I recently went before a group of folks from a foundation to pitch the idea for The Bench That Gives. The two big push backs were the scale of the endeavor, and the evidence or proof that what we are creating can work. I was told that what is needed is to produce 10s of thousands of jobs, and that it was a nice idea, but what can an handful of folk geared up to produce benches and other products achieve.
My knee-jerk response was defensive ~ trying to show that this is just a start and that as we brought more businesses into partnership to create more of the model, we would eventually reach scale. But this response does not honor what I know to be true, nor the intuitive evidence that underlies this initiative. I tossed around all night. What came to me in the wee hours, was to really listen to what I know ~ the concept that this blog is based upon ~ that it is not only huge efforts that create change, little efforts with big visions and integrity have the power to reach critical mass.
The power of an idea is not in its grandness, it is in its ability to be lifted and carried by many people. Therefore, by design, it must be small, compelling, apprehensible, and able to be transferred by those moved by it.
Seth Stevens, CWGI Advisor, retail genius, and proprietor of the successful Mount Washington Wine Company and Dogma took me out on a selling trip to introduce me to the retail products business. Seth had coached me on producing some stunning leave-behind sales materials including a spec sheet with the color pics of the bench. Our first stop was an up-scale garden center in “The County”. Seth began by saying a couple words about the bench, and I followed with an equally brief description of the project. Seth nodded to me to pull out the spec sheet. When the woman at the shop saw the pics, her head literally snapped back as she noted how beautiful the bench was. When she saw the retail price of the bench was $2500, she said, “Expensive! But we can do expensive here.” The sale wasn’t complete, but the message was clear. We left with a spring in our step. Seth leaned over and said, “That’s the evidence we needed!”
By combining the stunning design of the bench with a project that teaches folks to use their hands to “make good”, she easily got it, and was invested in both the product and the idea ~ little as they both may be. So as the bench moves from the workbench at Gutierrez Studios, out to the garden center. It gives the woman who was sold on the concept a chance to sell the concept repeatedly ~ in her own way. Each of the folks who purchase one for their yard have now been invested. It gives them the opportunity to share this story with each visitor who comments on the bench, and so on… This is in part the vision of this project ~ that each person who is “sold” on the concept of Community becomes an emissary, invested in the idea that we are all responsible for eachother’s well-being. In isiZulu this idea is known as UBUNTU. UBUNTU is the little idea with the power to help change the world to something that is giving and beautiful. Imagine the possibilities!
Yes, yes, yes! Truth is, foundation support would be so much more sustainable if they focused on the local support their applicants have, rather than looking to create the big bang with big numbers all by themselves. UBUNTU takes time– the wave needs to form–but I can feel it coming!!