Navigating the Swirl- Guest Blog Post

The Policy Circle is proud to feature this guest blog post by Generation W Founder and CEO Donna Orender. Donna Orender will be speaking at the Policy Circles 6th Leadership Summit. 


The ever-present swirl is hard to avoid and even more difficult to control. You feel a tap on one shoulder, and no sooner do you turn to see what is demanding your attention then you get a tap on the other shoulder. TAP, TAP, TAP… climate change, inflation, Roe v Wade, war, work, life, our families, friends, and the reality of the fragility of it all. The mantra is often repeated – Focus on what you can control – but when you are in a constant state of whiplash your abilities to focus are significantly challenged.


Our work focuses on creating safe places of convening, where ideas are respected, and people are valued. So, when the issues of the day threaten the fabric of our connectivity, trust, and respect for one another, it is no wonder that we shake at our cores. When this happens, we double back, thinking, feeling, and searching for the path that brings us to the positive and the possible. Is it about what we say or how we listen? Or is it the importance of both that allows us to reconcile the paradoxical themes that frame our lives?

To make sense of the swirl I read, seeking out the thinking of those I am familiar with and those that I am not. Be it historical perspectives, timely articles from newspapers and newsletters that I subscribe to, or honest conversations with trusted friends and colleagues, I spend time searching for the threads of understanding that can help stitch together our communities.

As Frank Bruni, a former New York Times columnist and now Professor at Duke who publishes a truly enlightening newsletter recently stated, “In our political fights, in our personal lives, all of us should ponder and factor in the limits of our understanding. All of us should accept that the world doesn’t exist to mirror our preferences or validate our prejudices. It’s richer for that and peace depends on that.”

This is the beauty of our organization, founded on the belief that when people, especially women come together, magic happens. Together, we can search for peace of mind and a way to move forward positively. Although we may find it challenging at times, we cannot succumb to the darkness. Pour in the positive and goodness will come, and yet, we must also be mindful of the difficult conversations that are crucial to any form of progress.

Life is about possibilities and agency. As an athlete, the power of sport taught me so many things, and as I have said many times, life is a team sport. I truly believe that we are more alike than we are different and in that alignment of core fundamental values we can find the place to convene, to better understand, to more powerfully connect, and ultimately to build communities where listening and caring truly matter.