In early April, Wendy Kopp, CEO and Co-founder of Teach For All, and Gerald Chertavian, founder and CEO of YearUp, stopped by the NationSwell Council’s digital table for a conversation about how the social impact leaders we convened can navigate this uncertain and challenging time, leveraging the disruption and chaos as a potential opportunity to learn and scale our reach and impact.

In the hope that these might serve you on your mission to make this world a better place, we’re sharing out some of the key moments from our discussion. These insights and practices and recommendations all come straight to you from Wendy, Gerald and some of the other inspiring Council members in attendance.

Insights:

“People have such various entry points, like grappling with personal struggles, deep concerns or having lost loved ones to really being fixated on the questions of how we evolve the way we work right now and what we’re called upon to do right now, to being open to what world is going to emerge from this, and what our role coming out of that will be. I’ve just found that holding open spaces has helped us meet people’s personal needs, become clear very quickly in a shared way about what our immediate priorities are and also, continue with the open space around medium term to long term questions about what we need to evolve into as the world around us is evolving.” — Wendy Kopp

“I know there’s light at the end of this tunnel. I know we’ll emerge from it and feel confident about that. But I also know, man, it’s a heck of a long time. And the more folks I talk to who are out in the private sector space who have really good visibility onto this tell me this isn’t one or two quarters, it’s not it’s not six months. This is a couple of years for us to figure out how to get back on our feet. How do you help your team realize it’s not a firefight?” — Gerald Chertavian

“The thing that we turned to almost immediately is just holding space for our global team, and the teams within those teams. Not a day goes by when I don’t have big, open space — probably more than one — where we’ll break down into small groups and really just check in. And we’ve found that that has been helpful.” — Wendy Kopp

“Some of us will come out stronger, but in some parts of the world, this [pandemic is] going to be just extraordinarily devastating. I just hope that our development response recognizes what we’re seeing in the world right now, which is that local leadership matters and the degree to which we can figure out how to help local folks build the volition, the capabilities, and the networks to become globally informed rather than trying to, as we generally do in development, rain down solutions around the world.” — Wendy Kopp

Practices:

Set up principles very early on. We will have to make very hard choices, so what are the principles that guide those decisions? Principles like: whatever we do, it’s got to be top down. Also, we want to use an equity lens as we make decisions. If we look at whatever decisions we make, do they pass those principles as best we can, and are we also thinking about the bias that can creep into those decisions and trying to eliminate it.” — Gerald Chertavian

“Whatever we decide now, we want to look back in a couple years’ time and feel like we made the very best decisions we could. And so as we make decisions, let’s also look out and ask, ‘Would we be happy, or not, with these decisions? Do we feel we’ve lived our values well?’” — Gerald Chertavian

“With every stakeholder group, we just need constant, constant, constant communication, probably a lot more than we — at least I — would naturally gravitate towards. But I’m really trying to embrace it because I know it’s just crucial right now.” — Wendy Kopp

“There is a new world coming if we’re ready to listen for it. One of the most important things right now is to actually hold the uncertainty and not jump to solutions. Really consider whether we’re asking the right questions so that we can see the real possibilities as we look out beyond the immediate and see what emerges, and really lean into this chance to actually be part of shaping what really could be a better world.” — Wendy Kopp

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Welcome to Overheard at Council, a series capturing insights, practices, recommendations and other powerful moments from some of our NationSwell Council events. If you have any feedback on this series, or if you attended and you’d like to add something you think we might have missed, please reach out via email. To find out more about the NationSwell Council, visit our digital hub.