Some initial thoughts for the next leap into the unknown

Originally, we, the Colorado Team, had decided we would post our response together. I’ve decided to go ahead and do an initially posting since so much time has passed.

We have met and done an initial review and business plan but are working on getting more detail.

Here are some thoughts:

Within 6-12 months we hope to have our initial partners and implement our first shared purchasing contract.  As a result, it would be great to have from CPA some sample contract language, member contracts and more detailed information thatwill be needed starting early in 2020.  The more we can harvest from CPA DC the better!.  In addition, as we start looking at funders it will be important to be able to make a case for both direct grants and investments.  How do we coalesce investment partners into a large enough fund?  What kind of legal language and agreements do we need with potential investors?

We would absolutely like to maintain contact with others.  This initial cohort has been very helpful and supportive.  We have already scheduled a December check in phone call with our group and I anticipate will continue with monthly calls during 2020.  A contact list with everyone’s name would be helpful as well as those who attended the workshop in DC.  I like the idea of updates and ongoing occasional questions or prompts.

Based on our initial numbers we will need at least $25,000 in startup for an organizer for the first six months of 2020.  At that time, we will likely need to move to a full-time coordinator and other support which will mean an additional subsidy of at least $35,000 for year 2.  In additional to start up funds, templates for contracts, Mous, membership, etc. will be essential as well as some initial expertise in the areas we hope to begin.

We have already been meeting on a regular basis with our small group and have occasionally invited others to join us.  I do feel confident that we will be able to have a strong business plan that will move us forward.  We have a good core group, identified our initial lead organization, and key people.  We will be posting a larger feasibility plan but for current next steps:

  • Gather a larger contingent of key stakeholders by February 28th.
  • Identify some initial funding resources by the end of the first quarter.
  • Get buy in from key churches and Jubilee ministries within the Episcopal Church and Lutheran Church.
  • Identify the oversight and management structure for our local version of the CPA.

The Empathy Trap

Thanks to my cohort phone call this week which helped me craft how I might respond to this prompt.  I wish I could gather this group once a week in person to reflect on the deeper issues.  There is so much wisdom and empathy in the circle it fills me with hope every time we speak.

I deeply value the importance of empathy.  Solving our most complex issues in the world will require an intense level of empathy that builds stronger relationships and allows us to connect with one another at a deep level and move beyond the false assumptions we make.  Both Felipe’s video and the other video show how powerful this is.

Two other videos I love are:

Brene Brown:

and Mark Ruffalo on Sesame Street:

And, still, there is also a dark side to empathy which we discussed in our group.  Do I, as a privileged white male, really have the right to ask communities of color and women to empathize with my fear of losing power and my fear that my daughter might not have the privilege that I was raised with?  Or to empathize that taxing my inheritance means I cannot live quite as easily in my retirement?

For fifteen plus years I directed a university institute that had dialogue at its core and at the core of dialogue is empathy, learning to see from the perspective of “the other”.  I facilitated hundreds of “dialogue” sessions, many off the record, others with school districts and parents, with the Colorado senate and for the governor, with oil and gas and concerned communities.

Most people approached dialogue thinking that if just the other person understood me, they would get it and change their perspective (to mine!).  And then disappointment occurs when the other person doesn’t change or I have to change. Dialogue and empathy can be tools of oppression because they can force the marginalized and oppressed to modify their needs once again to accommodate mine and also give false hope.  Time and time again people and organizations met together, connected, agreed and then reality hit and power was not shared or met equally and what emerged was not sustainable or fair.  Empathy also means understanding why others might not or should not empathize with me.

One of the most powerful days for me was a small group of 24 people we brought together and met with David Trimble who jointly won the Nobel preach prize in 1998.  We brought two people from different sides of the same issue (oil/environment, Israel/Palestine, “pro-life”/”pro-choice”, etc.).  Each person, including David Trimble, shared how the hardest part in dialogue was actually being ostracized by your own people, once you reached out to the “other side”.   This happens when we begin to empathize with others as well.  Empathy means changing and there are consequences to empathy.  We cannot sell empathy without also preparing people for what that means in their own lives and in their own businesses.  There are costs as well as benefits to empathy.  Some as real as raising prices because you insist on fair salary and benefits.

