Becoming Spring: Mountains, Movements and More

A Message from our founder and CEO,
Ellen Sprenger

As I write this, it’s June 2019. It’s amazing to realize that Spring Strategies is 15 years old. When I created it in 2004, I certainly had no roadmap of where it would go. That was the same year I left Amsterdam and my job as Executive Director of Mama Cash and moved to Toronto ‘for love’. Back then, I was letting destiny lead me by the hand.

Today, years later, I couldn’t be prouder about what has been accomplished. 4000 individuals, from 200 organizations and 60 countries have engaged with us. Our combined efforts have made us a partner and capacity-accelerator for those committed to social and climate justice globally. Spring Strategies has become a social enterprise and vibrant community of deeply committed associates, living and working in different parts of the world.

I love seeing people and organizations become more impactful within the context of our work. We have grown too. This month, we launched the next iteration of our work and our community. To signify this, Spring Strategies has become Spring. We have formally launched Spring Coaching – a unique development opportunity for social and climate justice leaders. And this year, by partnering with leading foundations globally, we will be working with more groups and organizations than ever before to accelerate our collective capacities to solve the problems of our time.

What will the next 15 years bring? Many people have shared their experiences and opinions with us about where they saw our potential. Often, I hear big ideas, like “get a bigger profile, market yourself and grow in revenue and staff”. I have also been told to “create a better McKinsey” and “be a feminist Tony Robbins”. I was flattered. But what really stayed with me was when someone asked “what’s your endgame?”. It is such a powerful question. It pushed me to be more intentional, and consider something different.

I am an ambitious person. When I see a mountain, I imagine climbing to the top, sweating it out and pushing up against my limits. And when I close my eyes, I can actually see myself at that summit and can feel the rush of endorphins. I love a challenge and I love trying new things. So, I did think about these scenarios, and tried to imagine what Spring would become if we evolved in these ways.

But I have come to the conclusion: building a bigger organization is not going to be my summit.

What then is our endgame, our ultimate goal? For me this question is about what real impact looks like. And this is not about the size of the organization, but the role we see ourselves playing in the world.

We will continue working directly with high leverage individuals, organizations and movements (you!) who live to make a difference. But we will be doing it together with you. Rather than staffing up, Spring must be agile, light on its feet, with roots in the very same movements we support. That way of working, with clients and all our associates, creates exponential impact.

All Spring Associates have worked in social and climate justice organizations globally and some continue to today. Associates who currently work within NGOs join us for up to 3 weeks a year, creating powerful cross-learning and capacity acceleration opportunities for Spring clients, for themselves and their own organizations. Other Associates who are independents, work with us part-time, which means that their work outside of Spring creates cross-learning and capacity acceleration opportunities as well. As such, Spring infuses and draws from the very social and climate justice ecosystem it is part of, creating exponential impact for us all. And not just for NGOs, but also progressive players in corporate, government, foundation and philanthropy sectors.

Some of the visions and models suggested to me about our future – high-income management consulting or large audience motivational speaking – left me concerned about the fate of Spring’s true values. With these models, images came to mind of large buildings, taking up more and more ground while blocking out the sun and space for others.

That is not what Spring is meant to be. We have always been, and will always be a community of associates, fostering collaboration and a cross-pollination of ideas. We’re an ecosystem that thrives best with high levels of diversity and all parts contributing to the health of the collective. So, my metaphor for Spring’s endgame is not a trendy business model, but nature herself: an eco-system that works to create and sustain a more beautiful, just and life sustaining world.

This is the way that Spring will move forward. We will create more partnerships with organizations and service providers globally, especially in the Global South. We will invest in an open source community of practice with state of the art technology to support it. And we will generate catalytic impact, supporting individuals, organizations and networks ready to take a leap of leadership.

This is our endgame. Which really isn’t an endgame at all. The future of Spring’s success lays in the enduring connection to its community of social and climate justice change makers.

Thank you for partnering with us in the first 15 years. Let’s do more of it in the next 15!

Love, Ellen 

PS: Recently I spoke at a conference in Mexico City, sharing my story of spending a year in the United States on a high-school exchange program. It was a deeply transformative experience that set me on a path to where I am today. You can find the video here.