Balancing Intentionality & Emergence: CCL's 1st Onsite
Two weeks ago, CCL staff and board gathered in person for the first time. To restate the difference that in-person relationship building and time spent together can have is a lesson most of us know. But, as we have become accustomed to increasingly virtual work settings and collaborations, it can be challenging to prioritize meeting in person for a multitude of very valid reasons. As a Board Member, this is why I am grateful and feel privileged to have joined the staff and the rest of the board for a 3 day in-person onsite in Seattle, having traveled from my home in Bend, Oregon.
Over our three days together, we learned about one another as whole people, revisited the CCL vision, mission, and strategy, and heard directly from CCL’s current and future Lending Partners about their vision for the future of the financial system and how CCL can support their visions.
A true practice of CCL’s values to create trust and relationships first
Woven throughout the three days was time spent outside and a sunny day in May in Seattle is a true gift! Luckily, that’s what we had to kick off our time together, starting with a homemade, vegan brunch cooked by our very own Mỹ Tâm H. Nguyễn, CCL’s Board Member and resident chef extraordinaire — if you ask nicely, she might share her recipes with you!
Next, we strolled through Discovery Park learning about our collective shared love for all things pistachio flavored and recounting other favorites, like favorite vacations, birthdays, and National Parks. As this was the first time many of us met in person, the extra time spent to get to know each other was invaluable and, not to be too corny, but a true practice of CCL’s values to create trust and relationships first.
We spent the next day revisiting the CCL vision, mission, and strategy. As a newer organization — but in my experience this is true for all organizations to some extent — it is not uncommon to outgrow pieces of these guiding documents. Thus, revisiting on an annual cadence gives the opportunity for these documents to be living and ever-evolving. There were many themes that we coalesced around, but first a shout out to Sandhya and Ryan for facilitating a conversation that felt truly organic and energizing. They very naturally made space for each person to share, even as we were all bursting with ideas and contributions. And, many thanks to Ryan and Roselle who took notes throughout the onsite, allowing everyone else to remain off-screen and present in the moment.
Revisiting on an annual cadence gives the opportunity for these documents to be living and ever-evolving
Ok — back to themes from our vision, mission, and strategy conversation: in doing this strategic work, we named the tension that can be felt when balancing intentionality and emergence. This tension arises between the work of holding a vision and planning for it, while also wanting to be adaptable and continue to experiment, so that emergence can be woven into that greater vision. A big takeaway from naming this tension was the 'lab' part of the Community Credit Lab name.
CCL was formed on this idea of experimenting and proving that affordable credit can be done, that demographics that are racistly termed ‘risky’ are in fact not and are worthy of capital, power, and resources. Recognizing this tension between intentionality and emergence helped us to place the importance of experimentation and operating as a ‘lab’ as core to CCL’s organizational DNA.
On our final day, we heard from several of CCL’s Lending Partners, who shared their lived experience and career backgrounds, an overview of their programs, thoughts on what made their collaborations with CCL meaningful, and their vision for what the financial system could look like in 50 to 100 years. While I sit on the Board’s Partnership Committee and have the benefit of having heard from many of the partners before, I left this session feeling the depth of the Lending Partnerships that CCL has been able to build over the last couple of years and validation for where we concluded our vision, mission, and strategy conversation the day before.
Themes that were amplified and validated in the CCL Lending Partner sessions were:
CCL is part of a larger movement that is rethinking finance and economies.
No individual or single organization is going to change these systems, but together our practices of small and consistent action will shift these systems. This exemplifies one way our movement can continue to practice decentralization (as opposed to centralized power, which is often hoarded).
And because systems change needs all of us doing our small, consistent actions, this presents an opportunity to be interdependent. We can be a community of practice, that comes together, shares our learnings, and experiments with what we’ve learned. And we’ll do this over and over again…
… until we no longer need to. All of CCL’s Lending Partners, and CCL included, noted that in 50 to 100 years they hope their organization no longer exists — because this would mean that the system had been successfully changed, that their organization’s work was no longer needed.
I have to say, that is a future I am excited to work towards and to maybe one day see more and more glimmers of until it ultimately shifts to the norms in the financial system.
I am proud of all the work we were able to accomplish during our short time together. Not least of all, those three days are the best I’ve eaten in a year! If you are in town, get the CCL team to give you all their recommendations for the best food in Seattle.
Vision: To actualize economic justice — where interdependence and abundance unite to enable choice and prosperity for humanity. Mission: To shift power by facilitating capital in relationship with people who face discrimination in the financial system.
Kaitlyn Rich (she/her) serves on the Community Credit Lab Board. She brings with her a decade of experience in human-centered design and systems thinking. Her current work at Ecotrust, as the Director of Community Asset Development, envisions a future of abundance where intergenerational wealth is broadly shared and communities of color own their land and assets