What’s on our minds

Holiday fun with wildfire!

Embroidered advent calendar with packages

We would like to give you a gift. 24 times. Once a day from Dec 1 to Dec 24.

The 2021 Wildfire Advent Calendar from Creative Crisis Leadership will share lessons from our Wildfire Project. There will be tips from people who have been through wildfire, trivia about fire and firefighting, and even some Science. Even if you don’t have to worry about wildfire where you live, you’re bound to learn something to amaze your friends.

To enjoy our gift, sign up for our holiday-only mailing list, follow us on LinkedIn, or check our website daily.

Share your daily advent gift with your friends and family to help spread wildfire readiness. Make a donation to help us to do the same.

About advent calendars

While advent calendars started as a Christian tradition, it has become part of secular culture in many places.

I grew up with them. As a kid, the walls of my room were papered with advent calendars every December. It took 10 minutes to open all the little doors every morning! The collection consisted of that year’s calendars from town merchants, and all the ones I had saved from prior years.

Then there was the family calendar my mom created every year. And the one in the cover photo, a very typical counted cross-stitch calendar in Danish flower thread. Embroidered by none other than me.

Here’s a brief history of advent calendars with some fun trivia.


We’re already thinking about what holiday tradition we might honor next year. We’d love to hear your suggestions!

Leland Franklin: First official CCL advisor!

Leland Franklin

I am delighted to announce that Leland Franklin has agreed to become an official CCL Advisor!

We first met Leland in the course of our COVID-19 study, when we interviewed him about his experiences with starting the Covid Compassion Project. We were very impressed with his insightfulness, leadership acumen, empathy, and sense of humor.

Building on his successful career in high-tech project and people management, Leland launched his own executive coaching and leadership development firm, Kenshō Leadership, in 2019. He is now building his coaching practice, and, concurrently, pursuing an MBA at UC Berkeley. He recently facilitated CCL’s first official (and very successful) strategic planning meeting.

One of the focus areas to come out of that meeting was “Mature CCL as an organization.” We will be leaning on Leland for advice as we work that.

Welcome, Leland!

Selecting Digital Infrastructure Tools: 32 Options, 1 Choice!

digital infrastructure

In an increasingly digital-first world, it’s important to be able to collaborate effectively with our global team of volunteers to maximize impact and efficiency, but how do we do that effectively? What are the right tools for us today and tomorrow? What about next year, or five years from now?

Working with a limited budget, we’ve been creative with our tooling, using a variety of off-the-shelf collaboration and communication apps. We knew we needed someone to research available tools (CRM, project management, etc.) and design a cohesive plan for our technology infrastructure, so we can spend more time creating a socially resilient world, and less time managing technology. We put out a call for someone to help with this effort on VolunteerMatch and hoped for the best!

Enter Sharan Subramanian & Nirav Kanthed, two high school students from the San Francisco bay area, who volunteered to help research what types of digital infrastructure tool sets were available and what would work for our growing organization. Sharan and Nirav delivered in a big way, helping us narrow our list of non-profit focused CRM and technology solutions from thirty two down to just one for our immediate needs!

Curious about what they found? Read about it here, or watch the presentation here.

After a short thirty minute discussion, we decided to move forward with a trial period using Zoho Projects & Zoho CRM!

Thank you to Sharan and Nirav!


20 years ago today, I made a phone call

20 years ago today, on Sep 13 2001, I made a phone call. Today, I’m asking you to donate $20 to help create a more socially resilient world.

Here’s the story.

Sep 13 2001

I was trying to work on my dissertation, but, like much of the country, couldn’t concentrate. I vaguely knew that the Red Cross did something with disaster, so I called the local office. I thought that maybe I could shake a can at the local airshow that weekend.

Little did I know that phone call was the start of an entirely different life.

I spent that day and the next answering phones, and accepting walk-in donations at the Red Cross office. On the weekend, I took my first disaster class. I’ve been a Red Cross volunteer ever since. I’ve deployed locally and nationally to floods, fires, hurricanes, earthquakes, taken numerous classes, taught CPR and First Aid, developed training exercises, and have served with four different chapters. This uncovered a passion for disaster management.

But that was only the beginning.

Straddling the gap

The next shift toward my new life came with a National Research Council fellowship (yes, I did eventually finish the d*dissertation) at the Pacific Disaster Center, and a subsequent job with InSTEDD, a non-profit startup working to use technology for very early detection of emerging infectious diseases.

These experiences brought me into touch with people outside formal response organizations who were working to prepare their communities for disaster. I gained a deep appreciation for the people who respond to disaster because they happen to be in its way, and a recognition that grassroots responders far outnumber trained responders.

