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The Secret Ingredient to Fostering Positive Change

In 2008 my husband and I bought our first place, a condo in Fort Collins. Always striving to live sustainably, I was on a mission (fostering positive change) to make the Cottonwood Condos a destination for Green, Downtown living. Almost immediately, I convinced the HOA president to join Climate Wise. After all, it was a free, City sponsored program that could help us to save some money – cha-ching.

I had these grand visions and expectations of how we were going to make the Cottonwood Condos more green. We got our Climate Wise assessment and found that there were some big projects on there.  I presented a few ideas at the annual meeting later that year…our journey had begun.

Now, almost 5 years later, the Cottonwood Condo’s will be the first HOA to receive Gold level status from Climate Wise. We have a compost pile, upgraded our washers/dryers to high efficiency models, did a green remodel to the common areas…and we still have more projects in the works!

Yay Cottonwood Condos!

In addition to the building improvements we’ve created a stronger sense of community. We hosted two ZEDfest parties, organized community cleanups, worked together on projects and organized into sub-committees…We wouldn’t be receiving Gold status if it wasn’t for dedicated community members coming together and contributing (as volunteers mind you) to the overall effort, which has been awesome (thank you!).

We’re not good at taking pics…slim pickings!

But it wasn’t always like this. The last 5 years haven’t exactly been chocked full of huge wins and big feats of change. Not long after sharing my ideas at the annual meeting I learned that I was met with feigned interest and a lot of resistance. Many held the perception that we’d already done enough (all the light fixtures in the common areas were CFL’s after all) and that things were just fine the way they were!

Another obstacle I faced was the hefty price tag on most of the improvements. We’re a small organization with limited resources. And nothing causes things to come to a screeching halt like “the budget!”

Despite these challenges I did not despair, at least not right away. I joined the Board of Directors. I threw out ideas at the meetings. For example, we had an inoperable solar thermal system on the roof, Climate Wise said it was the biggest array in the city they’d seen at the time. This gem sat dormant for years. I was determined to get it up and running…that didn’t happen, nor did most of my ideas, not much happened for a while.

Just when I felt hope was lost for the Cottonwoods, residents began to step up and take an interest in our little community like never before. Things that weren’t at all a part of my own master plan for the association started happening. It felt rather sudden, “Surprise!” we are changing for the better.

You know what I finally did?  Do you know the secret ingredient to fostering positive change? It’s what I didn’t do; I stopped pushing the ideas I had for specific things I thought we should do. I’d actually felt like giving up entirely, I learned this by happenstance. It was when I let go, when I stopped caring so much about making my own ideas happen that other people started stepping up! The seed had been planted, people believed the Cottonwood Condos could be better.

So, that’s the secret ingredient to fostering positive change. Let go, stop caring so much about every little piece of the puzzle and making good on your own master-plan. It’s not just about you! What you are responsible for is sparking people’s interest. For providing a little direction towards an ideal destination and engaging your comrades by challenging them to help make the vision happen! If you fixate too much on your own grand plan you alienate people and without the participation of others nothing changes for the better.

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