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09.14.21 | Community

What it means to be a disruptor: A Conversation with Donna Gaines

Oftentimes, we describe ourselves at Sage Collective as disruptors in our field, but we’ve seldom expanded on exactly what we mean by this. In the newest installment of our Interview with an Expert series, we talk to Sage Collective’s President, Donna Gaines, about what being a disruptor means to her and how you can be the voice for change in your everyday life.

You’ve described Sage Collective as a disruptor many times. What does that mean to you? 

In simple terms, something that is disruptive usually signifies a change or shift within an environment. Disruptors are the people who will come into an existing market, point out what is no longer working, and decide to alter and revise the space. As a disruptor in the older adult community, Sage Collective strives to change not only how our society views older adults, but how older adults perceive themselves, largely due to stereotypes associated with aging. We know that we must challenge the status quo and those systems that no longer optimally serve this population. 

Sage Collective focuses on bringing innovative ideas and strategies through our Social Innovation Lab so that we can produce measurable, scalable and sustainable solutions. In that regard, we operate as an “action tank” as opposed to a traditional think tank. We want to be at the forefront of change and we invite other organizations dedicated to advancing the interests of older adults to join us in this movement. 

With your extensive background and Certification in Change Management, you have a lot of expertise in making change happen. Can you break down what it takes to create change? 

That’s not a simple question to answer, because creating change is a process, and there are many factors to consider.  However, it’s important to be clear on your goals and create an environment where change can occur.  Presently, Sage Collective is in an interesting position for change. Not only are we experiencing internal change as we continue to expand our organization’s mission and programming, but we’ve also determined that we will pursue external change in the aging community.  In our role as disruptors, for example, we will continue to advocate for policies and practices that improve the quality of life for older adults. 

Creating change doesn’t always have to be a massive effort; it can be incremental, small, and continuously built over time. We’re focused on building a framework and foundation for change and it is our hope that our work will be replicated so that it can have an even greater impact. 

Is change a radical thing? 

Since change is often perceived as something that happens to someone, it is frequently met with trepidation or resistance. That can certainly make change feel “radical”, particularly for individuals who are uncomfortable with change of any kind, no matter the situation.  

When reflecting on my personal views of change, I often think of the Tony Robbins’ quote, “change is inevitable, but progress is optional.” I prefer to view change as a grand opportunity to experience something new and different as opposed to something that’s going to negatively impact me for the rest of my life.  Radical changes can be exciting!

Can people become disruptors in their daily lives? If so, how?

Being a disruptor doesn’t mean that you have to be actively engaged in a large organized effort.  You can make big changes happen in your life or in your community in simple, meaningful ways!  For example, you can mentor or tutor a child after school or get together with your neighbors to plant a community garden so that families can have access to fresh produce. 

The fact is, anyone can be a disruptor if they believe change is possible, and at Sage Collective, there is no doubt that we are creating a movement that will facilitate the disruption of outdated ideas, attitudes, and conversations about older adults and how we will live – and thrive.  It’s time.

A profile of Sage Collective's President, Donna Gaines
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