But I was still not ready to let go of technology, and leap into a life in disaster.

My own crisis

As is so often the case, I needed my own crisis to catalyze real change. I had been working on a very large, very challenging, and very prestigious project. It was also very contentious. I was in over my head in more ways than one, and failed both myself and the project. Traumatized by the experience, I went on a six-week road trip determined to understand what I was doing wrong, and how I could ensure that I never got myself into such a situation ever again.

I came back with two insights:

  1. With all the privileges I’ve been given, I had absolute no right to be unhappy; I should find a way to be happy or give everything to someone who could.
  2. Most of my life, I’d been living other people’s lives, disaster was my real passion, and what I really wanted to do was to work to make grassroots crisis responses more likely to happen and to be effective.

That gave me a clear direction, albeit with vague marching orders.

Making the leap

Fast forward to today, Sep 13 2021.

I have transformed myself into Founder and Executive Director of a non-profit startup. Creative Crisis Leadership is gaining momentum every day. We have five active team members. Others come and go as we undertake new projects. We have done research, and tested our training approach. We are talking with several community organizations about partnering with us in our Wildfire Readiness project. We have an active blog, a YouTube channel, and are launching a LinkedIn page — maybe even later today. We are recruiting people to help us to develop strategic business, fundraising, and marketing plans, so that we can make ourselves worthy of the support our small following of active supporters and donors have given us.

In the past two years, disaster has gone mainstream. I no longer have to explain that everyone is at risk, people need to work together in disaster, or that people need to be ready to take action in crisis to help themselves and their communities rather than waiting for someone else to take care of them.

Creative Crisis Leadership has the right mission at the right time. My next goal is an organization that doesn’t need me.

Am I happy?

Yes. For the most part. I still have some changes to make in my personal life. Starting a non-profit is a guaranteed recipe for financial worry (unless you’re independently wealthy, which I’m not). But I’m living my own life, and have no one else to blame for any unhappiness I experience.

Sep 13 2021

Twenty years ago, I made a phone call. Today, you can help create a world of people who are ready to act, improvise and overcome when facing disaster.

I’ve given 20 years. Will you give $20 to help the world get through the next 20?

Learning from COVID-19 grassroots leaders: What we can do (part 2 of 2)

Six hands holding each other in a circle

We talked to grassroots leaders in COVID-19 to understand what support would help them. This is what we take away.

You can see an overview of the research on the study’s project page. Read the full report to get all the details of how we conducted the study, who the participants were, evidence for our findings, along with our takeaways and recommendations.

Our goal was to  understand  how we might expand our services to support Spontaneous Leaders — people who emerge as leaders in situations of ambiguous leadership — during a crisis.

You can read a brief summary of our findings here. These are our takeaways.

What we can do

First and foremost, continue with the CCL mission!

Second, help SLs to understand and succeed in a daunting and unfamiliar journey,

  • Develop educational materials that foster appreciation of SLs and that offer SLs inspiration, practical advice, and emotional encouragement. See, for example, “Advice from the frontlines” on our Leaders page.
  • Spread the skills and mindsets needed to start and run a successful grassroots crisis response effort.
  • Guide SLs through the common journey of a grassroots crisis response — from ideation to stabilization – using the principles of Design and Entrepreneurial Thinking.

Third, finding and connecting with SLs to offer them support in the midst of a crisis poses a substantial challenge. They are busy with the needs of their response effort, don’t self-identify as leaders, and, often, both!

  • Rather than attempting to market services directly to SLs, it may be more effective to rely on local communities and response organizations for referrals to CCL’s materials and services.
  • CCL should leverage the training program to promote awareness of the value of Spontaneous Leaders and grassroots crisis efforts.

Fourth, CCL could provide or foster specific services of value to SLs. Most notably, help them,

  • Develop situational understanding and knowledge, especially understanding of crisis response practices and the resources that may be available.
  • Identify and develop connections to their broader community and support networks.
  • Operate in ways that foster legitimacy and credibility, so they can win the trust of those they seek to help, and those from whom they seek help.
  • Identify and find the professional services that they might need, e.g., legal, financial, marketing, and personal mental wellness services.

Finally, tailor service and materials delivery to accommodate the vastly differing needs and attentional resources of individual SLs. For example, provide materials and services in differing modes requiring varying levels of commitment,

  • Quick hit guidance consumable in minutes, such as simple one-page infographics and checklists.
  • In-depth materials consumable in sporadic bursts, such as a highly-curated, easily-navigated library of resources and references.
  • Ongoing support, such as peer support from other, possibly more experienced, SLs, expert mentors or coaching.

In conclusion

We have our work cut out for us!


Read more about the findings
Read the full report