There are days during the past 8+ months when I feel like I'm worn out and seemingly can't think properly. I'm tired, both physically and mentally, I'm weary over what seems to be a never-ending pandemic and staying inside my apartment 95% of the time. None of my brain cylinders seem close to firing.

Then, I have days when I'm used to this new reality. I find ways and methods to create stability in my life. I try new things, like taking an online Spanish course or finishing a scarf I started knitting or working on an online scrapbook. While I would love to learn more Spanish in person or spend time with my mom doing physical scrapbooking, I'm adapting to current realities.

Susie BowieThen, on some of my best days, my imagination spins, thinking up new ideas and fresh ways to live, work, and play. Imagination, combined with a possibility mindset, helps fuel creative and thoughtful ideas. It can be a small idea—one of mine was the creation of a Suncoast Campaign for Grade-Level Reading (SCGLR) mask. Then, Beth Duda took that idea and expanded on it, and we eventually sent those masks to the first 30 registrants who attended one of four SCGLR Community Update Meetings. Some took pictures wearing them and shared it on Twitter and email. And don't discount the power of a small idea either—a small idea can create new, BIG realities. Who's to say that any wonderful thing didn't start as a small idea?

What I explained above from a personal level follows the framework of The Patterson Foundation's phases of disaster recovery: COPE-ADAPT-INNOVATE. In addition to applying to my own personal life, this mindset also applies to organizational realities. Is your organization addressing the immediate needs essential to survival...are you just trying to get by (COPE)? Are you adjusting and adopting new systems to create stability (ADAPT)? Or are you imagining the possibilities for new ways to deliver programs, products, and services (INNOVATE)?

In Advancing Mission Thrivability (AMT), No Margin, No Mission consultants Mike Oxman and Larry Clark help each organization understand their recent realities, while discovering ways nonprofits can move forward. They ask each nonprofit to reflect, think about, and discuss the phases they've moved through, decisions they've made, and the outcomes of those decisions.

Mike and Larry encourage staff and board members to discuss decisions that have been made. In this way, AMT gives the organization time and space to be mindful of how it has coped, adapted, and innovated during the pandemic. Then, at a follow-up webversation, staff and board members can ask Mike and Larry questions about the phases (and others about mission-centric decision-making). All of the labinars and webversations give time and space for people to connect, learn, and share as we all work to address COVID challenges.

It's important to note that you, and your organization, are not going to be in the same phase all the time. I've found myself leaping between phases, or feeling in-between them, depending on the hour, day, or week. That means that you will have to be intentional and open to understanding that others live in different realities—we are dealing with a vast amount of change in different ways, and that is okay.

When it comes to addressing those unexpected changes (and COVID sure has been a challenge), COPE-ADAPT-INNOVATE serves as a model for how people feel and demonstrates how feelings could affect current actions. It gives us a way to analyze and understand our current organization and the decisions we've made. It also helps us maintain awareness that our moods vacillate during unimagined changes.

I would encourage you to give yourself grace when you recognize that you're in the cope phase. We all have days when we need to crawl under the covers and hide.

However, embrace those adapt and innovate days. Use that time to channel creative thoughts and energy into thinking about how your organization is changing. Who knows, you might discover a new idea that will be a spark even beyond the pandemic.

Wouldn’t that be incredible – to find that our vital nonprofits are even stronger than before because they adapted and innovated to institute new, amazing ideas?

The result—stronger people, stronger organizations, stronger communities. What a wonderful world that would be.

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