Center for Spiritual Inquiry and Integral Education

R. Michael Fisher
CSIIE: Organization to Business Plan
by R. Michael Fisher - Saturday, November 12, 2011, 08:58 AM

Associates Bi-annual Assessment

The Associates (Zach, Treesong, myself) have recently completed our 6 mo. self-assessment as Associates and Dept. Heads for CSIIE. It was a fascinating and exciting process of self-discovery as well as discovery of where CSIIE is at in its growth cycle as an not-for-profit organization and also a business.

Each of us took 2-3 hrs to dialogue with the other Associates on separate weeks. It proved to help us figure out our own strengths and weaknesses, and how each of us likes to have creative freedom to come up with a method of organizing the self-assessement. I did have a format, which we all approved on, prior to the assessments, and we followed it more or less. We also were risking to do assessment differently without all the potential fear and threat of being evaluated by peers. Our intention was self-awareness, honesty to ourselves and our peers, and learning what is and what could be different. Everything in these self-assessment sessions was more or less about how we "lead" our lives, and assist others to do likewise.

My summary sense of this exercise is that CSIIE has just completed Phase One of its development. Basically, we went from nothing to something. We have a secure and good platform (website) for alternative higher education in the world. Our rough policies of guidance are spelled out. We all are leading with the intention to synergize further evolution of CSIIE. Our commitment is unwavering to the cause. And, we are still "getting ready" to do business. Phase One, was all about seeding, working together, finding ourselves and role in this organization that felt it was our "calling" and then preparing the infrastructure base for it to happen in the local and global arena. Mission accomplished.

Phase Two: Running A Not-for-profit Business

We have a team of three Associates. We'd like a few more. There are three Adjunct Instructors, we'd like a few more (a lot more). We have an Ombudsperson. We have a handful of supportive Friends of CSIIE. We have no budget. How are we going to run a business, where we make the funds we need to live at basic simple healthy standards and feed the organization so it can grow. Right now, CSIIE is not growing. After the self-assessment, all three of us are feeling great that we are growing and yet we are still learning how to integrate our everyday lives, volunteering in the community, and professional work in all its variety, with the operational effectiveness of CSIIE. It's still in experimentation stage. Phase Two is all about figuring that out further to where we can enter Phase Three which is a "blooming" phase of CSIIE prosperity into the world.

The word "properity" is directly related to having a Business Plan. We don't have one, per se. We have been operating without funds, and with a lot of heart. It hasn't been easy, and we wobble a lot. Our inspiration is not always consistent. Basic survival in each of our lives tends to overly-consume much of our energy and attention right now and has for the past seven months of CSIIE's birth in this new online format. Yet, it is time I took leadership and vision to another level. The Associates were very appreciative of how I have held the organization together, given it continuity and force in this first phase. I enjoyed it and I was disappointed at how slow it was. I would have liked to see more people sign-up to the website and enter the conversation as a learning community. It is still a goal for this next phase of CSIIE development. People sharing enthusiasm about CSIIE and what it can be.

The word "enthusiasm" is the inspirational spark not yet. It is there in the Associates. I know it is there in the Adjuncts and our Friends, yet, I feel it is not ignited for good reasons. I am accountable for not lighting the spark enough. Maybe it is too early. I have it. Yet I have to be able to convey that. That's where leadership quality is put under the "test" of effectiveness. I have not yet been near as effective as I would like to be in this organization as Director. What's required? After my self-assessement and the critical feedback and support from the Associates, I found a book on leadership that is really guiding me to further assessment my leadership capacities, and assess the kind of organization CSIIE already is, and what CSIIE could be in the future.

Love Leadership: The New Way to Lead in a Fear-based World

That's the title of the book I'm studying now. Written by John Hope Bryant, an authentic leader with vision, power to make change, and a founder of Operation HOPE (20 yr. non-profit organization "to help poor people across America attain financial literacy" and a financial provider of services and loans for what Bryant calls "good capitalism" not "bad" or "predatory" capitalism). I have read a lot of these kinds of books, you know the Anthony Robbins type-leader books and how to be successful in business etc. I don't usually read them far, as they turn me off. I can't stand too much cheerleading, hope-mongering, and bloated financial success stories that seem to only support capitalism and its assumptions and not question them. I am a critic of capitalism and so are the Associates of CSIIE. That criticism becomes a running challenge to how we can be successful as a business enterprise in the capitalist world of America.

