Welcome to the Radical Now

The disruption just keeps coming—triggering new challenges and realities every day for individuals, communities, and organizations around the world. We’re in the midst of an unprecedented collision of major crises: An economic crisis, a public health crisis (triggered, but not created by, the pandemic), a mental health crisis, a labor crisis, a crisis of racism and equity, a political crisis… we could go on. And all these are occurring while the biggest disruption yet for humankind is gathering force all around us: Climate change.

Welcome to The Radical Now. It’s a” holy shit” moment of disruption that won’t be going away anytime soon. It’s blowing up societal paradigms, chewing up long-established systems, sowing death and destruction, disproportionately and unfairly impacting groups and populations among us. But at the same time, all this disruption is creating glimmers of hope—activating people in new ways, opening up new opportunities, and pointing to different, better paths forward in terms of how and who we value, and how inequities are confronted and addressed. One thing is certain: These are complex times that are testing our values and beliefs, and demanding immediate, existential action by individuals, communities, and organizations.

Embracing Your Radical Why, What, and How

So, what can organizations do to navigate the mind-numbing, ground-shifting change of the Radical Now? Hint: Hunkering down and waiting for this all to blow over is not an option. 

Instead, we at Hairpin believe that for organizations not just to survive, but to have a hope of thriving in an unknown, dynamic future, they must design for disruption. This means going deep, down into their roots—“radical” itself has its origins in the Latin radix (root)—to approach systemic changes and actions in a far-reaching, foundational way. For us, navigating a time of radical disruption comes down to asking the right questions—and having the courage to go deep on the answers. It means seeking to understand, at a truly fundamental level, your Radical Why?, your Radical What?, and your Radical How?

Radical Why: Why, really, does your organization exist? Unearthing this will require going beyond reflexively reciting your mission statement, or describing your programming, products, services, etc.

Radical What: What value do you uniquely and fundamentally create? Embrace user-centricity: Think in terms of the functional and emotional benefits you deliver to your stakeholders. Be ready to pivot what you do based on changing conditions, to continue to achieve your Why.

Radical How: How do you meaningfully engage and support your stakeholders and audiences? Envision what it would be like to act on your beliefs and project your full, deepest self. Identify what you are willing to risk to achieve what you believe in.

These types of soul-searching questions can be hard for organizations to answer, even on a good day. This can be hard and messy work, unseating established notions of institutional purpose, focus, and identity. After all, organizations over time can drift into a kind of institutional autopilot, avoiding change and disruption, keeping legacy systems running, and implementing stale strategic plans developed months or even years ago.

But the moment we are in demands way more than that. We need courage, invention, bold thinking and action. That’s why we’re pushing ourselves and our clients across sectors to embrace this hard work: To dig deep to uncover their Radical Why, Radical What, and Radical How. And to make as a core part of this work acknowledging and taking personal and institutional action against entrenched injustice, racism, and violence.

Get ready to dig deep, to crash conventions, institutional history, and self-limiting assumptions, to pivot, and then pivot again. It’s time to design for disruption. We hope you’ll join us.