I met Swapan in Hungary. He had lead a demonstration of thousands in the streets of New Delhi protesting corruption. We had both been awarded Donella Meadows fellowships and flown to Balatonszemes, on the shored of the giant lake Balaton. We spent a lot of time talking about social activism, and swapping wisdom and jokes. He can say things in just the right way makes total sense to me.
Tonight we skyped - to get caught up on the work we are both doing. He told me about his latest projects – developing a forest protection project in the heart of the most biodiverse land in India, working with Bhutan officials on ecosystem valuation, and mediating the largest carbon trade to date in his country. I told him about the latest on the happiness initiative, and expressed my concern about low barriers to entry in spite of being first to market.
There is a burst of movement right now in the Gross National Happiness (GNH) field. A conference I long to go to is being coordinated in NYC, where officials from the UN and Bhutan will come together to discuss GNH, and prepare for a summit in Rio. We received an invitation to a conference about designing a new economic operating system - verbiage we use in our grant applications. “We should be on the agenda!” I tell him “not invited to attend!!” My heart tightens. Fear comes up – “what if all this work is for nothing” I tell (not ask) Swapan. “What if another organization, well funded, decides to do the work we are doing, and just takes it and runs us out of the court?”
“Then you will be a success!” Swapan answers. “After all, this is one of the signs of success – and the aim of every non profit is to no longer be needed, right?”
It takes a moment to soak in, but yes, it will be okay. I’ve been grappling with this fear for a while now, and usually the response from ohers is not to worry, no one would do that, no other nonprofit would do that, or that being first to market in this field is enough to keep the leadership position. I doubt that, and would be happy to be wrong.
After talking to Swapan, I think this bigger view is a better perspective. I decide to expand my definition of success for this project.
Laura Musikanski - ED of HI