What's our business

This week we're sharing some "Voices from the Summit." Throughout the week participants in the 2008 Summit will be blogging about their experience, their work and their thoughts. This post comes from Farhana Huq, Founder and CEO of C.E.O Women. I started volunteering with citizen sector organizations when I was 14.  My sense of the sector was myopic in that I was on the front lines most of the time, focused primarily on direct service.When I founded C.E.O. Women -- an organization dedicated to helping low-income immigrant and refugee women to become entrepreneurs -- I did so with the goal of helping women.  However, what has evolved for me, over time, is a commitment to addressing the systemic barriers faced by these women. I've come to believe that this requires a very different mindset and tool set. It also requires dialogue.  My thinking is now less about the direct service and more geared towards creating solutions and shifts that will inevitably solve the problems these women face over time.

Many of the key players in our sector run their organizations from a purely competitive lens.  What was valuable to me about attending the Public Innovators Summit was the focus of discussions around this phenomenon of organization building.  Many of us expressed our skepticism around measuring success based on the old tropes of "We're the biggest.  We're the best organization.  We're the oldest in the field."

The dialogue with other civic leaders at the Summit confirmed, for me, that the change we all want to see requires a deep sense of humility and a collaborative spirit.  Sometimes I think people forget what they are in the business of doing.  Are they in the business of doing business, or are they in the business of social change?  Regrouping and refocusing ones efforts around their work is critical to keeping you focused and understanding how to achieve change.

Farhana Huq: Founder and CEO, C.E.O Women