By Lauren Dodds, Fellowship Program Manager
One of our organizational values at EWB is to Dream Big and Work Hard. This value of lofty ambitions and intense commitment is one I personally hold dearly, but one that I’ve seen to be a consistent cause for failure. We fail when we’re too late to introduce realism into our plans when we’re translating our dreams into workloads.
The Community Team has failed on this on a number of occasions. Our Big Dreams compounded with the diverse interests of our community have led us on too many occasions to spread ourselves too thin: overcommitting and under-delivering.
In 2014, we rode the wave of excitement to launch an African Junior Fellowship program in Ghana and build more equal opportunity across Canada and Ghana to participate in this program. In 2015, we rode another wave of excitement to launch a Canadian Junior Fellow program to offer placements with Canadian ventures and National Office teams for those who wanted to focus their impact at home. From one year to the next we Dreamed Big, but under-delivered.
We didn’t introduce enough realism to appreciate the time and effort it takes to build something new. As an example, when a Canadian Junior Fellow had concerns with their accommodation in Toronto this summer, we didn’t have the capacity to creatively find a solution that worked for everyone. We also didn’t have well defined roles so the expectations of this year’s Canadian Junior Fellows weren’t always well managed. We wrapped up the program with a strong sense that we’d bitten off more than we could chew and didn’t live up to the expectations we set for the experience.
We let ourselves be swept up in the currents of Big Dreams without doing enough to check our Dreams against our capacity.
I’m excited, though, by how much progress the Community Team is making on this more recently. This fall we’ve made tough decisions to put programs like the Professional and Pivot Fellowships on pause, knowing we did not have the capacity to do them justice. Going forward, we will be more thorough when making commitments and ask ourselves how much capacity it will take and whether we have the ability to take each thing on. It took repeating the same failure more than once for the learning to viscerally sink in. I now balance my Big Dreams with the belief that sometimes saying ‘No’ to doing more lets us say ‘Yes’ to doing better.