What’s on our minds

2021: Not an Annual Report

Thanks to Social Good Fund, our fiscal sponsor, we don’t have to prepare a formal annual report. We do, however, have to report on our accomplishments and talk about our plans for the upcoming year. But we don’t have the trials of preparing financials and making it pretty. Yet.

Here is our 2021 activity report (with an “formal annual report”-type section added because we believe in gratitude). In retrospect, we are grappling with a mission that is neither obvious nor easy. I’m proud to say that we got a good grip on it in 2021.


Image of 2021 calendar

2021 Activity Report

What did your project accomplish in 2021? What were your primary activities?

2021 was a year of developing a clearer understanding of the gap we are trying to fill, what it will take to fill it, and how we propose to do so. And of building toward an organization that has the necessary skills and knowledge.

To begin to fill the gap by sharing our knowledge, and to lay a foundation of skills, we

  • Synthesized our COVID-19 findings into “Advice from the front lines,” 7 tips that successful spontaneous leaders would give to others who want to do something.
  • Completed a promotional video, “Ready, Set, Earthquake!” that illustrates the live training approach that we bring to community disaster preparedness.
  • Published a “Wildfire Advent Calendar,” sharing 24 pieces of information related to wildfire (one each day Dec 1-24) on our blog and LinkedIn.
  • Initiated our social media presence by establishing a YouTube channel where we shared our promotional video, Roundtable recordings, and other products of our activities, and a LinkedIn page where we shared information about the materials we are making available.

In our endeavor to understand the gap and what it will take to fill it, we

  • Completed the in-depth report of our study of spontaneous leaders in COVID-19.
  • Convened two Research Roundtable discussions bringing together crisis response researchers with interests in citizen response and social networks, respectively.
  • Started our Wildfire project by gathering background research on wildfire, interviewing individuals who had been through a wildfire, and gathering knowledge of the best practices and training as promoted by professional agencies.

To strengthen our operations, we

Describe the most pressing challenges and threats to your ability to advance your mission

Our most pressing challenges are a shortage of time, and failure to get the right people in the right places. To address them, we are working on making our value story more clear, improving volunteer recruiting and management, and instituting a targeted fundraising approach.

What are your plans for 2022?

We start 2022 with plans for advancing on 3 strategic goals:

  1. Grow our impact
  2. Mature the organization
  3. Expand our network

We plan on pursuing these goals in the context of developing a minimum viable product in the form of a Wildfire Learning Experience. We are currently designing the learning experience with the aim of conducting pilot events in May and June, followed by more general distribution starting late summer. In the course of developing community partnerships to support pilot events, we hope to attract the interest of potential board members, advisors, donors and funders, and to hone our storytelling.

How has fiscal sponsorship impacted your ability to achieve your mission?

Fiscal sponsorship has allowed us to concentrate our efforts on developing program vision and products, while giving us the credibility needed to be taken seriously, and enabling us to collect enough funds that we aren’t paying expenses out of our own pockets.

With Gratitude

If this were a formal annual report, it would include a mission statement, “success” statistics, and “accounting of major contributors.” In practice for the not-too-distant day when we will be preparing a formal annual report, I’d like to add the last section.

My personal thanks to everyone who has helped Creative Crisis Leadership move closer to making the world more socially resilient in 2021:

The core team:

  • Garett Dworman: My eternal thanks for your unstinting enthusiasm, and for continually refreshing my belief in the importance of what we are doing.
  • Zach Pipkin: For your stabilizing influence, loyalty, and always keeping us grounded.

Our first official advisor:

  • Leland Franklin: For your insight, shining example, and quiet guidance.

Our other invaluable volunteers.

And, our major and staunch donors.

  • Maurita Holland
  • Kat Chadwick
  • George Furnas
  • Kyle Brown

Without your encouragement and support, it would be all too easy to lose sight of the light.


— Susanne Jul, PhD
Founder & Driving Force, Creative Crisis Leadership

Learning from COVID-19 grassroots leaders: 7 Tips to be Effective in a Crisis (part 3 of 2)

7 tips mind map


At the outset of the COVID-19 pandemic, we set out to learn from Spontaneous Leaders — people who had started a grassroots response to help their community. We gained a clear understanding of what support they need (Learning from grassroots leaders in COVID-19, Part 1), and about what services we might offer to help them (Learning from grassroots leaders in COVID-19, Part 2). We also identified seven behaviors that they consistently identified as being critical to their success.

