By Abigail Oduola planned gift fundraiser and self-proclaimed Marvel enthusiast

With your work universe imploding, how might you respond and take part in creating a plan that leads to collective flourishing?

Note: This piece has spoilers about Disney+ Loki season two

The Time Variance Authority (TVA) is an organization in disrepair. He Who Remains, master strategist and TVA’s authoritarian leader, has been assassinated. The board was composed of literal puppets, the founding story an intentional lie, the building physically falling apart, and employees battling for power. It turns out the mission they thought was good and altruistic is actively destroying communities, worlds, and even galaxies. 

Oh, and reality is collapsing in on itself. 

Welcome to Loki season two by Disney+. If you didn’t watch season one or need a primer, here’s Collider’s detailed recap. Caught up? Okay, let’s ride.

Maybe you haven’t experienced anything as dramatic as this. After all, the characters in this series navigate both a collapsing organization and multiverse. However, swap out a few minor details, and the scenarios sound like difficult moments in a nonprofit. 

A leader unexpectedly leaves, and there is a power vacuum. Organizational stories or experiences that rattle the institutional core get uncovered. An organizational mission is revealed to have caused more harm than good. 

With your work universe imploding, how might you respond and take part in creating a plan that leads to collective flourishing?

We’ll focus on Episode 4, which weaves a narrative of a broken organization coming back together and having a chance to grow in a fresh way. Using this framing, we can draw our own conclusions about how to deal with organizational change.

Coalition Building is Scary

Coalition building is a great space for an incrementalist.

B-15 is optimistic about the organization’s fate. She’s both accused of treating the lives on the timeline as theoretical and has an idealistic solution to reform the TVA broadly and its policing branch specifically. We can call her an incrementalist, as she goes person by person to inspire change. Notice on the timeline she’s a doctor, a role that produces value by improving people’s lives over extended periods of time (incrementalist).

B-15 and Judge Gamble have a conversation that focuses on the difficulty of making changes to an organization when you are still defining improvement and success. B-15 is reminded that this is not all on one person’s shoulders, or like Esther Saehyun Lee says, “We do it in community, or it doesn’t get done.” 

Everyone has a role to play, and one is gathering others to make change happen – coalition building. B-15 is encouraged to bring others into the cause, especially those who are ideologically different but deeply care about the organization, like General Dox, to “convince her that this new version is worth protecting, too.”

When she uses her power to encourage others to join the cause, it’s more than just her passion; her integrity gives the most persuasive argument. B-15’s ideals and consistency are key to her success as a bridge to others.

Within nonprofits, people know which coworkers walk the talk and care deeply about others. We may hire for skills and talent, but character matters. The way that you have engaged others in the past, even when in disagreement, is crucial when things are shaky. This pattern of behavior will encourage others to join you in the struggle to protect something they also value in the workspace. People tend to follow other steady, dependable people into the unknown. And coalition building is a great space for an incrementalist.

Reform or Revolution?

Loki’s reformist perspective needs Sylvie’s revolutionary vision to aspire for a better future. Her perspective guides him into “glorious purpose.”

Our resident reformer, Loki, said,Sure, burn it down. Easy. Annihilating is easy. Razing things to the ground is easy. Trying to fix what’s broken is hard. Hope is hard.

Within institutions, changing the direction of a large, crumbling structure and all the people taking part in it is hard. Fixing everything that is broken is also hard. Maintaining hope while engaging in all these projects is a discipline. Also, a revolution involving tearing down rotten systems and building something in their place is not easier than reform. It takes dedication and creativity to imagine something that doesn’t yet exist and bring it into existence. It takes bravery to acknowledge when something is not salvageable.

We can get trapped in the sunken cost fallacy when reforming our organizations. This leads to further investment in something that isn’t working because we’ve already spent so many resources. 

We become convinced that revolution is impossible because fighting for reform has been so tedious. We’ve lost bits of ourselves along the way, as well as the larger vision. 

The foil to this viewpoint is the Loki variant and revolutionary, Sylvie, who prompts Loki’s statement. Sylvie is painted as negative and generally disliked by everyone except Loki because of her uncompromising dedication to living and speaking her truth (and a lack of finesse).

Sylvie is the most ethically inflexible of the characters, pointing out how casually others (and the audience) rush past the ongoing harm, making several statements like, everything is turning to s*** while we leave them and go have some pie…Does it matter that the branches are dying?

She also worries that the system may be beyond reform because of how it was created and why. 

She has experienced the TVA’s mission as a community member and is there to make substantial changes. Most of what she has to say is overshadowed or exists as a contrast with the show running Loki, but that doesn’t stop her or prevent her from joining the ideologically diverse coalition of characters.

Loki’s reformist perspective needs Sylvie’s revolutionary vision to aspire for a better future. Her perspective guides him into “glorious purpose.” Sylvie’s focus on consensus-based decision-making and saving as many timelines as possible as non-negotiables become a part of the group’s goals.

