Kicking Stones

July 8, 2021
Daniel Waycik

Kicking stones and setting priorities.

I work with several teams associated with nonprofit organizations. This pandemic did not change that. However, it affected the stakes. We’ve watched other organizations go on indefinite hiatus or dissolve together.

The reality: many volunteer based organizations or nonprofits in March of 2020 were staring down insurmountable odds. With constantly changing messages and a lot of uncertainty in their future. Each day of continued existence not assured.

In one of my roles, I served as the member of a coordination team for a collective which to date is a 100% volunteer run. Through the course of the pandemic the membership lost interest in the program. Some core activities on indefinite hold. Those activities which were still viable, challenged due to decreased capacity.

Staring down defeat

This once 100+ strong, membership, at times fell to less than 5. However, we set priorities with a focus on resilience in the face of similar future challenges.

With personnel shortages, we had to learn to accept sliding deadlines. Moreover, prioritizing mental health and personal capacities required more attention. In this context I fell into a familiar project management role, with a twist. I started referring to myself as “just kicking stones”. It felt like an apt metaphor.

The – virtual – room was often nearly empty. It was not always clear why we were still going. However, I applied myself to stubbornly and consistently kicking those stones. I couldn’t guarantee much in the way of meeting deadlines. Targets became a bit blurry. All the while I did everything I could to ensure that things – at a minimum – kept moving along.

For some stretches – even months – certain projects and objectives were delayed based on the capacity of those still able to contribute. However, because we had the foresight to identify our longer term objectives and priorities, it was relatively easy to ensure we didn’t lose sight of the next steps. Setting a date to pick something back up even months later; or, just preserving intent. With about as much effort one would need to kick some stones along the sidewalk; because sometimes we just need more time. That’s ok.

The results

As of late May 2021 – as health restrictions are easing in the region – nearly the full membership has returned. New volunteers are coming in and being trained in a constant stream. Members of the community are booking appointments through to the end of the season as quickly as we can make more available.

It has been a grueling year and a half, and we made it.

I’ll forever remember that 18 month period of kicking stones and how proud I am of what it helped accomplish.