The tension, if not conflict, with "profit," "prosperity," "abundance" thinking, and our ethical aims as devout rebels, activists, magicians, warriors--all that is what makes CSIIE an interesting organization. We don't do "business as usual" when we see that the whole world needs to seriously change, transform, and take a revolutionary new direction. Our economic system as 'normal' is very problematic to us at CSIIE. Our lives, all three of us, are on-edge financially all the time, and pretty much always have been. None of us have capital accumulation. None of us manages money well. These are all the concerns that Bryant and his foundation have for poor people. And the poor people are us, at CSIIE (as Associates anyway). Yet, this is not the problem we bring to CSIIE as a major barrier. Even if we have no budget right now, we have believed in ourselves and worked hard (most of the time) to produce CSIIE online. We see a lot of growth potential and livelihood potential. Yet, we are not relying on CSIIE for all our financial needs.

So why study Bryant's book? How is this financial wizard-leader, which he is, any different than the other books and seminars on "wealth?" I don't know for sure, but I do know I am reading his book word-for-word, and I don't do that as a rule with any book. It is easy to read, and not long. It is authentic. That's what keeps me reading it. I love his vulnerability in print. He's trustable. He admits his mistakes. He works to improve all the time. He has a great philosophy of operating out of love-based paradigm not fear-based. That, of course is going to catch my heart. It has. I don't agree with lots, and yet I agree with enough to know I am learning somethings and refreshing past knowledge I have about leadership and running a business. I am a life-time entrepreneur. I say that with pride, though I know I am not a very good one. Zach and Treesong are likewise.

Why am I not a very good entrepreneur? That's hard to say. I don't "sell" services and products like most business people. That's a start of my problem. You can't sell what people don't perceive they need. With Bryant, and all the other entrepreneurs who write the books on self-help business success, they are always selling something people want, and that people pretty much know they want. Although, in Bryant's case, sure he is "selling" them loans (money) but he gives them something more--he gives them an education called "financial literacy." His organization has grown to provide this for hundreds of thousands of people around the world. They get money plus the literacy training in financial management basics, so they will not be susceptible to financial sharks and predators who "sell" to and "use" poor people or people desperate to have capital for lots of different reasons. I like the social justice component deeply embedded in Bryant's project, with the aim to "end poverty." I suppose, because I have been raised working class poor, and lived below the poverty line for so long, this attracts me. I keep doubting if it can be done. Bryant doesn't doubt it. It is just a matter of how.

When I apply a lot of Bryant's love-based philosophy to doing good and doing well financially at the same time, with a doubtless attitude of accomplishment toward a mission, I keep thinking how am I (and CSIIE) leading? What is our aim? How dedicated are we? Have I really been clear so I can lead with the zeal of a Bryant? Can I attract the energy (funding as well) to CSIIE that our vision needs to evolve? So far, I'm doubtful more often than not. And hey, Bryant would not pretend he isn't greatly disappointed, and doubtful about his organization (at times)--yet, he is not letting up and the organization is succeeding marvelously, doing good works, and people are benefitting, including those who work for the organization. Win-win as they say. And when I read his story of how he made it through the 2008 financial collapse in America, and laid no employees off, dropped none of their programs serving the poor, and made it through and grew from it, I was convinced this guy is a "human" being not a human doing. His philosophy works. Love works. Fear doesn't work. These are the messages from his own decades of experiences leading and working in the business world. He also studies great leaders and shares their insights all of which have led to him developing his "five laws" of love-leadership. I won't go into that here.

Measuring-up: CSIIE Now and Tomorrow

We need a business plan. I think it will evolve when it is ready. With CSIIE, as Director, I am ready to say: I want to make lots of money for the right thing.

I need a business plan. The Associates need a business plan. Yet, after reading Bryant, and knowing what was revealed in our self-assessement process, the three of us are not going to do this traditionally. The business we lead is not bad capitalism, and not unquestioning capitalism, it is a striving for a fair capitalism, if you want. And such a fair capitalism, almost an oxymoron these days, is to achieve wealth for me while I generate it for you--that is, generate it for a larger cause than me. A business plan is not about "me." Bryant's love-based principles echo this over and over again. I love it. I think it is so fresh, and I also know there are other great entrepreneurs out there in the world who have done this love-based leadership work and been financially successful. And most important, they have been influential. There is nothing more I want than to follow the truth, and I bring that principle to CSIIE leadership and all its activities. There is nothing more I want than that truth to have influence. I am not interested in being part of an organization without influence. I want it to influence my evolution and the evolution of consciousness and health on this planet.

