News & Views

A blog for those interested in what affects, motivates and drives the New York City Nonprofit Sector — written by CRE’s crackerjack consulting team. We hope you use this space to share your thoughts, ask questions and engage in conversations about our city, social justice and the nonprofit sector.

The Broken Machine

By Rashid Littlejohn, Program Assistant/Public Ally - My name is Rashid Littlejohn, a Public Allies Fellow and Program Assistant for Community Resource Exchange (CRE). Public Allies is a nonprofit organization that develops new leaders who are focused on strengthening communities, by partnering us with other nonprofit organizations advocating for social change. I started a nonprofit social justice and environmental leadership group called GCAMP (Genuinely Care About My Planet) in mid-2010 in Brooklyn, NY, which led me to Public Allies. Partnered with CRE for the next ten months, I’ll learn more about the nonprofit sector as Program Assistant and will also blog about some experiences at CRE. This first post, “The Broken Machine,” is a reflection of my first two weeks with CRE.

If you've ever sat in meetings with individuals from the nonprofit sector, one word which is often used is the “system.” What is the system? I speak confidently when I say I am here because I see a problem with the system as apparent as if it were a “machine” operating out of order. I’m in a space of examining what this machine is, how it works, and why it is causing problems.

My first thought was “is the machine the government?” After a discussion with a member of the CRE staff, I began to look into the capitalistic make-up of our country, asking myself “what is wrong with either the government or capitalism that has created such a need for the nonprofit sector?” I then started to visualize a gigantic machine that makes toys. The machine is broken so that every toy made is not working in some way; for each of these issues, repair stores are created to fix the toys. The repair stores represent the nonprofit organizations, the toys are the people who they assist, and the machine could be the government or capitalism. The next question that came to mind is “what is wrong with the machine that it keeps producing dysfunctional toys?” The last thing that came to mind is the rapid pace at which repair stores are opening up, many similar and many different. If you look at it from a “for profit” perspective, it would almost create a sense of competition of who provides the better (or cheaper) repair services.

With all of this bouncing around inside my mind, another member of CRE staff left a report on my desk titled, “Preserving and Developing Nonprofit Capacity in Four New York City Neighborhoods.” This report spoke to the importance of nonprofit collaborations. Keeping my analogy in mind, it means that these repair stores should begin working together to better fix the toys. Now of course this read and the work of CRE put a wide smile on my face, but it was short lived. After attending a Coalition meeting for one of our clients, I realized that so much of what needs to be fixed is uniform in a vast majority of communities that the repair stores serve. I’m now asking “where is the repair store for the broken machine?”

I’ll end by playing devil’s advocate to my own sentiments by saying it’s easy for me to say the government, capitalism, or anything else are the broken machines because it keeps me clear of blame. What if “we” are the broken machine and until we begin collaborating together – government, businesses, nonprofits, and individuals – we’ll never fix ourselves and will continue producing toys that don’t work well?

Find us on:  CRE on Twitter CRE on Facebook  

News and Views

Tags

President Obama Beth Kobliner queens rockaways Ximena Rua-Merkin media MAC AIDS Fund Mark Light Holly Delany Cole evaluation Neighborhood Based Capacity Building Initiative CRE Executive Search Nonprofit Sustainability capacity building Valyrie Laedlein NYCCCOC civic engagement jobs Pamela Dicent HIV/AIDS services providers grantmakers Karen Erdos Mohan Sikka NYS Budget Advocacy Volunteers National Committee of Responsive Philanthropy record keeping Nonprofit Tools RFP IT mergers Rashid Littlejohn Sector Research Barbara Blumenthal Pavitra Menon Hurricane Sandy website, resources, announcements lower Manhattan collaborations HR Without HR Government Updates fundraising Government News House Party harvard business school announcment proposal writing Jean Lobell postponed event handling the unexpected publications computers government nonprofit leaders bookkeeping Funding Updates Philanthropic Collaborative Albany board and staff relations National and Community Service Jeff Ballow Interns tips Bill Ryan New York Foundation Development Survey Nonprofit Quarterly community executive Randall Quan Daring to Lead Data Starved cre board leadership guest blogger I.T. without I.T. internal controls United Way of NYC Michael Hickey executive transition Fran Barrett Huffington Post Nonprofit News Rona Taylor New York City Government Client News nonprofit ownership New York Times nonprofit mergers Data nonprofit management accountability Featured Items arts Stanford Social Innovation Review Useful Links Fran's Corner New York Community Trust Peter Block Coaching What is Core? nonprofit accountability 30th Anniversary grantmakers for effective organizations Nonprofit foundations CRE News Ero Gray Louisa Hackett Governance as Leadership Needs Assessment hard times case statement leadership nonprofit start-ups Harvard Kennedy School CRE POV Maria Mottola New York strategic alliances Barbara Turk Board of Directors staff Alliance for Nonprofit Management CRE Tips generative