Work The Problem: Welcome to the Cascade Alliance Blog
From the vantage point of Jan. 2 2018, the St. Vincent de Paul Society of Lane County plays a robust role in our community. The founding member of the Cascade Alliance, St. Vinnie’s is the largest social services agency in our region. We work hard to ensure people have affordable places to live, that those who are homeless aren’t stuck on the streets, and our neighbors facing emergencies have help. We earn well over half of our annual revenue through our reuse, recycling and upcycling social enterprises with about 600 employees on our payroll. We have retail thrift stores, mattress recycling operations, a used car lot, a glass foundry, an appliance repair and recycling operation and a fashion design enterprise.
We got here by being willing to try new ideas, to take risks and even to fail. Failure, in fact, is integral to growth. A quick list of our mis-steps:
- We set up retail thrift stores in parts of town where nobody wanted to shop.
- We set up mattress recycling equipment that so wrecked the commodities we were trying to salvage that we couldn’t sell them.
- We ignored competitor innovations and got left playing catch-up.
The good news: We learned from our mistakes.
We continue to thrive and grow because we’ve learned to keep our eye on problems as they come up, to observe and question and work on solutions.
We’re able to do this because our Executive Director Terry McDonald has a recipe for problem-solving that his team has embraced.
“Accept pain,” Terry says. “Work your way through it. Don’t focus on the pain. Focus on the goal.”
Tackle problems in chunks. “Never try and hit a home run, the first time up at the plate. Just get on first. Survive. … Look for small gains, small things you are doing right and expand them. Failure is only an option if you let it be,” he says.
I’m writing about failure in our inaugural blog post because what Cascade Alliance members are doing is hard work with many challenges and pain points along the way.
We are building social enterprises, cultivating a business mind-set designed to serve the social mission, create jobs and economic opportunity while making the planet a better place. Together our members are creating jobs, generating revenue and diverting materials that still have value.
We look forward to celebrating the many successes Cascade Alliance members will experience in the coming year while also getting down in the trenches with you to solve the problems.
Thanks for being part of this innovative effort, a national collaboration of waste-diverters, materials managers, recyclers, reusers and upcyclers. We are cogs in this growing movement toward a truly circular economy.
Welcome to 2018. Let’s roll.