizing, diaspora organizing, or the Thousand Currents Academy, make a blueprint for a creative tech project, map out what an employee orientation to uphold our organizational culture would look like, or share Thousand Currents’ work with a specific new audience.
Not only is Breakthrough Week important to keeping Thousand Currents relevant and thinking bigger, it is a good practice in the sector that needs to create more humane workplaces and a renewed focus on mental/emotional health. What’s more, every one of us increasingly grapples with constant connectivity as a block to creativity and to activating people. As so eloquently and beautifully shared by the FRIDA Fund in their Happiness Manifestx, collective care is the agreements we make to take care of ourselves so that we can effectively “show up” for each other.
Deliberately pausing and resisting urgency can be a radical, disruptive idea. To do something for ourselves, something that sustains and nourishes our organization, is how Thousand Currents protects the space for learning and innovation. Breakthrough Week is one way we access even deeper levels of consciousness required for the times we live in.
Can you agree to pause? Or rather, can we afford not to?