October 2018 – Dylan McCain Allen
Our home is vibrant as it is complex, which is why collaboration is necessary to get our neighborhoods ready for just about anything. The Pulse Nightclub Shooting and 2017 Hurricanes brought communities together like never before, but disjointed funding efforts and duplicated services made it hard to effectively align community needs with assets. A Gift For Teaching moved past its “business as usual” to elevate how the educationally-disadvantaged are supported and joined a growing coalition of socially-driven organizations and businesses, service-providing not-for-profits, and government agencies to coordinate grassroots-informed, regionally-strategized action plans that will quickly activate disaster restoration, convene philanthropic cooperation, and get our region back up to speed in any situation.
Following the ideas of Collective Impact, purposeful collaboration can transform the way human services tackle some of the other extremely complex challenges in our region. Rapidly growing homelessness tied to low wages and an affordable housing crisis, health disparities tied to economic inequities and racial biases, and devastatingly-high rates of human trafficking underscore that Central Florida’s greatest problems are far worse than traffic on I-4. Collective impact provides hope to communities that have been swamped with philanthropic dollars yet seen little change or neighborhoods that have accepted outside support and received emigration-forcing gentrification. If the social sector can move towards organizational alignment (rather than programmatic partnerships) and focus on ultimate outcomes (for example: end food-insecurity rather than hunger), then our everyday lives will be dramatically transformed for the better. However, this requires immense change by the leaders.
One unique thing about Crave is that it’s already full of inspired and activated individuals. The need isn’t to show its participants the possibilities to find their Ikigai because they already have the idea—they see the light at the end of the tunnel. The challenge is navigating the labyrinth. The other unique part about Crave is that is transcends leadership and skill development to also incorporate the person and their spiritual motivations as the driving powers of the operation. Unveiling the internal, hidden, and powerful forces that guide our raison d’être sets us free to see our missions in a more universal truth that is grounded by what makes us who we are. Leveraging my strengths in connecting seemingly-disparate people and ideas, learning everything I can about the world, ideating new ways to solve complex challenges, arranging processes into a better flow, and an admiration for mental exercises and intellectual pursuits will augment my ability to bring a community together and target its assets towards greater impact. Let’s work together, Central Florida—strategically, meaningfully, and sustainably.
A special thanks to the Central Florida Foundation, Edyth Bush Charitable Foundation, and the Donors Forum of Central Florida for being the catalyst of coordinated disaster response. Also a special thanks to the First United Methodist Church of Winter Park and the Crave team for this opportunity not just given to me, but to Central Florida.
Dylan McCain Allen
A Gift for Teaching, Orlando YNPN
Crave II Orlando Kickoff
Crave II Orlando has begun!
As strangers, Orlando-based social innovators gathered for an overnight retreat to begin the work of vulnerably sharing our stories, hearts, and dreams with one another. Desire for belonging and safety produced regular laughter, connection, and collective contagious creative hopefulness. The new Crave Leaders’ courage and passion made that Something More (God, Vibration, Source) so undeniably palpable in our shared experience and space.
After learning our strengths, identifying our values and expectations of belonging, and selecting our learning opportunities for the year ahead, the Crave Advisory Board began to arrive for our shared feast.
Among the 17 of us (Crave I & II Orlando and the Advisory Board) the room oscillated between raucous laughter and intense conversation about the new projects for the common good which are at the heart of Crave.
Education, LGBTQ+ advocacy and support, life skills, and community impact are the primary mission areas of focus for our Leaders this year. There is so much to discover and develop together. We hope you will journey with us throughout the coming year by reading our blogs, following us on social media @CraveFLA, and getting directly involved by reaching out to me firstname.lastname@example.org.
Light always and ultimately overcomes the darkness. Crave exists to nourish and spread that Light.
Michele Van Son Neill
Class of 2018 Leaders Graduation
With the graduation of these remarkable leaders, Crave has begun! The celebration was a lovely gathering of open-hearted and supportive friends, family, and new supporters. Time, money, and décor was donated by the Board Members. One Board Member even flew from Vermont to attend! Each Crave Leader added to our merriment with the addition of parents, employers, roommates, co-workers, and friends. These folks filled the room with joy and excitement as they heard the Crave Leaders each share their growing projects and how their year together has grounded, formed, and bonded them.
Ashley Vann, Founder of the Victory Cup Initiative and President of Vann Strategies, was our keynote speaker. She inspired the Leaders to focus on their integrity, vision, and outreach financiances. The radically inclusive love expressed along with the critical values of leadership, faith, and the celebration of active citizenship were palpable throughout the evening.
As the Crave Leaders were taking photos and excitedly planning our first Alumni Retreat to the beach in July, one of their fathers pulled me aside. It was obvious he had something important to share. He cleared his throat and stared at the ground in silence, hands on hips bracing himself for unprecedented vulnerability with me, a stranger. He finally looked right at me, tears tipping over his eyelids. “Before…” looking at the ground again, wiping his tears. “Before this,” he motioned with his chin toward his daughter among the laughing Crave Leaders. “She was really lost. Not okay, you know?” I didn’t know. His daughter is remarkable, wise, and now actively uses pain from her past to change people’s lives for the better. He started again. “From an old Presbyterian like me, I want you to know I’m real glad the church is paying for you to do this. I guess what I’m saying is… please keep going.” His daughter will not return to his church. She’s learned and embraced that she is building church right where she is among the folks she’s healing with her loving touch, deep well of wisdom, and clarity of purpose. She is not someone I’d describe as lost. In fact, she is quite “found.” And that is the Amazing Grace at work through Crave.
