A summer program by any other name

Roughly 30 months ago, some friends and I were talking about a summer program we wanted to create. We had been spending a lot of time on a few really cool projects that focused on energy-efficiency and green manufacturing, and we thought it would be really powerful to tie our initiatives together. We figured we could raise some money to make our own summer jobs, and even invite anyone who may have wanted to join us.

We had a few discussions about the name. We wanted a simple name that conveyed the summer timeframe and, rather than focusing on any particular activity, captured the kind of holistic, multi-issue work we were doing. We figured “Summer” and “solutions” were key words, and although we vetted “Solutions Summer,” “Summer Solutions,” and even “Summer of Soul-utions,” we eventually settled on one: The Summer of Solutions.

Ever since, we’ve been getting a variety of responses to our name, ranging from “Genius! That’s so exciting and powerful!” to “Hmpgh, sounds like Summer of Idealism to me.” (And, of course, we shouldn’t forget, “What’s that thing you’re doing in Minnesota again?”). Even among people who have been a part of the program, perspectives on the name have varied widely.

So what’s in a name, anyway?

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Bringing our aspirations within reach

Its the end of the summer, and I have a lot of reflecting to do.  The Summer of Solutions (SoS) has been a wild learning experience for me from the moment I joined on in spring 2008.  However, rather than share some of my reflections in this post, I’m gonna clue y’all in on how to build on your reflections

This program is at a huge turning point.  Last summer, the first SoS gave us some insights on how to do local solutionary organizing (and how not to do it).  This past summer gave us some ideas about how to do it on a national scale (and, well, how not to do it).  As we begin to prepare for our third year, we can take all those lessons and figure out how to make solutions the next big thing – and we want you to be a part of it.

Apply to join a Grand Aspirations working group here by Monday, August 17.

Many folks involved in the Summer of Solutions have had national conversations about how to move forward into the fall while increasing our capabilities.  The strategy we identified will be to create working groups of leaders to handle everything from organizational development to building SoS programs for next summer.  This will be the temporary structure that will move us towards more formality, better communication, better funding, and better programs.

The work we are doing with Grand Aspirations is solutionary – at once revolutionary and, at the same time, just common sense.  We’re building community development solutions that are sustainable, long-term and replicable. We are not shooting for one-time fixes – we are building the conditions for accelerating and ever-expanding change to occur.  We can’t get the future we want without implementing local solutions that everyone, everywhere, can plug into.  In order to get those built, we will need to rapidly coordinate in places across the country.

Our success in this stage will rely on the innovation and energy of volunteers who are willing to seriously build this – and we need that to include you. You can be a part of it all by joining a working group by August 17th

It has been an incredible experience this summer to work with young folks all over the country who strove to make their summer solutionary.  I’m constantly blown away by all your capabilities and I am really hoping to work with many of you through the year.  Keep blogging your successes and thoughts as the year continues!