Here is their collective advice.

7 Tips for Being Effective in a Crisis

  1. Just start
    Take a step. Take another. Keep going. Don’t let not knowing hold you back.
  2. Don’t be afraid to fail
    If you do something, you may succeed. If you do nothing, you’ve already failed.
  3. Don’t go it alone
    Get others to help. Collaboration will make it easier, and help you do more.
  4. Build on what you have
    Use the skills, resources, and relationships that are available to you. Develop new ones as you go along.
  5. Focus
    Tackle one problem at a time. Don’t try to do everything at once.
  6. Iterate
    Get it out there. Get feedback. Adapt. Don’t polish it too much.
  7. Don’t be afraid to lead
    Leadership is about helping the group to succeed. You don’t have to be a boss to lead.

2021 Wildfire Advent Calendar complete!


If you didn’t have a chance to follow our very successful 2021 Wildfire Advent Calendar, here is the full list:

  1. How do wildfires get their names?
    Learn how wildfires are named in California.
  2. Fire tornadoes
    See the drama of how large fires create their own weather events.
  3. Wildfire, it affects EVERYONE
    Understand the staggering impact of wildfires.
  4. Don’t inhale!
    Even an N95 mask isn’t adequate protection from wildfire smoke.
  5. “My God, it’s so simple!”
    The basics of “hardening” your house against wildfire.
  6. Change the odds, save your house
    Discover the two main steps to protecting your urban house against wildfire.
  7. Don’t drone near a wildfire
    Find out how unauthorized drones near a wildfire threaten lives.
  8. How do you fight a wildfire?
    Learn the basic strategy of wildfire fighting.
  9. Do not hesitate, evacuate early!
    There are many benefits to leaving early.
  10. Who causes more wildfires? Humans vs Nature!
    The data for Smokey the Bear’s admonition are pretty compelling.
  11. Community programs: Firewise and CERT
    Two national programs that you can work with in your own community.
  12. The 5 phases of disaster management
    The framework professionals use to organize their thoughts and actions.
  13. How are wildfires measured?
    Understand how do scientists and professional talk about the size of a fire.
  14. Can Mary get arrested?
    Learn what different evacuation orders really mean.
  15. It ain’t over till it’s over
    The effects of a wildfire can linger long after the flames are out.
  16. 17,325 gardens and a scrapie thingie
    Fighting a wildfire takes a lot of people and a lot of hard physical work.
  17. Embers happen!
    Understand what your concerns should be when there’s a wildfire in your area.
  18. Prescription Rx for our forests?
    Prescribed burns are both an old and a new approach to forest management.
  19. Wildfires run faster
    See the data for your chances of outrunning a wildfire.
  20. Getting Ready to Evacuate
    Get clear on what your priorities should be when you might have to evacuate because of a wildfire.
  21. When in doubt, throw it out!
    Learn some things about evacuating that you might not have thought about.
  22. Your greatest asset
    The people around you are likely to be the most important to you in getting through a wildfire.
  23. Please help us to set some fires!
    We need your support to develop a new approach to helping communities to prepare for wildfire.
  24. Wildfire tribute
    A salute to all the people who help get us through wildfires.

Please help us to set some fires!

Smiling neighbors saluting the camera

Photo by Scott Anderson


The 2021 Wildfire Advent Calendar has been brought to you by Creative Crisis Leadership, a fledgling nonprofit organization with an award-winning new approach to community disaster preparation and a mission to prepare people to be unprepared.

Now it’s your turn.

We need your support to set fire to five communities before May 31, 2021.

OK, not literally. Although, we want them to feel and think like a wildfire really is threatening their homes.

You see, we believe that the best way to learn something is to practice. So we create fun and engaging immersive learning experiences that throw a small group of strangers and neighbors into an (imagined) disaster. They get to discover what they need, and are capable of, before they are faced with the real thing.

Watch this video to see how our approach works.

With your help, we can pilot our new wildfire learning experience in five communities in Northern California. Once we know it produces the right learning outcomes, we’ll work with different community-based organizations so that they can set (imagined) fires under many more communities.

Please donate now to help us to set our first five fires!