Doomsday Cropping, Nonprofits and the Art of Passion

Doomsday Cropping, Nonprofits and the Art of Passion | Read it and Reap

Working from home? You’ll be able to relate to this…

Thanks to the one and only, Emeritus Professor Myles McGregor-Lowndes for this very timely article.

If I had to define the nonprofit sector in three words, it would be ‘Passion for Good’.

You are probably recalling at this moment all those you have known with a mission passion. There is the extravert leader at the head of the pack waving the flag, singing ‘one more day’. You may also recall the quiet volunteer who turns up week after week to perform an unheralded, but vital task and is so low maintenance. They are not there for the pay, for the glory or for themselves. Many would even pay, and do pay indirectly, to be part of a passionate mission team.

I have more than a few passions. Sharing the benefits from translating sound theory to useful knowledge, promoting smart regulation of behaviour and a passion for vegetable and orchid growing, are but a few. Allow me to pursue a couple of passions in this blog in this time of crisis, some digestible theory and a bit of useful advice on vegetable growing in troubled times.

There once was a leader of a nonprofit organisation who to be sure was passionate for good. On the cusp of the emergency, the vast bureaucracy in which she was located left her no option but to reduce her team on various types of leave and for others to work from home. Policies were handed down to her to pass on to staff, approvals required of home offices to ensure workplace health and safety, home Internet protocols to protect confidential information, remote supervision of staff assessments, taking stationery home, and even how to clean out the lunch fridge before they left. All drafted by the internal black letter legal counsel to ensure all bases were covered and no one would be in doubt about what was the happen when, by whom, how, where it was to be filed and with the correct number of carbon copies or email ‘ccs’.

She knew that such policies would be filed in her staff’s bottom drawer or miscellaneous hard drive directory and only pulled out and waved about when a serious disagreement arose. In fact, it was pretty much like a government grant service contract or a discrete take it or leave it transaction such as the sale of petrol, mobile phone contracts or listed shares.

At the other end of the contracting spectrum is the highly co-operative relational transaction such as the tenured professional staff member or a long term contract with hard to measure quality outcomes (joint venture and perhaps marriage). The fundamental unit of analysis moves from the ‘self-interest of the rational utility maximiser’ to the background social matrix of the contracting parties.

The trick is to pick the right form of contracting for the situation. Serving the current mission by a petrol or share contractual form was fraught, as it needed to be relational. One of her team had written on this and it was taken up by the Productivity Commission, but sadly not government grantors.

As she pondered about the best way to be supportive of her team and keep the mission going in these extraordinary times, she gazed out her window. Her mind wandered. Then her eye caught the eclectic group of potted plants on her sill. Many were beloved gifts from her team members. They thrived, with the window’s filtered light smiling upon them and some water, when she remembered. One plant was a pothos creeper with roots in a glass bottle that over the years received enough care to grow up the window frame and halfway across the ceiling. She then knew how to build a relational contract with the team to keep passion for mission alive despite the formal contractual organisational missives.

The day quickly came when the staff had to leave their office for their home studies, kitchen tables and balcony settings to continue their mission passion. The creeper was carefully taken off the office wall and cut into pieces. Each staff member was entrusted with a slip of the plant and requested to tend it at their home office desk.

Like this plant, you are now on a new venture, but take comfort that your organisational DNA will provide all the plans you need to prosper in a new setting. You will put down roots, tentative at first, but soon you will have strong feeders, and green shoots will surely follow.

Let the plant be a reminder, even in the most troubled times, that the basics of a jar of water, air and sunlight will allow life to thrive. We need to make sure that the basics of eating right, a good night’s sleep and some exercise in the fresh air are present. Just as the plant grows to the light, so will you. Be sure that you are focussed on the right mission for good and with every inch you climb up the wall, keep mission in sight.

At last report the organisational missives were still safely in the bottom drawer, but each of the plants are doing just fine on desks that have seen some truly inspirational work across them.

Doomsday cropping
Now for some practical gardening advice. If I was sent to a desert island (near Brisbane in winter) with just one seedling – it would be a Mini Roma tomato plant. Just one of these plants will climb a trellis to over four metres and feed a family for over a three month span.

Mini Romas are usually only sold as seedlings, but if they are unavailable then choose the seeds of a climbing cherry tomato. The original Roma is a fine tomato, but it is the climbing tomato genes that make the Mini Roma so robust and such a heavy cropper. Finally, if packets of seeds have been cleaned out of the shops, then buy a punnet of cherry tomatoes, extract and plant their seeds.

Plant in a full sun aspect, in soil that is dug over to at least 30 cm. They can even be planted in a large container. Dig in grass clippings or some compost if you have any on hand. Good mulching and even watering should help resist blossom end rot on your fruit.

All good so far, but tomatoes are subject to every slug, bug, fruit fly, scale, fungus and virus known to the plant world – but Mini Roma and cherry tomatoes are pretty tough. Which is why you should not try others such as the traditional Roma. The best advice is only to water their roots (not leaves) in the morning to minimise the diseases and bugs. They like to climb up a trellis. Ground hugging branches will quickly fall victim to fungus and mildew.

If I was allowed to take a few more seed varieties, then I would go for the Chinese vegetables, Bok Choy, Pak Choy, Wong Bok, Chinese Broccoli and Celery. They grow fast and easy. Good gardening.

A final word
Passion, long may it infect the nonprofit sector.


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