Ben was familiar with SVP’s model long before he became a Partner. He was the executive director for Home Repair Resource Center during part of its SVP Investee engagement. Part of the work SVP and Ben collaborated on was the successful passing of the executive-director reins to HRRC’s current ED, Keesha Allen. Ben is pictured above with Keesha and another former HRRC ED turned SVP Partner, Diana Woodbridge.
By Connie Collins, SVP Fellow
Ben Faller’s favorite books from his youth were Our Universe and The Way Things Work. These titles reveal a deep and early desire to understand Mechanics—how forces affect material bodies, the conditions under which that happens best, and the right tools that get it done. Yes, this would make Ben a great problem-solver. And he loves to solve problems—in concrete ways with bike parts or wood and tools and in not-so-concrete ways with people and relationships and society.
Ben confessed he can’t resist a nice thorny problem which can complicate his schedule a bit. At the time of our conversation, he had undertaken to improve the use of technology in the legal clinic at Case Western Reserve University, where he is a supervising attorney and instructor. Why? It needed to be done. How? You simply learn how it works, find the best tools/approaches, then make it work better. Mechanics, again.
I asked Ben why we have nonprofits anyway. The answer was about Mechanics and Context.
Business and Government are distinct systems working best in certain circumstances and using certain tools. The nonprofit—encouraged in its development with exemptions and safeguarded by imposed limitations—is purposed to resolve remaining gaps.
Yet, the gaps persist. The impatient among us might try to force solutions. Not good Mechanics. This is why Ben loves SVP. It knows what it is and what it is not. SVP values Context and using tools appropriate to that Context. Not a fixer—seeking a result or, worse, credit for it—but an organization stepping into the lives of others and building capacity there. This requires the graces of Curiosity and Humility and an emphasis on Process.
In Greek Mythology, King Sisyphus stole secrets from the gods, cheated death, then even put Death in chains. So Zeus doomed him to roll a gigantic boulder up a hill for eternity. Before Sisyphus reached the top, that boulder rolled back down to the bottom…for eternity. Ouch. This tale can be seen as be a lesson in the futility and drudgery of life, or a caution against outwitting a deity. Regardless, what if Sisyphus was actually happy? Albert Camus imagined this to be so, and Ben, reading this in college, found it a liberating idea. For Sisyphus to experience happiness, he would have to shift his focus from the top of that mountain (Result) and find joy simply in Process. And why not? For Ben and Camus, an action itself can be the enjoyed reward. That way, life stops being a drive to reach a place and becomes a joyful practice to repeat and repeat and repeat and improve.
Basically Ben’s motto for living is beautifully stated by Bill S. Preston, Esq., in Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure: “Be excellent to each other!”