As part of our celebration of Collective Next’s 10th anniversary, we’ve been deepening our connection to our community. A great example of that is a recent visit to help out at The Women’s Lunch Place in Boston. Here’s what it felt like.

The Women’s Health Place provides a safe, comfortable daytime shelter, nutritious food, and services for women who are homeless or poor. We spent a day there preparing, serving, and cleaning up after lunch. The Women’s Lunch Place felt like a good place for us for several reasons. Their Core Values really resonated with us, these two in particular:

  • We meet each woman where she is, and we base and adjust our services according to her needs
  • We offer our services in a gracious, comfortable, and safe environment, offering both physical and emotional sustenance

Those both feel so similar to what we try to do at Collective Next. Certainly we meet our clients where they are, and we pride ourselves on our ability to customize our sessions (and our products, too) to the unique needs of each organization we work with. We are not a one-size-fits-all shop, and we also throw out our initial plan to adjust on the fly on a fairly regular basis, all in service of what the client needs at this moment. We are also always working to create an environment and an atmosphere that meets the needs of our clients, offering physical, emotional, and intellectual sustenance. 

There were only five of us and the work was more physically demanding than we anticipated. We were busy and sweaty in the kitchen. During a four-hour block, our job was to help get everything prepped for the lunch rush, then serve lunch, then clean up and sanitize the kitchen. We spent a lot of time shredding giant vats of chicken as quickly as we could to make Thai chicken coconut soup for 100 people. We often talk about the chaos that happens while you’re in the midst of collaboration; it was a healthy switch for us not to be in a facilitating role for a change. We were being facilitated.

Mason Smith, one of the CNers who came to The Women’s Lunch Place, made a smart observation about the activity “putting us in the participant’s mindset.” We’re usually the ones running the sessions. We ask our clients to “trust the process,” which also means “trust us.” It’s not always so easy to let go and accept whatever you’re asked to do, which is what we needed to do in preparing lunch. I think people are better able to do that, though, when there is a good level of trust and respect for the folks that are giving you marching orders. I think we all shared a sense of respect and appreciation for the mission of The Women’s Lunch Place and what they are trying to do over there. 

This was a great way to give up some control for a change and celebrate both our company and the concept of family. And we wanted to use this as an occasion to volunteer. We are all blessed to have our own families: we have jobs, we have food on the table, we have shelter, we have each other … and we have our CN family: a community of us that spend a lot of time together helping our clients, but helping each other, too, in various ways. It was a good idea to get together and do something for families in the Boston area; I hope we do more of this kind of thing in the future.

CNers Katia Greene, Tricia Walker, Gordon Eby, Mason Smith, and Sarah Shrimplin