As Brene Brown said: “Empathy is a choice, and it’s a vulnerable one.”

I find our best guide comes from Martin Luther King, Jr.

“Power without love is reckless and abusive, and love without power is sentimental and anemic.  Power at its best is love implementing the demands of justice, and justice at its best is power correcting everything that stands against love.”

It is precisely this collision of immoral power with powerless morality which constitutes the major crisis of our times….”

I think this is true with empathy.  Empathy that is not grounded in the reality of power differentials is unjust.  And power needs true empathy, including the right of the other to not be ready to have empathy for me until I truly change.


Finding the right question – serving church needs and serving the community.

Is this the right time to develop CO CPA? Is CO ripe for this opportunity?

My co-Colorado-collaboration cohort comrades (5C team) threw this one out and I initially decided to take it on despite my hesitation.  After all, I ‘m a team player.  But as I began to play with it, this doesn’t feel like the core goal or question.  The options are really either yes or no, do it now, do it later, or don’t do it at all.  But why is the bigger question and I can’t answer that for everyone.

And so, I realize this is not the question I would have initially opted for.  And perhaps this is why I am late in posting, in addition to simply being in meetings solid all-day Wednesday and Thursday even with the snow storm!  I think in going through the exercise for myself it will guide me in helping others answer the same question for themselves.

So, the re-framed goal is:

How does the Episcopal Church in Colorado serve the purchasing and hiring needs of our parishes and fulfill its mission of serving the poor and marginalized and live out our current four baptismal covenant areas of: Creation Care, Racial Inequality, LGBTQIA+ inclusivity, and Suicide Prevention.

Option 1:  Develop a CPA in collaboration with our current partners and others


  • Finish current cohort process.
  • Develop business plan.
  • Get commitments from current partnership team.
  • Expand partners.
  • Complete needs survey of parishes
  • Identify tie ins to four baptismal covenant areas.
  • Identify or build vendor network.


Option 2:  Focus on current ABCD work and work from an asset map within current parishes.


  • Complete training of ABCD to majority of diocese.
  • Complete extensive asset maps of each congregation, diocesan institutions, and jubilee ministries.
  • Identify key assets that will fulfill both goals.
  • Develop internal connections between churches.

Option 3: Don’t do anything – let current work take its course


Not sure there are any real dependencies.  This is the way churches have been working for a thousand years so why change.  Primary dependence is getting out of the way so God can do the work!

Option 4:  Partner with other entities that are already doing this work

  • Complete needs survey of parishes
  • Identify tie ins to four baptismal covenant areas.
  • Identify potential partners (Colorado Nonprofits, Kate’s Parish Resource Center, Private businesses etc.)
  • Develop partnership commitment and/or MOUs with other groups.

Caminante, no hay camino, se hace camino al andar.

Caminante, no hay camino,
se hace camino al andar. 

One of my favorite poets is Antonio Machado.

I think this poem captures my first and most important learning of the conference sessions.

There is no road.  You make the road by travelling it.  I came hoping for a clear path and left realizing we are already on the path.  We have already begun building the CPA.  Build the business plan yes, use it as a guide and to show people that you know what you are doing.  But don’t wait for every detail, every piece of information.  Take the first step.  And then the second.  And keep walking.  Sometimes the road will be blocked, and we will have to find another way.  But keep walking.

Felipe and Kate and so many others demonstrated this.  Find what people need, make some phone calls, build a relationship or two and it will happen.

The second takeaway was the amazing power that exists in this network.  I had already learned this in our small cohort, but hearing from so many other voices showed the wealth that is out there, handed to us, if we only ask.  So asking is a key part of this process.  Ask the churches what they need;  ask the vendors what they can do and what they need to survive, ask others for their wisdom on HVAC and electricity and composting.  Ask.  It felt like many of the right people were gathered.  We the seekers.  The vendors.  Those who are already building wealth within the African American community.  The investors and capital movers.  The ones who are grounded in prayer.