The Holy Spirit, the Great Mystery, Love (with a capital L), the Power of Nature, the Juice, that Something More emerged when we were together. We named it, tapped into it, and are now deploying it in our relationships and work. It has propelled us all to the next step of our projects for the Common Good. And amazingly, it has united us so strongly that we’re ready to share it with the next group of Crave Leaders in Orlando. We invite you to be a part of that next group by applying here by July 1st. Crave has begun. Please join us.
Michele Van Son Neill
May 2018 – Katy Cuthill Steinberg
“I’m a part of this cohort of creative entrepreneurs doing spiritual formation in unique containers.” There’s nothing official about that statement, but it’s how I’ve been describing Crave over the last year. Generally that statement is followed by an explanation of the surf school owner, yoga guru, skatepark developer, and all the others who are doing this impassioned, unique work with an understanding of “something else” going on here. That “something else” has become a buzzword for us as we’ve tried to describe, but not box in, the sense of something bigger, more meaningful, something connective of all people and all of creation… some might say God… at work in these unique endeavors.
Personally, I have been encouraged in my own work of developing a unique, nomadic spiritual community with Missing Peace by the fresh and exciting work of this talented group of people. They see the possibilities, instead of just the obstacles, to developing truly unique opportunities for people to engage in what’s most meaningful in themselves and most meaningful in the world. They see possibilities in my blind spots and nudge me toward resources and ideas I never thought of on my own. Add to that the gifted leaders that make the CRAVE machine run, and one might begin to feel unstoppable.
Catherine Matthias was my assigned liaison from the leadership team. She brought her well developed and exceptional gifts for strategic goal setting to Missing Peace. We flourished under her guidance developing our own leadership team and the concrete goals we hoped to accomplish together. This was a huge step for our group, and has given us a pattern we can continue to use as we equip leaders and do innovative work. Thank you is not nearly adequate.
If you’ve been following along, you no doubt know that the CRAVE journey is nearing its end for this cohort. Though like the best things in life, there’s no real end. Each of us will go on to do the meaningful, inspiring, “something else” work we’ve nourished in our CRAVE experience, and a new cohort of creatives will come through and be nurtured into their next phase. It’s more of a cycle than a clear beginning and end. And CRAVE is helping to turn the crank in this beautiful machine of hope, and goodness, and light being launched into the world. This is not a product or a business or purely a leadership training. This is a movement being nurtured into existence, partnered with “something else,” and set for powerfully changing our world for the better.
So while “thank you” is inadequate to express the deep gratitude and appreciation I feel for CRAVE and its founder, Michele Van Son, it will have to do. But more than the thanks of this program’s direct beneficiaries, I hope you will bask in the glow of the movement you’re creating, empowering gifted and good people, and giving hope through all the things they create at your encouragement. It is truly a gift.
Katy Cuthill Steinberg
April 2018 – Kelsey Kerce
Crave is a leadership program founded by Michele Van Son about a year ago. In my experience, I’ve found that Crave has two hemispheres: One is the external community — our connections to community partners, the learning that happens with experts and mentors in the community. The other is the internal Crave community, which quickly grew to feel like family. While there are two sides to Crave, I found these sides to be deeply connected.
Take, for example, my relationship with my mentor, Chev. Chevalier Lovett is the Senior Vice President and Managing Director of Organize Florida. He sits on the board of Crave and was appointed as my “Learning Partner.” With this title, Chev quickly began to feed me his favorite kind of knowledge: books. Wonderful books that I now assign to my eager-to-grow friends and to my employees. While reading these books, I began practicing their messages at every opportunity — at bachelorette parties, at networking events, with my friends — which brought me to the clear realization that it’s important that these books impact my personal development as well as my career development. This also made me realize that these two life arenas are crucially connected.
I began doing a monthly executive coaching session with Chev, wherein he gave me direction for my work with Playground City, advice for being a better leader, and guidance on how to plan strategically. Chev is not the type of guy who’s afraid to tell you when you need to fix things, but he’s also one who doesn’t hold back praise for growth. When I realized that, I felt like a better leader within my organization. I also realized that I felt better at home. Like I said, the hemispheres are connected.
Perhaps what I love most about my job as Executive Director of Playground City are the relationships I get to build with other leaders in the community. For this reason, I love our community partner meetings. Crave leveraged opportunities for these community partners to meet with some of the most successful and influential people in Orlando, each of whom was eager to share his/her expertise with us.
At the same time I was participating in these meetings, I was working through a “Why?” and “How?” book alongside Michele and the leaders within the community. During this time, I’ve seen more vulnerability and bravery among strong leaders than I’ve ever seen in my life — and man, I can’t explain what an eye-opener that was. To admire these people so much, and to see that they’re feeling and thinking the same things that I do, gives me tremendous reassurance that I’m on the right track.
When I first enrolled in Crave, I didn’t understand that I was searching for something; but as the year passed, the pieces started coming together. As I conclude my term with Crave, I see a clear path ahead of me, a guide for all the learning I want to accomplish, and a mirror showing me the gifts I have to share with my community along the way.