I am an optimist. I’m also relentless. I was in Silicon Valley recently as part of a Kansas City, Missouri, Chamber of Commerce visit. During our visit to Google’s headquarters, I discovered there’s actually a term that “Googlers” (yes, that’s what they call themselves!) use to describe themselves: relentlessly optimistic. In fact, I heard two Google concepts that fuel much of what we do at Camp Fire. Relentless Optimism was one; the other was Massive Transformative Purpose (MTP).
MTP first. According to a Google project leader, they don’t undertake anything that won’t achieve MTP over time. They’ve even named their MTP-oriented projects and initiatives “Moonshots.” A proposed Moonshot must affirmatively answer three questions: (1) Is the purpose a solution to a bigger problem? (2) Can we do it well? and (3) Will it require technology as part of the solution? Clearly, many of the youth and families we serve face their fair (or unfair) share of “bigger problems”—lack of opportunity, the continuing challenge of bullying, inadequate educational support, and so on. Can Camp Fire provide solutions to these problems? Absolutely. Just ask the youth we serve. For example, 84 percent of those surveyed last spring said they’d learned not to give up if they didn’t achieve their goal on the first try.

As for the second component of an MTP—“Can we do it well?”—The survey data just cited (among others I could provide) confirms the answer is, “Yes we can.” Since MTP and Moonshots are Google concepts, of course the need for technology solutions is incorporated into Google’s transformative purpose. Camp Fire is clearly not a technology company. However, our recently transformed website, the Learning Lab, to be launched early this year, and our partnership with Samsung all point to a Camp Fire future much better grounded in technology applications that it will take to help us solve big problems well.

Returning to the concept of relentless optimism—I have never been more optimistic about the future of our organization. Colin Powell, Secretary of State under President George W. Bush and the founder of America’s Promise Alliance, said, “Perpetual optimism is a force multiplier.” I agree—with the caveat that “perpetual” and “relentless” are NOT the same as “dewy-eyed” or “naïve.” In fact, I checked out synonyms associated with both and came up with such words as “persistent,” “enduring,” and “continuous.”

Now that we’ve closed the calendar on 2014, I suggest we use this time to review challenges we’ve faced and overcome during the past 12 months as well as look ahead to the many possibilities before us. After hearing some of the best and brightest Silicon Valley innovators and entrepreneurs describe why relentless optimism is so fundamental to transformative change, I’m even more convinced that if we remain both relentlessly optimistic as well as focused on how best to achieve our own MTP—our Promise to youth—we will continue to help youth find their spark, lift their voice and discover who they are.

In Camp Fire, it begins now.


Cathy Tisdale
President & CEO
Camp Fire