What do we do about it?

The glimpse of life at the TVA as the series concludes depicts what we wish for in our institutions…

Just because it isn’t you doesn’t mean it’s necessarily me…it just doesn’t mean it’s me,Loki argues with Mobius on whose turn it is to operationalize the group’s loom solution and save the timelines.

The loom they were trying to fix for the entire season does need to be destroyed. And there’s recognition that a part of having privilege is sacrificing it so that the larger community can receive the redistribution of power in the form of opportunity for flourishing and living full lives.

Loki leaves it all to become Yggdrasil, the Tree of Life that sustains the multiverse and takes on the burden of purpose. It’s a beautiful story arc for Loki, but that’s where our elaborate analogy teeters to its natural end.

People with privilege sacrificing it all for a larger purpose and collective flourishing is part of the story, but not the whole story in the real world of institutional collapse.

Co-creating a future together, and not just with the people you like, is more of the story. 

The glimpse of life at the TVA as the series concludes depicts what we wish for in our institutions: participation in meaningful, collaborative work, time off to understand what our lives mean outside of our workspaces, democratization of access to power, and diversity of voices in decision-making forums. 

This is also a part of how broken institutions come back together again.

This process of moving forward includes reframing Sylvie’s concerns in our own contexts. Who is sitting in seats of power is important, but also, how are they operating from that power? What does that power mean for everyone else? Are we, like Sylvie, concerned about abuse of power? Sylvie is thinking about how the choices that the people in the room make affect everyone – not just the employees of the TVA. As we create new futures for our institutions, are we thinking about how things affect not just our place in the nonprofit ecosystem, but other staff, and the community we work alongside? Are we considering these things when creating strategic plans and keeping them as a focal point?

When it still doesn’t work

You may have to reckon with the possibility that, like the infrastructure the series characters are fighting to preserve, the system may have been designed to fail.

Sometimes, in a collapsing department or organization, like Casey and Ouroboros, you might get to the point of, I don’t understand; we’ve adjusted everything we can adjust.  They even did everything a consultant would suggest. They created a plan, tried to figure out the scaffolding issues and figured out people’s strengths and used them to support their aims.

You may have to reckon with the possibility that, like the infrastructure the series characters are fighting to preserve, the system may have been designed to fail.

At times, these flaws are interpersonal, likeOnly the one who designed it can open it.  Ouroboros discovered that although the person who designed the damaging system was dead, he continued to wield control over the TVA, still gatekeeping access and forcing the organization to make someone like him a successor.

Like the fictional loom, some of our systems weren’t designed to take on the weight of our expectations and desires for an equitable organization. Structures in your organization may exist only to support one person’s “sacred timeline” to the detriment of all others.

Seminaries accepting women and Black students but not including us meaningfully in the syllabus. Inviting fundraisers of color to work for you but not having policies to protect them against microaggressions at organizational events or during donor visits. Situations like the University of Pennsylvania having DEI (Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion) efforts but also refusing to give back the remains of Indigenous people in any meaningfully, speedy way, putting them in comfortable noncompliance with a several decades-old year Federal law.

If that’s the case, your solution might be to be like Sylvie and advocate for radical change rather than incremental adjustments or reform.

Despite how the other characters initially engage with her, Sylvie still chooses to be a part of a coalition, and her presence makes a difference. They need a revolutionary to push their boundaries on what is possible. She has the choice of walking away but chooses to be where the decisions are made because she is a survivor and wants to see futures that don’t include an apocalypse and where no special powers are necessary to enjoy life.

Sylvie shares her controversial opinions repeatedly to mainstream them. She comes to deeply want the TVA to live its values. She wants the mission to mean something beautiful rather than tragic for all the communities who have no idea the institution exists but are changed by its work, nonetheless. Ultimately, the other characters understand her better, and she succeeds by helping the incrementalists and reformers reimagine the possibilities.

We have many different motivations, but building coalitions across differences and finding ways to help people invest in change, like B-15 did, is worth it. Sacrificing individual agendas for the greater good and looking for practical solutions, like Loki, is worth it. Deciding which vision of the organization gives people the best chance to thrive is worth it. Speaking the truth and living your values, like Sylvie, is worth it.

In the moment, navigating through organizational upheaval can feel hopeless, but you, too, are a character in a larger story, and your story is worth telling.


Abigail Oduol

Abigail Oduol

Abigail Oduol’s (she/hers) surname is not Irish or Pennsylvania Dutch. It’s Kenyan. She keeps her escape pod in Kenya ready, and checks on it regularly with her young kids and husband. Abigail serves on the CCF Global Council, NACGP D&I committee and with her local PTA.  Follow her musings on threads @abby_oduol and longer thoughts on LinkedIn. You can send tips and micro reparations to her Cashapp $AbbyOduol.