New Year’s Resolutions: It’s a Process

A slip of paper reads: New Years Resolutions and a black piece of paper sits beside it

By Sara Veltkamp—


Another January has arrived, and it’s a special one. The consensus seems to be that putting the dumpster fire of 2020 behind us is a wonderful thing, though the jarring riots and takeover of the Capitol building last week suggests that we can’t expect turning a page on the calendar will solve our problemsThe shapeless, melted mass filled with smoldering trash has a lot to teach us  


For example2020 has taught me that to create change and build better systems, we need to focus on our process for doing this work as much as the change we’re hoping to bring about—perhaps even more. The Capitol takeover keenly demonstrates that if the goal is to hold power with no consideration as to how that power is maintained, the consequences—in this case an angry mob of people whose fears have been fostered and angst has been amplified—are dire and do not lead to an advantageous end for anyone. 


The world is shifting quicklyrendering meaningful goal setting difficult. We can only guess what the world will look like by the end of 2021, and what we’ll need or wantWe’re all experiencing big shifts in the way we think about our role, how we work, and what we feel is importantIt’s likely that our answers to these questions will continue to evolve rapidly this year.  


Meanwhile, on a societal level, people are fraying the edges of interconnected systems of oppressionwhite supremacy, patriarchy, unfettered capitalism—that form the worlds in which we operateStructural change takes time, but it’s clear that “the ways things are” will not always be the way they are. When the world is uncertain, we can lament uncertainty or learn to work with it. These are the only choices we have.  


For those of us who want to create structures that work for the majority instead of the minority, we must start with examining this processElite business, political, or philanthropic circles coming together behind closed doors to create a plan for how to redistribute wealth, share ownership, build equity, or reshape public life will only ensure we replace existing systems with others that are just as oppressive, no matter the good intentions of the people in those rooms. To create systems that are truly liberating, we must allow them to emerge from decentralized, collective movements.  


This is messyWe have to let go of the need for certainty and allow ourselves to be surprised by what emerges. This doesn’t mean, however, that we can just sit back and watch what happens. Developing the processes for collective action is hard work. This work is about building strong relationships—with those you agree with and those you don’t—for the sake of building relationships rather than as a means to an end For those who are used to leading, the work might be suspending certainty of your “rightness” and letting others with different perspectives take the reinsFor those who have been repeatedly told explicitly or implicitly that their voices don’t matter, the work is to join with others who’ve been told the same and continue fighting to be heard. It’s not going to be easy and it will be slower than we wantbut we are more likely to succeed and sustain these changes in the long run. 


We need more movements like CommunityCentric Fundraising that are trying new methods to change underlying power structures, in this case for philanthropy. Whether or not these efforts work to generate a specified end, they will contribute to learning around our processes. We need more efforts like this that prioritize the most vulnerable, distribute leadership, adapt and are flexible, make space for everyone to meaningfully contribute, and share lessons from failures. 


Another example of upending traditional processes is the efforts of our clients at FORESIGHT. Through support from the Rippel Foundation, they are running an initiative to reinvent health and wellbeing in the U.S. FORESIGHT recognizes that our current healthcare decisions are top-down, and our healthcare system is built to serve those with power and privilege, not those most impacted by health challengesFORESIGHT’s process reaches deep into communities to hear from the people who the healthcare system is failing. Through in-person and online workshops, they connect with people and ask what being healthy means to them and how the system could better support their wellbeing to inform a new vision of healthcare in our country 


This yearwe must celebrate and replicate these efforts, recognizing that the way we make an impact on the world is as important as the impact itself. Let’s set goals that focus on the process and help us navigate our current world, all with an eye to building something better 

About The Author

Sara Veltkamp

Sara Veltkamp

Vice President

Sara lives in New Orleans, Louisiana and is Minerva's vice president. She takes a lead role in all aspects of Minerva Strategies’ smart communication strategies and implementation. She loves a challenge and is obsessed with learning new things, from how to use new platforms and tools for storytelling to languages like Amharic, French, or Farsi to mastering a difficult yoga pose. She applies this energy and curiosity to all clients’ communication challenges. Learn more about Sara.