Watch the Interview
Why The World is Our Oyster
and Nonprofits are the Pearl
with J. E. Rash
J.E. Rash, President, and Founder Legacy International will be sharing about the ocean of service and the need to create a new tomorrow today and discuss The importance of clear values-based programs, trainings, projects, staff choice. And culturally sensitive understanding of the communication styles, needs of those you serve. Listen, Observe, Value, Engage Unify LOVE U
J.E. Rash is a lecturer, writer, and consultant in dialogue, NGO development, conflict resolution, and education. His career includes studies in law, religion, and alternative medicine, work in professional theater and media, and the design of educational training programs for inner and outer leadership. Entrepreneur, innovator, and visionary, Mr. Rash has founded and leads four organizations, each with a 40-year record of success.
His flagship organization, Legacy International, (http://www.legacyintl.org), is a U.S.-based international non-governmental organization, dedicated to equipping emerging leaders with the skills to transform their values and vision into sustainable success. Utilizing cutting edge methods for professional development, Legacy international focuses on a values-based approach to capacity building, catalytic leadership, networked thinking, socially responsible entrepreneurship, diversity training, conflict prevention, and youth and women’s empowerment.
Throughout his work, Mr. Rash seeks to build bridges of understanding and to develop practical interfaces among people of diverse backgrounds by emphasizing universal values, social responsibility, mutual respect and tolerance. Under Mr. Rash’s direction, Legacy international has become a global leader in Helping People to Help Themselves and Others with over 10,000 alumni in 102 countries.
Legacy International trains and mentors community leaders helping them to develop and implement practical, community-based solutions to critical issues. Community by community, program participants leave a lasting Legacy of:
- Increased and sustainable citizen participation in local problem solving
- Increased capacity in non-governmental organizations
- Increased cross-sectoral collaboration
- More constructive options and opportunities for the next generation
In 1987, J.E. Rash received the Friends of the United Nations Environment Program 500 Award for outstanding contributions to the environment. He has presented at the United Nations, the World Bank, the Asian Conference on Religion for Peace; Islamic Unity Conference; University of Colorado’s Golda Meir Center for Political Leadership; and International Symposia on Science and Consciousness in Olympia, Greece and Cancun, Mexico. He has addressed numerous college and academic audiences and served on Ph.D. committees at Virginia Polytechnic Institute (VPI).
J.E. Rash is committed to creating a positive legacy for future generations who will be faced with planetary challenges and opportunities of heretofore unseen magnitude. He often quotes: “you cannot change a community until you change yourself.’ And seeks to encourage people to balance their outer life and goals with a rich and contemplative inner life and practice.
Read the Interview
Hugh Ballou: We have yet another interesting session today with a dear friend who actually lives near me. I lived here for a while before I met him, and now we have been talking frequently. The more we talk, the more I learn about the global impact of Legacy International and the vision and passion that J.E. Rash has on bringing that kind of work to the world that is so needed, probably needed now more than ever before in history. J.E. Rash, coming in from Bedford, Virginia, tell people who you are and a little bit about what you do.
J.E. Rash: I don’t want to give too much information honestly because that would be condemning of my entire personality. Pulling the wool over people’s eyes, I feel that for the last 50 years, and I always tell people not to do math when I’m speaking because it discloses too much information. Over the last 50 years, starting with schools and education and building out of that another nonprofit organization called Legacy International, what we have developed over these decades is an ever-deepening commitment and passion we see and affirm and exemplify in our life and work enterprise is diversity in unity. What I mean by that is we see the common values that unify us and respect the diverse perspectives in others’ experiences, respecting the “other” that is a subject of the world today. We try to live by the motto “To help to help myself and others.” We do that around the world.
The mission of Legacy International grew out of a summer camp here in Bedford in the early 1980s/late 1970s. Due to my traveling around the world and spending so much time in other nations and seeing the successes and plights of people around the world, I realized that our country was really an island between two vast oceans. Even though we called ourselves a melting pot, I saw us as a tossed salad. People were not really mixing together. We started to bring young people from different countries to the United States.
