The Fruition Era

Sep 24, 2014 at 1:54 pm

This week’s feature story, my first, is about “Resurfaced,” a project orchestrated by City Collaborative, a nonprofit that undertakes short-term, achievable projects to enhance Louisville’s image and liveability. 

The reason I use the term “orchestrated” to describe their role is not out of disrespect. I know each of the three guys leading this effort, and I have nothing but the utmost respect — even admiration — for their abilities, vision to do and willingness to achieve a tangible objective … to bring it to fruition. And they do it because they live in and love Louisville. I say they are the orchestrators because, while each of them has been contributing as much of himself as possible, they are the orchestrators of a collaborative effort to realize the completion of the project. 

My intent is not to disparage the passion, commitment or value of other endeavors, causes, public works projects or charities. Yet, one of LEO’s foremost objectives is to start a community conversation; to challenge paradigms and old habits; to incite uncomfortable thoughts and critical thinking; and make people ask or answer “why.” 

Years ago, when I moved back from Washington, D.C., one thing I noticed that was special about this community is that it is a place where things can get done — versus Washington, where not getting things done has meaning well beyond starting a new company or philanthropic endeavor. Furthermore, you could also get into any office in the city; in turn, if you need or want advice or assistance, it is at least possible to be heard by the appropriate audience. 

Perhaps it was because of the endless fundraising of which politics consists, or the inability of the federal government to solve anything — from big issues like climate change and immigration, to seemingly straightforward issues like equal pay for equal work, violence against women or keeping the government out of people’s bedrooms and doctor’s offices — I had a desire to do something tangible. In response, I created the Fruition Fund, with a mission of finding opportunities that I could see through from beginning to end. 

This was exciting. I was in my twenties, had a great name for my nonprofit, which was different from all the rest of the charities and civic works projects in town, and there was nothing that could stop me — except for one key lesson that I had not yet learned: there is practically nothing that can be accomplished alone, particularly if it is a nonprofit or public works venture. 

So when I met the three orchestrators of City Collaborative as a group this time, I drew two monumental connections: there were three brilliant people working on this project (not one know-it-all), and they were attempting an achievable project. Furthermore, the project was one that could be completed in a matter weeks and months, not years. 

The reason I am excited to be able to discuss the Resurfaced project is because I believe we have entered into a new era of community service. There is a new generation of givers who only want to see progress. There is most likely no single reason why this is the case. The best I have been able to surmise is that it is in part due to technology, and society’s impatience. Second, people are skeptical of big organizations and institutions, which are more vulnerable to waste and fraud. The final and, I believe, most significant factor in this paradigm shift has been the recession. Personal, corporate and government money all disappeared overnight. The natural conclusion would have to be that whatever remained could not afford to be wasted, or even risked. And since nobody was impervious to the financial collapse, everyone was in the same quandary.

As a result, without any financial assistance from government or private investors, the only way anything could be achieved was through collaboration. Is it a coincidence that the trendy word for the past several years was “innovation”? People, organizations, charities, public institutions — everyone had to collaborate and come up with new, innovative opportunities and solutions if anything was going to get done. 

Finally, there are many established, meaningful charities to which I continually donate, and I have the great fortune to serve on the boards of several wonderful non-profit organizations. Yet these are personal causes that I believe in supporting, and have no chance of being “solved.” 

I do not know if there is a new model that can achieve better results in any one area. I do, however, know that there is a new way of realizing results. Regardless of the project, it must be economically viable and economically efficient — and above all it requires collaboration. 

Perhaps the unintended purpose of this week’s note is to begin a collaborative effort to discover new, innovative approaches to solving, or improving on, old problems.