It's not about scarves
Initially published February, 2015
Before I write anything else I want to say how inspired and genuinely happy I am for Alex and her team. Their proejct was successfully pledged, and they are well under way making and "shipping" scarves to kids who need them. In case you haven't followed the news here lately - or aren't familiar with Winnipeg in general - it's been a brutal two weeks of cold. Alex asked for 30 balls of yarn and 10 metres of fleece, and received more than requested; donors pledged the required amount within 4 days of launch.
"So What?", or, "Why is it also not about the scarves?"
Obviously kids in grades 1-3 receiving scarves is a big deal, and I won't take away from that. However, what is also a "big deal" is that Alex was not told to make these scarves. Making scarves is not part of a class credit she receives, and she doesn't get paid for any of this. She decided that she wanted to do something, spoke to her teacher Mrs. Kaisser about it, and reconnected with us here at Butterfly (I had spoken to a group of kids at Alex's school a week before she approached her teacher with this idea).
We did not tell Alex what to do: what we did, along with Mrs. Kaisser, is present her with choices and options for what she could do to develop her idea to the point where it would be "ready" to be put online. This took about 2 weeks if my memory serves (duration, not effort). With Alex's full participation we explored ways that she could develop the idea, and she did the work.
Too often people have ideas - not just young people, but people of any age - and the "adults" take over and, to be honest, ruin the idea. They can ruin it by watering it down. Most often they ruin it by cutting out the person with the idea and mobilize for efficiency, thereby completely missing the opportunity. The opportunity isn't only to do some good quickly and efficiently in the world; the opportunity is for a person with an idea to learn how to bring that idea to life on their own terms, in their own way, and to own all parts of the journey.
What would typically happen is that a person like Alex would have this idea, the adults in her life would take it over (or not), and she would either become a background volunteer or the face on the poster. She would not learn, she would not choose her path, and she would not own the experience. She will also not have another idea.
Butterfly exists so that people with ideas, or who want to have ideas, can connect their ideas to a system of support and encouragement. The system that is provided is not there to take over; rather, it is there to ensure that the person owns the problem, the solution, and their own path. The system is made up of like-minded people - donors, mentors, and volunteers - all of whom are focused on building the community.
We provide the freedom for people to create their own journey.
This is our ground.