Funding the Dream: It Starts with a Wish

Funding the Dream: It Starts with a Wish by Kate Wildrick

Wishes come in many shapes and forms.  The wish for Ingenuity emerged through a story that not many know about.  Ingenuity was a business name that was developed back in 2006 when I first began speaking on generational issues in the workplace.  I loved how “gen” was in the middle.  It alluded to all the generations but also paid tribute to the creativity and innovation that could emerge when people from all generations could come together and share their perspectives, inspiration and insights.

After the loss of my town in 2009, I returned to the city where I sat paralyzed.  The failure of loosing my marriage, my town and all the things I had worked so hard for left me unable to work, depressed and so incredibly sad. I had nothing to fall back on.  My life savings was gone.  I did not qualify for unemployment because I could not pay myself regularly while running my business.  The only thing I could qualify for was food stamps.

As my world fell apart and friends and family disappeared, I knew in my heart something was very wrong.  Days would pass by, and I would sit looking outside my window down onto the streets.  I would get distracted from my job hunt by watching passerbys, mainly people my age (early 30’s), that would gather at the bars and share their stories of not being able to find work and how other friends and families were falling apart.  I realized as much as I felt alone, I wasn’t.

It was around this time that I met Aaron.  His playful and curious energy was breath of fresh air.  We had made arrangements for him to take over my small apartment as I was planning on moving in with a friend.  The plan with my friend fell through by the time that he had moved in to take over.  Not much longer, Aaron was laid off from his job.  Criticism from my friends around my inability to find work along with my new relationship came pouring in.  I recall several conversations going something like, “Kate, I just don’t understand.  You are so talented.  You of all people should be able to find work.  As for your choice in Aaron, I don’t know what you see in him.  He’s unemployed and has no education. You can honestly do better.”

As the judgements came pouring in, I felt worse about myself and my life. A script emerged as I would replay the events over and over again about how I had once been a successful, independent person who once had it all.

Months passed and few small jobs would appear here and there. Nothing of which made me super excited.  A big part of me did not want to go back to the corporate world.  I was tired of doing what I considered “soul killing” work.

While trying to figure out the next steps, I would watch Aaron.  His excitement around new energy innovation, sustainability and do it yourself projects filled our tiny apartment with possibility. I began to learn about ideas and people I had never heard of.  As we met people, I would watch how Aaron would work to engage them on off topics and Maggie Taylor, “Oh Happy Day”  Pic.

rarely talked about philosophies. Often, he was met with resistance and at times, ridicule.  One night, he was sharing his research with my friend who had received a degree in physics.  The two got into a very lengthy debate. Aaron returned home feeling hurt and angry.  It was obvious my friend did not think Aaron knew what he was talking about.  Later it came out that my friend thought Aaron really needed to return to school “to get his facts straight.”  What transpired after that event surprised me. In between applying for jobs, Aaron worked to find parts for a project he wanted to build.  “I just need to do this!” he kept exclaiming.  He became obsessed with the idea. Having no money we rounded up $60 to gather the rest of the parts.  One night, I was working on developing a workforce academy in an effort to make money.  While I worked on developing content, Aaron called a few of his friends over to help him build his device.  Two hours turned into six.  We worked side by side. Out of the corner of my eye,  I watched as he mounted a bicycle wheel to a board and began soldering circuit parts.  Although I had no clue what he was doing, I did watch as the energy in the room got excited and intense.  He and his friends worked to figure out why electrical current wasn’t flowing.  Hours of trouble-shooting began.   Suddenly, the eureka moment hit and a successful cheer filled the room. Aaron had worked to build a device that worked with energy by pulsing  electro-magnetic coils in an open loop system.