Another nonprofit developed, which was a secular nonprofit called Legacy International. As we have developed over the years, we have tried to equip emerging leaders to transform their values and vision into sustainable successes. We do that in a number of ways. Much of our funding comes from the United States Department of State and philanthropies and individuals. We do a lot of work for the Department of State Educational and Cultural Affairs, which means we do exchanges, trainings in leadership and development, and we work in STEM for young women, especially in the Middle East and North Africa. We have a new area of work which is called Global Transformation Core. That is where we take on social innovators and give them training. The idea is increased capacity of NGOs to help others do cross-sector collaboration and construct opportunities for the next generation. That is basically what we try to do in many different venues.
Hugh: You have founded four nonprofits over 40 years ago. We are focusing on Legacy International. The website is LegacyIntl.org. It’s quite an impressive site with a whole lot of moving parts. I have been able to be on some of your video conferences. It is truly a global experience.
This is not religious work we do; it is philanthropic work. However, we are spiritual beings from different faiths aligned in common good. What I have learned from our friend Bob Hopkins about philanthropy—the love of humankind and how important it is we show up with our gifts of time, talent, and money. What we do in the NGO world is philanthropic in itself. Part of the leadership dynamic that I teach is that we all need to be philanthropists. If we are true leaders, we influence others and are giving.
Let me go into some specifics. You are all over the world. I want to ask you where you had your best coffee; we’ll save that for later. We are aligned in our love of coffee, but he has many more varieties of coffee and different ways of brewing them. I am stuck on my espresso. But we share a passion for the tastes of that, and we support the local farmers that grow it and make a living from selling it on the free market.
We interface with people in amazing ways. I was on a call with someone from Singapore early this morning, late her time. She had just gotten off a group call with India. They are doing collaborations with nonprofits and business leaders. The world is smaller in many ways, but in some ways, we are isolated more. Why don’t you talk about why international work is important in this globalized society we have?
J.E.: The old statement of acting locally is acting globally. Acting globally is also acting locally because we are sharing the same issues. COVID is a perfect example of a borderless, invisible force that binds people together or demands that we accept certain principles and bases for co-existence. Over the years, we have seen the development of a consciousness of cross-cultural and inter-cultural relationships. Certainly economically and financially, we know how bound together we are. When we have the opportunity to envision a future, it behooves us to look at the young people who are coming up. We try to work intergenerationally with a lot of young entrepreneurs and innovators and educators.
International work, we live in a globalized world. Whether a person philosophically thinks globalization is good or bad, the truth is, when you look at distribution networks, international finance, all the elements that make our lives the way we like them–look at the carpet woven behind me in Turkey—even the things we enjoy are globalized. To me, the way we bind those people together through common values of compassion and patience and love and a sense of justice and moral and ethical principles that unite us. I have never spoken to a group of people, no matter where they are in the world, where I can’t talk about those values and elicit from them a common response.
To me, everything we do for the future has to be with a sense of unity or community. Come to unity, our own word in English expresses it beautifully. Our founding fathers talked about the common well-being. Those are spiritual principles that go overboard with religious names and systems. We are a nonprofit. We have been in existence for 40 years at Legacy. Survival is an issue. We have survived in a world where nonprofits have a lot of difficulty. We have survived because we respect others and they respect us. We operate under the same light, the same historical basis, whether you call it in religious terms or secular terms.
Hugh: From my standpoint, there is no secular if you believe in a Creator and the Creator created everything. I have enjoyed our conversations over the years. I come from a Christian perspective, and yours is different. We are very much aligned in some of the basic values. What you’re talking about is people having conversations for many reasons, not just because of the pandemic, politics, or religious differences. We have grown apart. We have lost the art of meaningful dialogue with one another. We get so busy.
I served mega-churches for so many years. People get so busy doing the work of the church they forget about serving God. It sounds like it’s counter-productive, but it is. We get so busy doing the work of our charity that we work in it a lot; we don’t work on it enough. Part of what I want to explore with you is you have been the visionary for four different social benefit organizations or for-purpose organizations. It’s more energizing than to talk about what it’s not. A nonprofit is a lie anyway. We call it that because people understand it’s the tax-exempt channel.
I noticed on some of the Zoom calls you have invited me to with presenters from all over. Everyone on the call has a sparkle in their eye and a passion. They are leaning in to learn and to share. You have said you traveled a lot, but you are now traveling more virtually. When you are in different countries, what are the basic challenges? What are some of the common perspectives on how to approach those challenges globally?
