WCS-011: John Javna, an experienced social entrepreneur and community builder goes deep

John JavnaJohn Javna unleashes a torrent of deep insights into community building and funding for any grassroots movement. He leverages decades of experience to offer practical, actionable advice. You’ll want to listen to this one again and again.

About John Javna:

John got his start as a street performer and dollhouse maker in 1972. Since then he has branched out into numerous enterprises, written more than 50 books including the NY Times bestseller “50 Simple things you can do to save the Earth” and the acclaimed (and humorously informative) Uncle John’s bathroom reader series. He is a social entrepreneur who brings a wealth of insight to anyone seeking to create a lasting organization benefitting their community. For example, in 2002 John co-founded what has become a highly successful, non-profit children’s science museum called Science Works in a little town in southern Oregon. And in 2009 he founded the Neighborhood Food Project, a grassroots movement that collects food for local food banks which is rapidly gaining a national reach through John’s innovative approach to collaboration.

Personal Mantra:

“A small thing done well is a big thing.”

From John: Thinking that I’m going to do a big thing or that a lot of people are going to pay attention this is, is probably the worst mistake I’ve ever made. It’s much better to focus on keeping things personal, meaningful, and spontaneous on that small level.

One of his greatest challenges:

John shares a time early in his first business when everything seemed to be unravelling. At the time it seemed insurmountable but in looking back he sees the learning that took place.

John talks about the recurring challenge of facing a new task, not knowing what to do, and facing a “trough” of depression when it’s hard not to quit. Listen in to hear John share how he makes that period of depression a part of the process of figuring out a solution.

“Actually admitting that I don’t know what to do and feeling it fully is actually a part of finally figuring it out.”

When he knows the work he is doing is making a difference:

John reflects on special moments when people have shared unexpected and special personal moments when work he’s done has touched them. It is especially when feeling the sense of community among the volunteers that he knows the work is meaningful.

Practical Advice:

  1. Javna’s 1st rule of community organizing: a person’s enthusiasm at any given time is no indication of what they will do in the future.
  2. Don’t focus on who is gone, focus on who is there. You build a grassroots effort one person at a time.
  3. Trust time. Things will take as long as they take. A grassroots movement takes time to grow.
  4. If you’re a visionary, you have to combine your vision with other people’s good ideas. The person with the vision is the one who can see what isn’t there yet, but that person is there to be the navigator and a collective consciousness is need to pool everyone’s good ideas.
  5. Surrender is often the path to innovation. Sometimes you gotta give up and then the empty space gets filled with what you couldn’t see before.
  6. Beware of passive aggressive people. The purpose of conflict is resolution. If a conflict can’t be resolved then that person is there for the conflict and not the resolution. Get them away from your organization. Passive aggressive people will sink organizations.
  7. The way to get people to do things is to just ask. But, you have to be clear about what you want from them.
  8. Community is built from the inside out.
  9. Stay focused on your goal. Don’t expand past what you can handle.

Personal Practice That Keeps him Going on the Tough Days

John doesn’t have a personal practice. Find out why.

Best strategies for funding:

John shares experiences both as someone looking for funding and as a potential source of funding for others’ projects. Keep your operating costs as low as possible. Do not expect somebody else to be your leverage. You have to show them you can do it without them before they are going to support you.

Recommended books or films:

The Power of Habit by Charles Duhigg

Biography of an Idea by Edward Bernays

Tools or Technology:

Adobe InDesign

Nomination for Upcoming World Changer Sessions Guest:

Susan with the SART program

How to get in touch:

Website: The Medford Food Project

Email:  john@medfordfoodproject.com