Inclusivity and transparency.  There must be no hidden contracts.  No side deals.  No missing costs.   It is all right there.  Reminds me of what I was taught by my father…the code of the west…all you have is your integrity and your handshake is a vow of truth and a promise to do what is right.

People in the coop are proud to be in the coop.  Everyone I spoke with had a story of how this made a difference for them and their company or organization.  Of how this empowered them and gave them confidence.  Of how they felt part of something bigger that was having an impact.

And hope. Together, we can transform markets and communities and the way economic power is wielded.

Walking in faith through the valley of shadows – finding the CPA promised land together.

The Denver Members of the cohort discussed the top nine key stakeholders and relational meetings we would like to have in order to build our network.  Each of us took 3 names.  The three relational meetings I will set up are with two leaders in other denominations, the Lutheran community in Colorado and the Methodist leadership in the Denver metro area.  I will also talk with the leadership in a local nonprofit that is a jubilee ministry within the Episcopal Church and works with individuals who are experiencing homelessness.

Since each are faith based, I will share with them elements of my own faith journey as well as my work in economic development.  I will share the journey of how I ended up working on these issues for the diocese, how I feel called by my faith to work with the poor and marginalized and the importance of shifting structures.

One risk will be in sharing my own struggles in working with parishes.  How this is difficult work and often frustrating.  Everyone feels the burden of these current times in the world and especially the United States, and everyone is stretched when it comes to time and resources.  Many church leaders are working for less because their parishes cannot afford to pay them fully.  I will share my own hope and my own sense of exhaustion and struggle to maintain my own faith.

I will ask them about their hopes and the struggles they are having.  I will want to learn about the specific work they are doing in their faith communities.  What do they see as most promising in dealing with struggling churches and struggling communities.  I hope to learn how they are approaching the pressing issues of the day.  Specifically, I am also interested in the Lutheran commitment to being a sanctuary church and the Methodist split on LGBTQIA issues and how they are dealing with this.

I tend to focus on the relational and as a result the necessary transaction issues can be overlooked.  This can bring confusion and frustration.  An example of this today was one of our jubilee ministries felt frustrated that I “had not gotten them grants”.  While this is not part of my job for them, because of our conversations and connections they felt I would be doing this for them.  The important part of both is setting boundaries as well as opening up the space for new possibilities.  I need to grow at setting boundaries, especially around time, while not artificially shutting out new ways of doing things and building new relationships.

I do know people who are good at this, though the ones who I most admire have moved away.  What I see in them, is the ability for self reflection without self shaming.  The ability to speak their truth clearly without fear, to set boundaries, but also to be open through deep listening and being fully present with those whom they encounter.

Identifying Interest in the CPA idea within faith denominations – a reality check


To contact at least three different faith leaders (by October 31st) to assess their interest and the potential interest of their congregations in joining a CPA planning group.


For me personally, having individuals who focus on this work from a faith in action perspective will be very helpful.  It will give me a sounding board, allow me to see where my own language could be improved, and to have a sense of not being in it alone.  These will be individuals who I respect as well and create a space for me to engage with them on a new and deeper level.


Time is the biggest obstacle.  Finding time to craft my email and follow up if necessary.  Enabling them to find the time to respond and reflect.  In addition, different denominations work differently.  One of the individual works statewide, another is focused only in the metro area.  It will also be important to take time to develop a clear “elevator speech” with enough detail to allow them to consider the possibility.  This will be difficult as one obstacle is the lack of breadth in my understanding of what a community purchasing alliance is and could look like in our context.

Skills and Knowledge:

During this time, I will better understand the workings of CPA and the goals of a CPA.  In addition, I will garner a better knowledge of the internal structures and obstacles in other faith denominations.  I believe I will also have a better sense of my own passion for this work.


In addition to the people with whom I am to speak, I will also enlist a small learning cohort.  The Bishop who opened up doors within the Lutheran Church, an IAF leader, my interfaith learning group, and my coworkers in the office.

Plan of Action:

  • Develop talking points and create initial email by October 15th
  • Send email with potential times to meet and/or talk.
  • Meet with individuals.
  • Write up a summary of key learnings and identify follow up points.