J.E.: It depends. Generally, I keep going back to what I call universal values. We build common ground based on those values. Secondly, we try to inspire vision in the sense of helping people, which is a natural inclination. We have been able to create learning communities with our participants, staff, and alumni and to increase new skills and perspectives.
I will share an exercise that you can steal if you’d like. It’s an exercise that makes a point very early. Within 15 minutes of me meeting a group from 5-12 countries that we brought to the United States, they are sitting in Washington in a conference room. They are meeting me for the first time after having read my bio. Just like everyone else, I am a common person. Because of my dyslexia and ADHD, I had to compensate, so I have done too many things instead of one thing.
I do this exercise where in the middle of a talk, I pretend to trip. Everybody gasps. Some of them get up and try to help me. I stand up and say, “What just happened?” They realize I didn’t really trip. I say, “Look. Did you care? Were you concerned about me? Why? You don’t even know me. You’ve known me for 15 minutes. Why is it that you care about this old man?” They say, “No.” I say, “Look, we’re all hardwired for compassion, for love, for understanding. This is where we meet.”
Whatever the issues that people are dealing with, which is usually financing their projects, I give an example also that if you are in Silicon Valley and fail on Tuesday, on Thursday you are meeting with another investment bank or angel investor. If you are in Algeria and you fail, or Tunisia, or Palestine, that’s it. What’s really important to me is that we share right from the get-go that everyone has a vision for a better world that is based on their culture and values. Believe in your own ability to make a difference. This is so important. To think about change as people intensive. You have to build strong relationships with people. That means you have to learn how to listen and to appreciate what they bring to the table. The common need is that every human being has the capacity to contribute something. Be committed and patient with one another. Find the courage inside of yourself.
No matter what the problem is, if it’s financial or educational or public health-related or women’s empowerment-related, these basic principles are what we work with. We bring them out as soon as possible in a meeting so people can feel hopeful. Then we move on to these are the steps to build a strong organization. These are the steps for funding. These are the people you need to meet. These are the networks you need to be in. Specific problems come across in specific countries. For example, we were the first organization to bring youth from Palestine and Israel together in the United States. We have a history of that. I don’t know if that’s answering your question directly, but instead of labeling what the issues are, we should look at the positives. Where do we meet each other?
Hugh: A famous quote from Henry Ford is, “Obstacles are what you see when you take your eyes off of your goal.” I had a client years ago who I met at a music directors conference. They said, “Oh, we do these global events.” They were a German company. “No one in America will talk to us because no one knows who we are.” Americans don’t know what happens outside of our borders. They engaged me to help bring an event to America, which they have been doing for 20 years. I made contacts and did some site visits. We had the event in 2012 in Cincinnati, Ohio. It was like the Olympics for choirs.
I grew up a Southerner. If I categorize myself as a WASP, it’s a Wise Alec Southern Presbyterian. I grew up in a unique culture in a Southern church. Everybody looked like me. Going to an event where there are 100 countries represented, they are all singing differently but judged by some common artistic universal standards, what happened in that 10-day event brought huge amounts of people together. What happened is world peace descended upon an event that was a musical competition event. The brilliance of that is we celebrated excellence in music. I was going to be a musicologist; I studied all styles of music and lots of performance art and literature. I heard music I never dreamed existed in the classical genres. When we went to the folk genres of all the countries, it blew my mind. The wealth of experience outside of our borders is phenomenal, just in that one area.
I imagine if you take any subject, like the subjects you work on. I am looking at your website here and see programs like economic empowerment, global youth programs, peace dialogue, social entrepreneurs, peace fellows, youth leadership, emerging young leaders. There are so many opportunities of engagement in so many places. You have a lot of people working together on common ground. What do you see helps people?
J.E.: I want to extend the metaphor about the orchestras. It is really important. It is one I have used in my life because my mother was a classical pianist. You are so right on target with this. People don’t realize when they go to a symphonic performance that when they hear everyone tuning up, that’s part of the performance. They wait for the piece to start, but they don’t realize that five or ten minutes of tuning up with the first violinist is part of the performance. What we are doing is try to tune people to one another.
