To understand my reaction to SVC, I must first explain a little of my past. I started my career over 30 years ago at what was then known as one of the Big Eight public accounting firms. My impression of that industry was that it cared little for its employees and churned them with as much care as one might give a mismatched sock. From my lowly purview, it also appeared to be a career with very little meaning and very little hope for a partnership position (there seemed to be one female partner west of the Mississippi). I lasted long enough to earn my license and headed off to be a different kind of accounting firm. I found great meaning in this next phase of working with non-profits and women and minority-owned small and growth stage business in a Federally Designated Enterprise Zone and also by hiring women returning to the workforce after time away to tend to their children. These 10 years were fun, meaningful and impactful - we were able to bring sound business practices and the concept of multiple bottom lines to hundreds of individuals and organizations. Then my family and I decided to move to Vermont and I faced a big choice: business as usual (blech!) or exile myself in the world of nonprofits. I chose the latter because it seemed I would have more impact by working with a sector that was finally realizing it needed sound business practices rather than working in a sector that wasn’t yet convinced to look at more than the bottom line.
Oh, had I only known about the amazing SVC network back then - I could have had both worlds without the “blech” factor!
I was honored to be invited to SVC’s Bridging Profit and Purpose Conference by Lori and to be part of the GRTL team and to experience what she kept saying was a culture that is “hard to describe”. I started by attending the town hall meeting where the two merging organizations gathered for an open conversation with the new Executive Director. The conversation was upbeat and honest, congratulatory and challenging, and funny and serious - a whole range of emotions and ideas were floated, respect flourished and hopes for continued growth into shared values were named. My first reaction was “this is going to be a different kind of conference with some very juicy conversations!”
We then moved on to Brownsville for the sold out Love Economy Event - an inspiring location, excellent food, music and conversation and time spent in a candlelit circle to share deeply about how and why each of us is called to or curious about building a more just economy that is rooted in love. Still the first day of the conference!! My second reaction was “Yup, these are juicy conversations! How in the world am I going to keep up this pace?!”
The next two and a half days were filled with presentations, break out sessions, documentaries, stories, music, strategy sessions, women’s circles and men’s circles, small group conversations and even a little dancing (okay, maybe a lot of dancing!). All of it rich, inspiring and an invitation to end my self imposed exile in the nonprofit world. These entrepreneurs, business owners, leaders, artists, activists, creators, service providers, advocates, and investors are a balm to any soul that that has felt depleted in the past couple of years and proof that when vision is coupled with intention and community it is possible to bridge profit and purpose and by doing so, to contribute to a just economy that is rooted in love.