The Power of Committing and Recommitting

One of the reasons I am grateful for the work of Katie and Gay Hendricks is what I have learned about the power of commitment and re-commitment. A powerful way that I have used this skill successfully is in my work to address the crisis of homelessness. I have worked to alleviate this issue both as a government employee and now as a philanthropic partner, as I currently work at a family foundation. Homelessness is a complex problem and no one person, program or system can solve these challenges alone. Unfortunately, deep and authentic partnerships are too often an exception and not the norm and one big reason is that there is a lack of trust and fear of scarcity. I’ve learned that in moments of challenging situations, it is critical to shift attention inward to notice what I’m experiencing and feeling so that I can consciously shift and move from reacting to responding. I can choose to commit and recommit to what I want. For example, one of our community aspirations in improving our homeless response system is the commitment to center the voices and needs of people who have and/or are currently experiencing homelessness. This is something that I believe in deeply and am committed to, but in a meeting this past summer with advocates, service providers, people with lived experience, I found myself feeling defensive. At one point in the meeting, the focus turned to the work the philanthropic sector was supporting, and people started asking questions like, “why should we trust philanthropy?” and “who asked them to work on this in the first place?” I think these are fair questions to ask, but in that moment, I felt defensive. I found myself wanting to defend my organization and even the broader philanthropic sector. Rather than react in anger and leave the meeting less motivated to collaborate, I took several deep breaths, noticed how I was feeling, and asked myself about my commitments. Was I committed to being “right” or “liked”, or was I committed to building authentic partnerships, which means being open to feedback, hearing my partners and trying to understand where they were coming from? I made a choice to let our partners know how I was feeling and to affirm my commitment to listen and work through these difficult questions, rather than repress those feelings and leave the hard conversations unresolved. It’s not easy, but these are the kind of authentic conversations that must happen if partnerships are going to be strong enough to make a difference in the world. When things get difficult, when disagreements arise, partnerships fall apart if they’re not built on mutual trust, authenticity, and commitment. I’ve learned that trust requires more than organizational commitment; it requires commitment from each of us as individuals. It’s challenging but rewarding, and I’m grateful for having learned this important integrity move from the Hendricks Institute as this is helping me work towards the kind of vibrant, welcoming community I want to see.

Katie Hong