The second thing they don’t tend to realize is everyone is an expert who is sharing their expertise. Everyone on that stage is an expert. They could be a soloist, and they may very well be in part of their life. But they are an expert. They are merging their expertise not in competition but in collaboration.
The third thing they don’t realize is the person standing in front of them has vast knowledge and the sense of what comes when as long as they do. The conductor is a mentor and a coach. Not the same thing. The mentor is playing an instrument, too; it’s a silent instrument. I love that analogy. This is a really critical issue to understand how people can work together. How they apply what they already know. We have to learn to listen.
I am going to be transactional for a moment. The other side of it is how do we get people who fund these things, and this is where Bob comes in, to really understand the concept that it’s not a top-down funding thing but a collaborative issue? They are part of the orchestra, too. They are subscribing so that our orchestra can exist.
Hugh: You could teach my keynotes. You have that down pat.
J.E.: Do you pay for that?
Hugh: The pivot here is to go from people who are not conductors who think conductors are dictators. But you have union musicians contracted for two- or three-hour gigs. They will leave after that time whether they have played all the notes or done a good job or not. We can’t be a dictator. Just because we have that little white stick doesn’t mean we can make anyone do anything. What we can do is influence people. It’s the power of influence for those of us who are visionary or leaders in today’s world.
I want to talk about the trajectory we see for the future. We have mentioned some of these characters a couple of times. Would you be interested in letting them ask questions?
J.E.: Sure. I just want to outline three tools I think are important if you don’t mind. The individual action is how we set an example for others. That example can be bad or good. As long as we know how to say, “I’m sorry. That wasn’t the best suggestion. Thank you for correcting me.” That’s an example also.
The second thing is coordinating the action with others, creating an influencing policy and procedures.
The third thing is learning how to speak out. Use the media like we are using it right now. Tell the story. Spread the word. Make people feel empathetic but also that they belong to a larger hole. That takes a willingness to meet each other. It takes a willingness to tell the truth, too, and a willingness to listen and acknowledge harm and restore goodness to this world. If there is harm done, we have to remediate it and make sure it never happens again. This takes us to the world we’re living in.
Hugh: There is a piece of that that Brene Brown talks about as well as James Jordan who writes for musical conductors about vulnerability. We have been taught in common practice that leaders always have the right answers, which is wrong. Leaders have good questions. Maybe no answers, but you have surrounded yourself with competent people who have the right answers. You mentioned in that analogy about listening skills. That is probably the most under-utilized leadership skill I have experienced.
J.E.: It’s taken me a long time to learn to listen, which is because I love to talk. That comes from my own spiritual path. I spent 14 years in and out of India. I lived along the Ganges River and in ashrams. I met my teacher in India and took that path of Sufism and became a teacher myself. The one error my teacher ever made was to assign me to teach. Maybe he saw something in me that I never saw.
Listening is not just listening to other people. Listening is listening to nature. This doesn’t necessarily mean we’re hearing sounds. We are listening to a presence, which I would call a divine presence; other people may call it something else. It doesn’t matter what they call it. Learning to be peaceful. I call it Sufic mindfulness, which is listening to your breath. Taking 40 seconds of every hour, closing your eyes, breathing, being present. If you want to say the name of God or a prayer, take those 40 seconds and stop. Learn how to stop. When you’re stopping, you’re listening. I think that’s so important. Then you can listen to people’s words and ideas and filter them through our own experiences, which we have to do. There are few people you can really dialogue with, which you are trying to do.
Hugh: Yes, we had a leadership cohort on a call earlier today. I have a leadership community for nonprofit leaders improving their skills. There are some good stories on there, and people are helping each other. People who didn’t know each other before today are now offering to help each other out a lot. It is embedded in our human spirit to want to be helpful. I do find as I get older that people are more helpful when we trip up.
Let’s pause here and talk about some specific leadership challenges. But let’s entertain some outsider questions. Ira, do you want to ask a question? Ira lives in the same location as us and is connected with the University of Lynchburg here. Ira, welcome.
Ira Kaufman: Thank you very much. Could you discuss how values could empower organizations instead of other elements in the way they promote themselves?
