First Person: Dan Cardinali

August 15, 2016

I was the fresh recruit when I last wrote. Now I am the rookie, gauging my position, and with a learning curve of observations I am just beginning to reflect back to our community.

In my first month on the job, I met with nearly 70 people in person or by telephone, seizing the chance to witness the work of our members through their eyes. This pace has not relented.

Positive themes have emerged, but so have challenges. Everyone affirms IS’ roles as community builder, policy leader, and sector enabler – and warmly endorses our shift from a broadcasting organization to one that co-creates. Nonprofit leaders and philanthropists alike hunger to understand what this ecosystem we are working in is, and are we alone? Likewise there is a real desire to be in a community that has opportunities for both physical and virtual engagement. All weak signals that change is afoot.

I feel strongly the sense of goodness in the people I meet, drawn from the full breath of their humanity. In our sector as a whole there is a palpable and powerful consensus around values, a sense that we are doing good work. And the purpose in life that people hunger for in other sectors is so alive in ours.

An important conclusion: building a collective vantage point has to be done by the collective. Even organizations with a wide purview are not exhaustive in their understanding. Smaller organizations can become truly lost. So it is exciting as well as intimidating – and humbling and edifying – to be charged with helping create a collective mosaic of our community.

For 17 years, I was focused on one organization, with a purview that was quite deep. My new job is necessarily asking me to look across a much wider spectrum. As a result, I am at times feeling sensory overload, but in the best sense of the word, an experience of joy and excitement. Not to mention a sense of wonder that comes with the recognition that while we possess many similar beliefs, we also hold very different ones. We live in that gap, work together in it, and derive from it a deeper understanding of each other and ourselves.

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