Truth, influence, prosperity-- all those combinations and many more, that's what I am leading today. How can I lead with love instead of fear, and become a much more effective leader in the process? What Bryant reminds me is that I have to keep passionate. And to do that I have to be doing what is right. That means, to the best of my informed-ability, not just my emotional opinions, I have to do what is right for me, for the world, for the kosmos. Right now, that right is to work and live beyond fear. I have called it a building and living of a philosophy of fearlessness. CSIIE is a fearlessness organization. Are we all clear about that? NO. Am I clear about that? NO. Because we still are figuring it out. Operationalizing ideas, and what is right, is not so easy always. Bryant constantly talks about how he was so sure something was right, and yet, he'd push it too hard too fast with others, and force it on the conditions, rather than listen to what capacities are there, what conditions are present, and align them all. I so appreciate the wisdom of his learning, based on his many failures that he talks about. He admits, admits, admits. That vulnerability, is essential to sacred warriorship and the path of fearlessness. He's got my favor. He's got my support. And, notice, he didn't have to ask for it.

Sure, he's a business man, and always wanted to. I would never say that of myself, nor the Associates at CSIIE. Yet, I see a compatiblity in our aims and ways. That's new for me. These business books have never captured my attention like this one. Maybe, I am ready for it. I am ready for more healthy Orange v-meme, as they say in Spiral Dynamics integral theory. I told Barbara, my partner, after reading Bryant's intro. pages, "this is the healthiest Orange I have ever seen." Then as I read on I got very critical. I thought his theorizing on fear and love was weak. He's a pragmatist not a theorist. I forgave him. Over reading more, it sank in, and I was absorbing his gifts. His experience is invaluable. His character impeccable. His work proven with a track record. I can't say that about all my entrepreneurial projects that's for sure. However, I do recognize that I have been a love-leader. Yup. I fit nearly all his principles and laws, they are my way. It is how I have mostly operated in my projects. I live this. So, that was verifying I suppose. I sort of knew I was on the right track.

Again and again, Bryant says do good (what's right) and the rewards will follow without you seeking or needing them. Seek not rewards, that will lead you down fear's path. The Love path seeks to do right. Now, as I say that, I think it is profoundly important to note that even though Bryant has raised many milliions of dollars for his non-profit projects and the HOPE organization, he says he has never asked for money. He establishes authentic caring relationships with people he thinks are important to the aims of his mission, and organization, and then, finds ways to bridge their trust, and interest, and inspiration--to 'big ideas.' Then, they offer: "How can I help?" People want to be involved with inspiring and useful missions. I agree. Especially people who have extra capital to shift around to do good. They feel good. Everyone wins. So goes the mantra. I nor CSIIE have to get on the mantra. That's not what I am saying here. I am more interested in how truly love-based operations occur and how effective they are in this world.

Bryant also says, even with all those good intentions and laws of love, things still don't always work out. Failures are often. You get up and learn from them. That's love also. That's courage also, and they go together as ways to not let fear rule leadership or organizations. I'm in on that. That's where I can go with Bryant even if he is a "money-guy" basically (yes, quite materialistic)--more so, than I. CSIIE and my leadership, with others, has a task ahead. We have to find the way to be inspired sufficiently and consistently, more or less. Not much will grow if we don't find that combination, that synergy I often speak of in our business meetings.

Changes In CSIIE

To leave this for now, I invite change. CSIIE still has no signed-up active members or students, or funders, in our learning community. It is free to do so. It is easy. Go online and sign-in. I am not asking for you to "give" money, or time, if it is not right for you. It has to be done because it is the right thing for you. And it is the right thing you see for the world. The Founder's Forum is a place for all faculty to communicate and share. We "give" and "get" not we "get" and then "give." I see our work in this second phase as truly a wave of giving. If we cannot sustain that, and be effective in its offering forms, then CSIIE will not grow. I wonder if we are ready? We'll see.

I wanted to declare that we have lots of documents and statements on the CSIIE site now, they are meant to inspire and inform. Have you read them? Have you given CSIIE a chance? Check them out sometime. Then make informed decisions. Reflect on why you have your name here on the CSIIE site. Does it fit? Let's talk. Let's create. And let's part ways if that is necessary. No organization needs 'dead wood.' CSIIE is a living organism, so ask yourself how you would treat a living organism. Thank you.

BTW, Zach has moved with his partner to Tempe, AZ to live and build his life-work, at the same time to find ways to nourish the growth and leadership of CSIIE. He is totally committed, and we'll keep having our weekly business meetings as Associates in long-distance formats. I'm sure Zach will write and let you all know what he's up to with his Dept. especially. He's expanding his life in ways that are opening new doors and I for one am so pleased for him.