J.E.: Most organizations would say they operate with values. Certainly you can think of large organizations like Sierra Club. It’s the integrating of those values and articulating them into every training that you do or every hire that you make or every product that you create. There are ways of doing that that are obvious. Some people use CSR. As you promote, Ira, and we promote with GTC (Ira is a co-founder), the corporate social values of the organization have to be out front. They are not behind the scenes. By the way, this is how we use some of our profits. By the way, these are the people we help. You have to lead with the concept of service and health.
My experience, and I think yours are, too, is that corporate leaders and NGO leaders have to go through some retraining, break down some of the silos, break down some of the issues that it’s all about how much money we get. Trust in the fact that what they believe in and what they are doing has power and an attractive force. There needs to be new leadership training, developmental organizational changes, looking at nonprofits or NGOs like we are in a way that the principles in those organizations truly articulate their commitment to their values. It’s soft skills, but they are important. Soft skill development is critical right now in the world. Five points of success, 23 ways of dealing with entrepreneurship. That’s great, but no one will follow that unless you can digest it in part of your heart, mind, soul, and words. This is really important.
Hugh: Absolutely. Those are wise words. Bob, do you have a question?
Bob Hopkins: Back to something you said earlier that rang a bell with me because I have been doing some studying on people who are givers and philanthropists. Do you think they’re born?
J.E.: Yes. I think they’re born but they’re also created. That’s a great question. I have a word game I play with English learners. To live for getting and not forgetting. If we accept the concept in Islam, an endemic story of Adam. We all come from the same source. Because of that, we have forgotten our roots. From my philosophy, which is certainly not others’, but the way I deal with it is I believe we are all born in goodness. That quality of goodness is within every human being. The struggle of life is to find that goodness, materialize it, and it will guide society in good ways. This is where we have strayed in the world today. We are into a period of great for getting. I mean that in an inquisitiveness: to get from me, to get. I mean it in the normal meaning, too: to forget. We have forgotten our origins. We have forgotten the base of our life. Some of us who feel this is really the way to move forward, we may be wrong. I have seen it proven over and over again that when people remember how they are unified, then their goodness comes out.
It comes out in the form of philanthropy, personal service, volunteerism. So many places we work in in the world, people have no concept of volunteering. Part of it is because of their economic and social statuses, but part of it is their own traditions have not emphasized it or have deemphasized it over centuries. I definitely believe that we are born with a tendency, but it takes the environment and company and relationships with people to bring it out and make it sustainable. I planted a seed in my garden for next year today. I don’t know what’s going to affect that seed. It may grow, or it may not grow. But the potential for that fruit is there. The environment will make it come out. I think it’s a combination of both, but I do believe we are born in goodness.
Hugh: Being able to focus that goodness on outcomes, we are in fact entrepreneurs. We are social entrepreneurs working for the good of humankind. Because of that, we tend to be distracted by shiny objects and tend not to be disciplined. You have created a global organization, and I imagine a lot of people participate with you either as volunteers or staff around the world. Let’s talk about leadership; we are speaking to leaders who are so tired. You get a lot of stuff done, but you get it done by being clear. You’re talking about outcomes, not output, not activity, but results. You focus on what we’re going to do through our common values. What is required of a leader who has the vision to make sure that it gets fully implemented?
J.E.: It’s interesting you bring that up. That same exercise I told you about, the compassion one, it comes out of a previous exercise where I have people list what common universal values are. The second question I ask is, “If you are going to be a leader, what would you add to this list?” What they add, because I am interested in that, is that leaders should be compassionate, articulate, should have a vision for the future, be able to have knowledge that others don’t have but also willing to listen, etc. Leadership has to be a humbling experience. To me, humility comes out of gratitude. If you’re not grateful for what you see and what you have, I don’t believe there will be humility. A good leader is someone who can articulate their vision in a way that others can join with it and feel they can share their vision. It’s not my work or my organization.
For example, Legacy International, I’m not a top-down leader. Since its inception, it’s been 80-90% run by women, so that’s interesting. Second of all, we operate in a way where everyone has to have leadership responsibility, which means everyone in the organization has to interface with a client or whomever it is we are serving. Even in our financial office, because of that, I feel that inherent ability to realize the responsibility. What is responsibility? The ability to respond in the moment. The ability to respond to the needs of whomever it is you’re talking to is a leadership quality. How do we train people to do that?