I personally had no idea what it all meant, but the sense of achievement was later followed up with lots of testing and experiments that focused on working with batteries.  As time went on, people came to visit us to learn more about what Aaron had built.  Engineers, inventors, attorneys, artists, students and countless others came to learn about what Aaron had built.  Because Aaron was a self-taught inventor, he struggled to explain what it is exactly that he had built and what doors it could open.  Depending on who he talked to, their reaction varied.  What was clear was that folks who had formal education in physics or electrical engineering tended to dismiss what Aaron was showing them.  As readings showed up on the electrical meters, I observed as many would get irritated or upset and just leave.  “This isn’t possible.  You are suggesting that you are breaking the second law of thermodynamics!  You need to go back to school.  Your facts are wrong.”  Other folks who did not have formal education seemed to be much more willing to listen, engage, ask questions and get curious.  They in turn would tend to help Aaron develop his language to explain and refine his work.

As an outside observer, I found it curious why educated folks would lash out at him and tell him to return to school.  It was as if a degree would then give him credibility.  What I witnessed was that people couldn’t even use their own minds to explore what was in front of them.  I found it even more fascinating that since Aaron was literally dealing with power, the phenomena of people asking for experts / masters was in turn giving away their own power of curiosity and inquiry.  It was here in this moment that I realized we had stumbled onto something big.  More and more pressure mounted for Aaron to return to school.  Because I came from the corporate human resource world and had traveled all over the nation giving talks on workforce planning and generational issues, I could see that what was happening in our school system was not really addressing what the world needed.  In fact, I was watching how a lot of the educational system was not preparing kids for the real world (where creativity and innovation is desperately needed).  instead, it tended to do just the opposite. Students are graduating every year with useless degrees for obsolete vocations and astronomical debt loads that they are in no position to pay back.  I strongly encouraged Aaron to not return to school because it would crush his ability to look at issues through a whole-systems lens he had developed.  I watched how his willingness to learn on his own was inspiring people.  He integrated math, chemistry, physics, biology and even philosophy into his work.  He made it easy to engage with because he himself was passionate.

There was a pivotal moment in our world where for a moment we stopped worrying about finances and began to explore together where our world was headed with the mindset of the folks that we were engaging with.  We could clearly see that so many people were lost, disengaged and believed that once the economy recovered that everything would go back to “normal.”

Young and old felt the displacement of the a world that was filled with fear and powerlessness.  Aaron and I began to wonder what we could do to help ourselves and family out given what changes were happening beyond the economic crisis.  So, we thought about looking at pooling our resources together to find land where our parents could eventually retire and we would be able to have access to childcare.  We talked about the idea with Aaron’s mom, Rosemary.  She really liked the idea and began to look for land.

As many of you know, she found 20 acres in St. Helens, OR with two homes and several out buildings. The prices was mislisted, but that did not matter.  When we was the parcel, I knew then that the land was our our home.

We knew that given the financial situation of everyone involved, that obtaining the land would be a huge challenge.  Rosemary was in New Mexico working and she had a house with a mortgage payment.  By then, I had landed a job with a local food manufacturing company.  Aaron was working a security job.  None of us made enough to buy the land given our salaries and credit.  I decided to track down the owner of the land and see if we could meet in person to discuss an idea around a family business that we had in regards to building an aquaponics greenhouse.  The owner of the land agreed to meet us.  After two hours, he was intrigued.  A few weeks later, we were asked to put together a business plan for him and his partners.  We asked if we could look at designing a rent-to-buy option. This would give us time to build what we needed to and get the family up here so we could pursue the purchase of the land.  In September we moved.

Ingenuity has since evolved.  We never anticipated that our idea around building a community-based innovation center that is focused on open source solutions would be so well received and welcomed.  Our dream is really about helping people find their passion and having their local community to be there to support them in developing a sustainable lifestyle.  As we go down this rabbit hole and be the “willing participants” to see what emerges, we are holding space for what seems impossible to become possible.

There is power in each and every one of us.  Our dream and wish is to create a space where we can discover what that spark can do. These next steps of us creating the dream now involve you, our community, to help us create what we believe we can give back to others.  We are learning how work with the true spirit of giving and receiving.  We are learning about the power of asking and heartfelt gratitude.  We believe that this dream is worth building because we believe that all too often people’s unique gifts get snuffed out before they ever chance to show up.  We need everyone’s unique gifts to help create a better world and way of living.  We believe it starts with getting your needs met and finding your passion. This is what unlocks the power of true human ingenuity.

Source: 2013 July Newsletter