Why small change is important

photo by  Haldane Martin

I love my work; I love ideas; and BIG WORK with BIG IDEAS might be my most favorite thing in the entire world. (I also love hyperbole.) And while I get very excited by the idea of making impact and changing the world, I’m reminded lately, that mostly the work is quite small. That actually changing the world or shifting systems or striving for equity actually happens in small actions/ways every day. And it often happens in (small) meetings.

And these (small) meetings matter because they’re the way we get work—big and small—done. I’ll share an example. 

Earlier this month, I was part of a community meeting with about 25 people. The meeting was for a specific project aimed at building a “safe, healthy, connected, and thriving” community in 4 neighborhoods in a particular geographic area of our community. In the meeting, we asked folks to share—What small projects could we do this summer to build our community? We spent the meeting discussing the projects and getting ideas. Next month, we’ll follow up with some capacity building to help folks plan how to put their ideas into action, and we’ll follow that up with another meeting where the community will determine 3 projects to fund.

Change need not be a big deal. Not changing the entire system, shifting infrastructure, addressing oppression or “swallowing the ocean” as a colleague of mine says. But, rather, taking a sip, seeing a small impact that is entirely within our ability to make, getting started, seeing what happens, and moving from there.

It was one of the most satisfying meetings I’ve been to in a long time. And I know that the seeds planted in the meeting—community self-direction, commitment to follow up, and giving some small resourcing to move things forward—will continue to grow. They may actually lead to the big change we seek. After all, these small steps in small meetings are the manifestation of a long-term commitment to the neighborhoods that we hope will change the ocean’s tides. 

So while I can get really tripped out on BIG CHANGE INITIATIVES, I need to remind myself that the biggest changes are based on small, consistent, meaningful, and productive meetings of human beings.  

Some days as I’m dreaming big, I need to remind myself that the work is small, too: It’s in the way we design our meetings, how we are when we’re meeting together, what we decide to do next, and how we follow through on those decisions.

Easy. Simple. Doable. Make the small meetings matter. Change really big things.

Want to learn more about working big by running really good (small) meetings? Join Tim Merry and I as we launch our latest Leading Effective Meetings online course. More information available over at www.workdonebettertogether.com.

This post was originally published at Tuesday Ryan-Hart's site.