Ira is going to be on your program in October. He is a good expert in that. I might leave it to him to speak about that.
Hugh: Ira Kaufman will be the guest soon. We are speaking to you in 2020; we are talking about universal values and leadership principles that don’t expire. It’s like Renaissance music, Mr. Rash. It’s timeless. You threw a call-out to Ira Kaufman. Ira, do you want to give a preview of what you will talk about? He opened the door for you.
Ira: Thank you very much. I would take that opportunity to share five years of work I have been involved with with a colleague in Croatia who is a specialist in innovation and leadership. We wrote a book called Empower Us, which will be published soon.
One of the things we have done is we have looked at four values among the many different values that one would consider from all the major world religions. They all have the attributes of a person and how important those values are as guideposts in their lives. We researched the values and linked them to performance in organizations and in leadership according to the trends happening in the world. We distilled those four values to trust, empathy, sustainability, and transparency. We correlated those values to performance and actions within organizations and society. We developed a model, which was different than a traditional-
J.E.: When I think about the leadership, it’s how we translate those concepts in actual trainings. I am sure you come across that in your trainings with people. One of the ways that we deal with leadership is to expose people to leaders. We developed a cadre of subject matter mentors for organizations that are also training entrepreneurs or start-ups or people to be nonprofit leaders. The narrative of other people.
I think that the other thing we do for leadership is what we expose them to people who have actual responsibility with funds. Let’s say a million-dollar program funded by the Department of State run by our staff. We bring interns in, and we bring other people into it. Then we expose them to experts like yourself or Bob or Jeffrey or others who have certain expertise. They learn by absorption, by watching. To me, leadership training is not a didactic process. It’s a definitive process, a gathering. In our spiritual world, we call it a gathering. You gather together. You gather the energy and the knowledge. I’ll use Dr. Montessori’s terms: an environment that is constructed for learning. Like we do in our school with our children.
The third thing is leadership should be taught at age three, not at some point where you become a leader of an organization. We give responsibility. We have a school at the World Community Center in Bedford from preschool all the way through high school. All along the way, children are given responsibility, whether it is the choice of the material they are working with or a plan they are developing. You learn how to be a leader early on. I try to do my work from the youngest children to old people like myself, trying to bring them together so everyone benefits from one another. That is leadership to me.
The last thing I would say is where do we need leadership in the world today? We have to be truly honest. I don’t want to say politics aside because there is no such thing. Everything is politicized. We have to be honest. What are the needs today? Who is suffering? I was just on a pastors conference with the Lynchburg Pastors Group. I had no idea there was a facility where 90% of the people who are held there by ICE have COVID-19. I had no idea. I bet you didn’t know that. People are suffering within 30 miles of us. I’m not going to say politics aside because it’s all political. But we have to somehow penetrate those veils and say, “These are our brothers and sisters and fellow human beings.” This is where leadership is necessary. True leadership. Not political leadership. I am a little impassioned today.
Hugh: Preach it, brother, preach it. This is a call to action. There are three essential books for your nonprofit library: Philanthropy Misunderstood. When it comes out, Empower Us. And then Moving Spirits, Building Lives by Hugh Ballou. This book was #2 on Amazon for transformational leadership, which wasn’t good enough, I was told. What books do you recommend, Mr. Rash? Are there some good resources people could refer to?
You are opening up a paradigm of collegial, collaborative, cooperative work that is essential. We need to lead the way as the non-governmental sector, right?
J.E.: I think we really do have to lead the way and share our stories and encourage others. I am a broken record, but this is what I believe in. We have lasted for 41 years, and it works. I won’t apologize for saying the same thing over and over again too much. As far as materials, one of the things I always suggest to people is read the things that you think you know already. Read what other people are writing about what you think you’re an expert in. You will always learn something new. It’s a humbling experience. I have things I might read, but I wouldn’t necessarily recommend them to other people. Look at your area of expertise and read something that you wouldn’t normally read because you think you already know it.
