Written by Brian Fraser, Lead Provocateur, Jazzthink Consulting
October 13, 2021 | 3 min. read
I’m fascinated by the problems and possibilities that are emerging in conversations with my colleagues in nonprofit leadership these days. We all want to work better together as we navigate the changes that our organizations will need to make in the midst of pandemics, fires, drought, polarization, and other traumatizing changes in our working environments. These conversations remind me yet again of why I have been so fascinated over the past 20 years in my community organizing, consulting, and coaching work by the wisdom offered to nonprofit leaders in the workings and wit of jazz.
The most startling insight that got me exploring jazz more deeply as a model for leadership in nonprofits was that the most common form of jazz in human experience is conversation. You have a structure – vocabulary and grammar. But every time you use that structure, you improvise. And it’s a basic fact that you co-create your nonprofit and its impact one conversation after another.
The core question that I ask, then, is “If you were to craft the sound and substance of your conversations like jazz musicians craft the sound and substance of their performances, what difference would it make to the quality of communities you are cultivating?”