I’ve made significant progress in editing the first book in my Opal Design Systems training curriculum. This book captures the most important patterns of principles and practices that I’ve learned from experience in my 40 years of work with non-profits, start-ups, legacy agencies that choose to lumber along, and organizational transitions for groups who want to survive into the future. I have not finalized the title yet, but am looking to launch the book in Spring 2014. What follows is the target audience section of the first chapter, which is designed to orient readers to who I am, who I’m writing for, what the book addresses, and different ways that they and their teams can go through the material for optimal impact. Enjoy …
Who is this book for? And how do I think it can be of help to them? Such questions about my target audience have changed at least seven times since I started this as a cultural research project almost 25 years ago. There’s quite a behind-the-scenes story about the focus as it began, unfolded, and morphed.
It started when I started working in Marin County, California in 1990. The culture of this place just north of the Golden Gate Bridge is quite distinct. At first, I wasn’t sure I liked it here. But, over the years, I got used to it and gradually came to see the culture’s beauty beyond its stark differences from where I’d lived in the Pacific Northwest.
I came to see Marin as a place far ahead of the times. Here, paradigm shifters and pioneers make up a very large percentage of the population. It’s been home to trend-setting writers and musicians (Frank Herbert, Philip K. Dick, and Anne Lamott to Santana, Grateful Dead, Janis Joplin, and Joan Baez), and academic and cultural icons (Eric Erickson to Dana Carvey). It’s also a place of “firsts,” like the first municipal water district in the state of California (1911), first countywide curbside pick-up of recyclables in the entire United States (1980), and one of the first dial-up internet bulletin boards in America (1985), started by the cultural creatives on the Whole Earth Catalog team. And it’s a place of causes, with what has been the largest community foundation in the U.S., and numerous local resources for non-profits, grant-writing, and volunteer training.
My first version of what eventually became this book would have been in 1995. If I’d finished it then, I wanted to start a Subcultural Studies Center. I’d been studying social subversives and how subcultures form, since becoming intrigued with the topic of political dissent during a high school social studies elective. But it wasn’t time and I kept expanding my cultural studies. If I’d finished it a few years later, it would’ve focused on the modern to postmodern shift, and the so-called emerging Generation X. By 2000, I’d had training in the core skills of being a futurist and was working on how to pass that on to others, so that was the new emphasis in hundreds more pages.
After we all survived Y2K, my interests were drawn toward writing about organizational start-ups that were faith-based. In the late 1980s, I’d helped found a national-level Christian ministry non-profit and served on its board for nine years. By early in the 2000 decade, I’d also been on start-up teams for seven or eight new churches. The focus of my writing turned toward matching a new church with the culture it was planted in, and other aspects of organizational development.
After writing a few hundred more pages, I thought I was ready to finish this book. But no, then I ended up in a consulting role as a futurist to a church whose leaders said they wanted to transition to be more “postmodern-friendly.” That gig didn’t go very well, really, but then, I’ve tended to learn the most important lessons from situations that don’t turn out successfully. So, more writings to synthesize the role of strategic foresight and futuring to organizational transitioning, and why future-friendly wannabees have a hard time with the hard work it takes to make it so.
When I thought (again) that I was ready to finish this book, things took another turn and I spent five years processing and writing about various forms of abuses of power and authority that I’d experienced throughout my adult life. While not exactly pleasant, that was a necessary element for me to talk about in creating a safe place for people to connect, grow, and do something together that makes a difference in our world.
Parallel to the focus on the destructions of spiritual abuse, my interests intuitively went toward the constructive solutions of quadruple bottom line enterprises. These emphasize an integrative outlook, sustainability, and spirituality. Some friends from the U.S. and U.K. and I co-authored The Transformational Index during that time. “The T.I.” is a system of tools for planning, implementing, evaluating, and revising these kinds of social transformation endeavors.
Which brings us up to now, 2014. It is time to call an end to seeming side-roads and any more add-ons. I have a sense that the necessary elements are finally in place. And there’s always been a mountain of material to draw from – at lest 1.5 million words! But the difference now is that I feel I’ve honed in on a series of concept frameworks and practical skill sets that organize the best I have to offer my readers.
And who is that finalized target audience for all of this? People of good will who want to make a difference by impacting the lives of others for good. People interested in tacking the lack of basic needs like clean water, sufficient food, adequate shelter. Or, who feel called to intervene in specific concerns – global or local – like human trafficking, domestic violence, child abuse. These are people of peace, hospitable to others and, as my friend Shannon Hopkins talks about, “willing to work together for justice, hope, and restoration.” Some are social activists, culturologists, futurists, start-up catalysts. Some are everyday people – and that’s okay. All sense a call to do something to challenge and change the evil that holds people back.
However, I’m under no illusions about overly idealistic views on social change, or even about underlying agendas that could actually harm others. Not everyone who thinks this book is The Answer for their questions will be pleased. I designed the principles and practices here to equip those who respect the dignity of all people, want the best for all, and believe in the right and responsibility of all people to determine the trajectory of their future for themselves. This all goes along with the essence of “spirituality” – relational connection and interdependence, selflessness and service, compositing our personal and cultural differences in order to make something bigger and stronger than it ever could be otherwise.
With 20-plus years of hindsight, I think this book embodies the practical needs of my now-intended target audience, while ironically and mysteriously incorporating all the other books that this one could have been.
So, I’m sitting here smiling now, as I think of my add-on to a quote from the German philosopher Schopenhauer that my friend Alan Hirsch shared. Schopenhauer said, “Talent hits a target no one else can hit; Genius hits a target no one else can see.” To which I say, “I shot my arrow into the air, and where it lands, the target moved right there!”
That’s the thing about writing. Sometimes you can plan all you want for who you think the target audience should be, and slant the material in just the right ways to reach them, and yet you’ll still be surprised. And I shouldn’t have been surprised at how much I changed in response to the challenges of finishing this book. Really, how ever could I be writing with authenticity about transformation unless I’d undergone a lot of change myself?
This isn’t a book report that synthesizes everyone else’s thoughts and theories. Instead, it’s me, externalizing what I learned from my own experiences and mistakes, trying to distill out what I think makes sense. And ultimately, I hope you are surprised, helped, and changed by this material as well. I’ve done what I can to make it rich, real, and accessible. And I trust that you find it helps you achieve setting up a project, team, or non-profit, large or small, to fulfill your desires to make a difference in the lives of others.