As far as the future goes, you’re in many groups, Hugh. I don’t mean to turn this around and make me the interviewer, but I’d be interested to know the groups that you’re in. What are people saying about the future? To me, with all the bleakness in the future, there is a saying in the Middle East: “If you know the end of the world is coming tomorrow, plant a tree today.” That’s what we’re trying to do: plant a tree today. I am always interested to know what other people are thinking about the subject.
Hugh: I’m in lots of varied, global groups. Very few people look like me, which is probably a good thing. There has been no incidence where anyone brings up politics or religion, anything that would separate us. People are fundamentally focusing on what we can today and tomorrow, how we are preparing and moving in a transformative way to tomorrow. These are just people doing their work. I continue to meet new people because I am pretty out there on social media. I have a new group of people in our community. I think the collaborative learning model is what I support the most and get the most out of.
You mentioned the culture of volunteerism. I premiered a Ralph Vaughn Williams piece in Ukraine in 1997, the Hodie, the Christmas story. I went to every embassy and promoted it; we had the Israeli embassy there because we were partnering with the psalms of Bernstein in Hebrew. They are fantastic musicians, but there is no culture of volunteerism since the Communist times. It’s a very different situation.
I find that leaders are aligned on principle. You asked in the prep notes for today about principles we share with social changemakers. I don’t know if you are familiar with the work of psychiatrist Murray Bowen who wrote leadership concepts based on the family of origin. He teaches to create guiding principles. How do we take those values and turn them into principles so everyone knows how to apply those values? It’s a step toward creating a culture. You talk about the orchestra. That is a clear culture of high performance. There is a clear protocol… *Hugh cuts out*
J.E.: The basic principles are to have a vision for a better world based on the values and to believe in the ability to make a difference. You have to believe in what you’re doing however you arrive at that belief. Change is people-intensive. We have to build strong, caring relationships and sustain them. That’s based on the belief that every human being has the capacity to contribute something to life and to other human beings, and to be committed and patient, and of course, to find the courage to realize that what you’re working on may and probably will still need to be worked on long after you’re gone. But you’re contributing something to that process. That is basically how the principles we try to operate by.
To me, the real question is remembering the principles. We have lists of things. To me, it has to be integrated and digested and come up naturally for every human because you are not going to follow a chart on a wall no matter how many times you put it up on your wall or have it pop up on your computer.
Bob: I am really a proponent of educating people about nonprofit management before they get into it. I think there are systems and accepted principles and practices in nonprofit management that everyone needs to have before they decide to open up a nonprofit and waste people’s money and a lot of people’s time.
Hugh: I think they cut my internet cable on the street outside…
J.E.: You have been teaching a group of Bangladeshis and others. You have a list of those principles? I’d sure like to hear them.
Bob: I’m loving doing it. If we can start with the children that age and teach them the principles of giving and being a leader, teachers and parents ask, “What did you do to our children?” when we taught them how to be philanthropists. I realized when those questions came that we were onto something. If it’s changing children, we need to teach it.
Hugh: I have met some of those children who are now young adults who Bob has influenced. They are amazing. Bob, your work is a legacy to build the future.
J.E. Rash, this has been a stimulating conversation, and our time is up. In wrapping up today, I am going to give you the final word. What do you want to leave people with?
J.E.: We need to reach out to each other and be collaborative and create the means through which we can find a specific area that we can work together and really drill down and share our knowledge with one another. Those of us who are older, we are reaching into the younger generations with our school and our legacy work. I really value the knowledge of others. I find that we get so involved in our own work that we don’t spend enough time thinking about one project we could do together. We could aggregate some of that knowledge or work together. This is the conundrum that I find every day. I am meeting interesting people every day, people doing wonderful work around the world. Where do we meet? Where does that glove fit? I welcome ideas and suggestions for that.
The last thing I would like to leave people with is that God only knows what’s going to happen, but keep doing the good work you’re doing. We can’t break the rhythm. If we break the rhythm, we ruin the musical piece. We can’t break this rhythm because change has to come.
Hugh: Jeffrey Fulgham commented on the soft skills. We tend to overlook them. When they don’t work, they’re not soft. You hit pretty hard. J.E. Rash, Legacy International at LegacyIntl.org. You are truly an inspiration. Thank you for sharing your wisdom and some great experience.