There is Joy in Risk

Two years ago, having been unceremoniously cut loose from the all-consuming community development work I had passionately embraced on behalf of a non profit organization for over five years, I found myself at a crossroads. It was, as Dr. Phil would say, a defining moment.

Ultimately, my way forward would be determined by the answer to a single question, “Do I choose to finally complete the MBA that I had pushed aside for many years, or do I choose to try and make a difference with what I had learned. Clearly I couldn’t afford the time and money to do both.

For sure the idea of an MBA was an attractive one. In addition to it being an opportunity for personal growth and leadership, it would signify that perhaps I had credibility and something worth offering.

The second choice of tackling an unknown path and choosing to work at making a difference was not as clearly defined and was in fact rather murky. Besides, I wasn’t convinced it was even possible to make a living while making a difference.

While I was committed to building on my life’s work of community building, augmented by five intense years of “boots on the ground” working with 60+ communities to improve their quality of life, it was going to take a significant investment of time and dollars to carve out and market a new niche.

Ultimately I chose the second path. The reason wasn’t particularly noble. In fact if I were going to be perfectly honest, it was in large part because I am pragmatic and impatient with waste. It seemed to me it would be a huge waste and very impractical not to share and grow what we had learned from some really smart people in those communities.

That path resulted in a tech startup and a social enterprise called Campus for Communities that would focus on gathering tools, training, and talent for leaders at all levels to help grow strong, vibrant, and innovative communities by harnessing the power of working together.
While it has been hard, uncertain, and often lonely work that has tested me on an almost daily basis, it has also been the most exciting, rewarding, and fulfilling work I’ve ever done.

Ultimately I suppose that is the result of the joy that typically results when one sets off on a new path.

There is joy in finding direction within the chaos, of being rewarded for taking risks, of doing new things that will ultimately make a difference. It is also about the opportunity to take the ideas out of your head and put them to work.

While for sure it has been challenging, in its first year of existence as a virtual online college the Campus for Communities the Campus now has over 1000 resources within its library, developed 3 certificate programs, and administered over 1000 webinar registrations within its online classrooms. While no one is getting rich, the bills are being paid and there is no debt load to carry. It has been a busy year. 

So what’s next for the Campus?

The plan is to broaden our horizons by expanding the opportunities for collaboration with others wanting to develop and deliver their own training in specialized areas related to community building; broaden our reach by marketing and building relationships in other provinces and territories; and developing new learning resources such as self-directed learning videos. 

I’d be lying if I said I don’t care about having an MBA. However in the end, I don’t have a lot of regrets because the Campus has resulted in new dreams and possibilities. That’s not to say there aren’t new challenges and uncertainties ahead. However, the path is getting clearer and the hope is getting stronger that we have direction for supporting a new kind of community leader who will be better equipped for mobilizing others to address complex and challenging social and economic issues.

Perhaps the lesson for me is that when all is said and done, the greatest risk in life might be to stand still and not take risks. After all, if we don’t choose the risky path how will we ever know how far we can go. 

Posted on 06-25-14


Congratulations Brenda on the development of the campus - I know that it took a lot of hard work. The outcome is a very successful learning platform, dozens of certified community leaders and unlimited potential for growth! I knew that if anyone could put this together it was you - passion, drive, big picture thinking and hard work. Step back and celebrate!

•Posted by Carol  on  06/26/14  at  08:55 PM


Ditto with all Carol’s words >>>  you are a true leader, mover and shaker and I love you for it! You GO GIRL>>>

•Posted by Brenda Clarke  on  06/29/14  at  12:51 PM

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