Central Oregon culture values good, not greed

By: Elaine Cornick - Mar 13, 2017
Source: The Bulletin

Central Oregon is wealthy with what I call a “culture of the greater good.” It is a culture of cooperation, collaboration, caring and generosity that is a form of real wealth. In my view, this culture is critical for creating the kind of community people are attracted to and want to live in.

A necessary infrastructure for creating and maintaining this culture is the presence of a number of community visionaries, “possibility leaders” who have a strong commitment to the larger good, the community as a whole, beyond their personal or organizational self-interests. Here are four specific examples I’ve found. I know there are many others.

Scott Cooper, executive director of NeighborImpact, says his agency shares with other nonprofits and the community: 1) the wealth (including financial) that they receive, 2) the resources they have, 3) the knowledge they have, and 4) the burden of the mission they serve. He has a very generous, “we’re all in this together” attitude of collaboration and cooperation that I find unusual in our competitive culture.

Preston Callicott, CEO of Five Talent Software, says the software industry in Central Oregon has two rules: 1) Organizations do not steal talent from each other by proactively poaching people from other local companies, and if they need talent and no one local is hunting, they go outside to recruit; 2) if someone comes looking for a job and one company does not have a job for them, they refer them to another “competitor” who might have a job. The purpose is to build the ecosystem here. This is strikingly different from the usual way of operating in our competitive culture. He likes to say that their experience of Silicon Valley is that it’s a “shark fest,” and Bend is a gathering of “dolphins” who help each other.

Craft3 is a 23-year-old Pacific Northwest nonprofit financial institution with an office in Bend. Its mission is to strengthen economies, the environment and families by providing loans to businesses, nonprofits and individuals, including those without access to traditional financing. Craft3’s approach to lending is nontraditional: Staff form a deep, trusting partnership with their borrowers — including many here in Central Oregon. They believe in possibility, not just historic financial performance or projects that fit in a certain “box.” Craft3 staff show an attitude of caring, collaboration and cooperation that is unusual in our competitive culture.

The Bend JOY Project is a mission to bring joy in meaningful ways to keep our community happy, strong and beautiful. The goal is to engage the entire community with a graphic campaign that utilizes inspirational words, messaging, traits and actions to inspire each of us to play a role in our community culture, happiness, well-being and quality of life. Initially envisioned as a positive messaging campaign at the Old Mill District, the concept was expanded with the support of a growing list (now upward of 200) of Bend businesses and organizations.

Our culture of the greater good is in stark contrast to the competitive “culture of the greater greed” that has dominated our Western world for centuries. This culture operates from a scarcity paradigm described by Lynne Twist, author of “The Soul of Money,” that says, “I have to get as much as possible for me (and ‘mine’) any way I can, and more is better, because somebody’s always going to be left out and it better not be me.” It is exemplified by self-centered behavior and corruption in some business leaders, sports athletes, politicians and the financial institutions that contributed to the financial crisis (think the book and movie “The Big Short” and various banking scandals over the years). That cultural paradigm is now being vividly modeled in our national political scene since the presidential election.

I certainly appreciate Central Oregon’s “culture of the greater good!”

— Elaine Cornick lives in Redmond.