Creating new pathways in social sector
Executive Director of CARE Atlanta Global Innovation Hub
Ryan’s work at the CARE Atlanta Global Innovation Hub is centered around creating new pathways and clearing space for new ideas within the large complex organization by making sure care CARE remains good stewards of the resources and the reach that they have.
Tell us more about your work. CARE works in 95 countries around the world with the primary objective of alleviating poverty and advancing social justice. Over the course of many years, I have developed a deep passion and interest in the impact in communities as well as an appreciation for what it means to create pathways towards opportunities. That resonates with me because of my own story, but also with what I have seen through the lives of others. I also care deeply about the global community. There is this idea that we leverage our opportunities and connections to go further, kinder and take better care of one another is something that is centered in this work.
New solutions will have to come from new voices and new places. As we look at taking our global community towards this new direction, we have to get some old stuff out of the way. That means that some of the people who have been in place need to step back, and those of us who have created these big clunky organizations that take up a lot of space, we have to be willing to give up some of that power and allow that infrastructure to be leveraged. To elevate and to center new voices, new ideas, and news organizations. And to do it now- we have an urgency at this moment to move in this direction.
Tell us about that urgency. Why do we need more social intrapreneurs, and why now? As we look at the speed of communication, information, and connectivity and we overlay that with the challenges we still see in our world I think we have a moral imperative to act now. We have the tools, we have the ability to reach out and touch each other and by the way, we can do much of this without anyone losing. This isn’t a zero-sum proposition. We are now at this point in human history where we can move swiftly and create impact, so the question I would ask is ”Why not now?”.
How are you bringing these ideas to life in your organization? CARE has been around for 75 years; in fact, the term “care package” comes from CARE. The initial work of the organization was sending packages and supplies to folks post WW2. Fast forward to today, CARE is now centered around poverty alleviation that cuts across many different programming areas such as education, financial inclusion, public health, advocacy, gender justice. With scale and reach, comes bureaucracy. So what we are trying to do with the Global Innovation Hub is to create pathways, to clear space a bit within this massive complex organization for new ideas, for new folks, and for us as CARE to be good stewards of the resources and the reach that we have.
Would you say that non-for-profits face institutional barriers or resistance to change? As you might imagine, change is scary for some people. Understandably, you have folks both inside and outside the organization that worry about what that might mean for us.
I will quote one of my heroes, Frederick Douglass, who talked about the way power works: “Power concedes nothing without a demand”. We know that power by nature seeks to replicate or preserve itself. As we look to redistribute power and look at different ways of uplifting and creating space for more people to become more powerful, we do run across a resistance. Some of it, I think, is our natural inclination as humans. We fear the unknown, and that’s a legitime challenge. There are also notions of “oh, we have always done it this way” or “we have never done that before.” that can be paralyzing. But we have to have the courage to try new things, we have to be led by our convictions. I think when we put those two things together, we open up a world of new possibilities.
What specific skills does one need to have in order to be able to drive the #changefromwithin? You have to maintain a sense of possibility. That optimism is at the root of the change that we might hope to accomplish.
Our optimism suggests the possibility that doesn’t exist at this moment, so if you hold onto that it gives you the energy to keep going when you run out on barriers that will inevitably be there.
One of the things I try to remind myself is that it’s not personal. When you bump up against people who maybe don’t like your idea or not able to see your vision, you have to be able to separate that from your self worth as well as separate from even their worth and values as individuals. The moment that we are better able to disagree, is when we create the space for magic to happen.
I believe that power comes from having a deep understanding of your narrative and its relation to the world around you. You have to look inward and understand who you are, what are your values and what really matters to you, and take the very scary step, a non-self centered step, and try to deeply understand others and understand the conditions and circumstances in the world around you. If you find ways where those two things come together, then you become powerful and become part of something that starts to be bigger than you.