Long time readers of TDAA may find Emily (from Make Tech Work For You)’s name familiar, but just in case, I’m going to reintroduce them!

Emily is my badass, creative, goofy, radically honest, API whiz, broadway belting, snowboard flipping, junk food loving, tech boundary busting, risk embracing, ever learning, all around kind/generous/sincere business bestie. I love to call them my biz partner: “biz” in the sense that our blog/consulting practices are aligned in our goals and we love to share work with each other… and “partner” in the connotation of (not romantic) queer chosen family. We’ve been collaborating ever since we came out with Change Making Mindsets in our quest to re-frame tech skills for activists.

As I look at these Change-Making Mindsets slogans with fresh eyes, I can’t help but draw a connection to skills like “coping statements” and “self affirmations” which have become cornerstones in maintaining my mental health over the years, practices which I have adopted during years of therapy, advice from mental health instagram, and my own life experiences. I’m not sure which came first, but the truth is that my mental health journey and my career as a spreadsheet-ologist are nothing if not combined.

After CMM, Emily and I spent about a year refining ideas for how to Do No Harm with respect to nonprofit technology decisions. Of course, there is no easy answer for implementing ethical tech! One of the big takeaways from this work (which culminated in a session at the 2021 Nonprofit Technology Conference) was that tradeoffs that are presented as polar opposites or mutually exclusive ideas are much more likely to be spectrums, venn diagrams, or squiggly lines of no discernable geometry. “Breaking the binary” in this way opened up space for us (and other members of our community) to identify what was really at stake in these perceived tradeoffs and identify principles that could make decisions (and later on, prioritization) much easier. We called this an oath to Do No Harm, and we postulated that every org (or even person) would come up with a unique version… that would even change over time!

Well, gender revolutionaries, I’m excited to say that we’re BACK with more ideas (that are seriously less refined, provisional, exploratory, authentic, and just plain FUN). I call this series “cognitive flexibility” which is another theme that I’ve been working on, yep, in therapy.

Cognitive flexibility is all about adapting one’s thinking when encountering new information. Another angle, leftists love to say, could be “holding multiple truths simultaneously” which is to say, viewpoints that seem contradictory may both have merits and can coexist more happily than many of us believe. I have been practicing cognitive flexibility in a personal way by admitting when I am wrong and looking at problems from multiple perspectives.

In the series of conversations linked below, Emily and I try to examine an issue from multiple perspectives and almost always end up changing our minds along the way. It’s so easy to come in with a resolute idea, ready to argue (we can both hold up good ends of a debate!!!), and it can be so much harder to be humble enough to be persuaded, or at least open to different viewpoints.

I want to cultivate a tech and learning community where none of us are too proud, too expert-y, or too resolute to incorporate new ideas into our work and worldview. This takes a lot of practice, and I invite you to join us on the journey!

Video 1: Emily and I react to a “hot button issue” regarding the number of weeks/years of training required to become a successful Salesforce administrator.

Video 2: Emily and I discuss (debate) whether code-based or drag-and-drop tools are preferable for nonprofit technologists. What do you think?

Video 3: Emily and I debrief our experience dealing with a mountain of duplicate contact records!

We’ve had such a great time recording these videos and we have more to share! In the meantime, we love to hear from you about what resonates. Let’s keep growing and not be afraid to change our minds!

One thought on “NEW VIDEOS | practicing cognitive flexibility with my bestie

  1. I’d love to see that Google doc about contact merge options that you mentioned in the duplicates video. We’re working through a ton of duplicates and I’m trying to figure out which tool makes most sense to train volunteers on.

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