What do we mean by resources?

I have been thinking a lot about resources lately.  I have a particular moment that keeps coming to mind. Last year, I attended a workshop on community engagement. Someone from an organization, one I believe had just received government monies to train up a bunch of community organizers, kept saying “But we have no resources.” He was talking about money/funds. I remember, at the time, I made a mental note and I felt slightly dismayed by the focus on lacking money. Now, I think about that situation and I use it as an example for how it is that we – social change peeps – can often be as guilty as government of getting caught up in the mantra of “We don’t have enough!” This has got me wanting to explore how we work with our resources. How do we think about them and how do we work with them?

Recently, I found myself explaining to someone that we have three kinds of resources: internal, relational and material. We social changemakers can become overly focused on the material. “Show me the money” is another mantra we like to work with, saying it a hundred times a day while we hold our breath. Now, you might be thinking “Give me a break  – the internal and the relational kind of don’t matter if we have no money to pay people’s wages, buy materials etc.”  I put the question to all of us: Is that true?  Perhaps we don’t have the money to pay wages, buy materials etc, because of how we are working with our internal and relational resources. 

A lot of us active in social change are super tired of government austerity agendas – on both sides of the Atlantic. Government is saying “There’s not enough money, we have to cut, cut, cut spending!”  My reaction to this tends to be – “No way, this isn’t merely about spending less – it is about how we spend monies” After three years in British central government I was overwhelmed by wastage. Thing is, the wastage isn’t just in terms of dollars and pounds. I also experienced serious people wastage, which fuels the cash waste. That is, we throw money at things – programs, projects, research etc, which are all under-serving us because of how they work with our internal and relational resources.

Recently I read a story from The Atlantic Cities: The Awesome Power of Toolbanks. This is a story of using material resource differently – recycling and distributing tools in ways that bring maximum gain to all involved. How these folks are using materials says something about their internal resources. The people who set up toolbanks come from a place of overflow, it seems to me. For example, I am assuming the people who established the first toolbank in Atlanta, were thinking: “We’re not sharing our resources very well. How can we share more, to keep down costs for everyone and do more with what we have?” Thinking this way is a certain kind of mindset.

Mindset is one significant dimension of our internal resources. When I am guided by an open, expansive, confident mindset, I will connect with my surroundings (relational and material) very differently than if my mindset is one rooted in the qualities of being contracted, fearful, doubtful, cynical etc. How true is that for you? What are the other dimensions of (y)our internal resources? I’m not going to answer this question now. Nor will I start to explore relational resources here. These are topics for future posts.

Meantime, I find myself thinking: whether we are talking about our personal lives or we are talking about community organizing and social change, our mantras are generative. That is, what we think becomes our reality. As ever, I have questions: Are you/Is your organization attached to a mantra of lack rather than overflow or abundance? How might you/your organization do things differently if you started each day with the mantra “We are overflowing with resources”? How would you manifest this sense of overflow – noting that manifest means to display a quality or feeling? How would you show or demonstrate that you are/your organization is overflowing with gifts to give? Or that you/your organization believes the world around you is overflowing with gifts to give?



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