The Challenge of Durability

Approximate Read Time: ~5 minutes

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Photo by Julia Filirovska on

Last week, on June 21, we reported over 80 organizations working in the field of teen pregnancy prevention were waiting to find out if they would continue to receive funding. Two days later, on June 23, the list of newly funded organizations and programs in twenty-nine states and Puerto Rico was released. You can see the full list here, along with the amount of each award. Today we offer both congratulations and condolences to many of our friends and clients. Congratulations to those who received funding and who can continue their work and condolences to those who now must continue the journey of finding alternative funding sources for their program.

Being in business is hard. Staying in business is even harder.

It doesn’t matter if the business is for-profit or nonprofit. Both are businesses and both face the challenge of durability (what is also known as “sustainability”). Sometimes disruption makes durability particularly difficult, as observed during theCOVID-19 pandemic when businesses of all types struggled. Many failed while some survived and even thrived. Still…

Durability is demanding work even when it is not complicated by a public health emergency or another type of disruption. Durability has to receive our attention every day, of every week of every year. There is no escaping the task and if we aren’t doing it, durability will escape us.  

At Tenacious Change, we believe durability (which we prefer to “sustainability” to avoid confusion with the environmental movement) and resilience go hand in hand. Organizations, businesses, and programs or projects tend to be more durable when they are attending to their resilience. Resilience is achieved by religiously doing three things:

First, looking back at past performance through continuous evaluation to learn how to do better and excel. Evaluation sometimes scares organizations because even they can suffer from “imposter syndrome” and wonder if they are really doing as well as they think they are. They may avoid, downplay, or even try to influence an evaluation because they worry about confirmation of their fear of being a failure or fraud. That’s unfortunate and, in the long term, costly for any group. Continuous evaluation, particularly at the program or organizational level, is how improvement begins. Evaluation puts us on the path to resilience and durability because it shows us how to create greater value for our clients and stakeholders.

Second, staying present and mindful of the context in which our organizations and programs exist allows us to respond more nimbly when the context changes. The context includes the external and internal environments. Our external context includes our sector or field and the financial, political, governmental, educational, and social arenas. Our internal context includes the culture of our organization, the morale and esprit de corps of staff, stakeholders, and clients, and changes in the external context that have filtered into the internal context and begun to impact it. Staying present and mindful can be a big job and may require support from a committed team or a group of trusted colleagues. Staying present and mindful allows organizations and programs to make regular micro-adjustments in their business to remain viable and durable and to avoid the major changes or pivots required when we are surprised caught off guard.

Finally, forecasting builds resilience and supports durability. Forecasting is not about gazing into a crystal ball or into space awaiting a special message from beyond. It is about asking “What if?” after courageously looking back and tenaciously staying present and mindful. By looking back and staying present and mindful, we heighten our awareness and gain the latest information because we are seeing things we had not seen previously. Based on what we are learning we can pose the “What if?” question, which is the question we must ask if we are going to engage in scenario planning.

  • “What if we face another disruption like the COVID-19 pandemic?”
  • “What if we have a lot of staff turnover within the next 6 months? 12 months?”
  • “What if the programs we offer come under attack in the Culture Wars and lose public support?”
  • “What if our funding is not continued?”

This week many organizations working in teen pregnancy prevention across the U.S. and its territories are awaking to a new reality. For some that reality may be nightmarish and it will push them to dig deep to find the resilience to be durable. For others that new reality will seem like a dream come true though, like their predecessors, even the best dreams eventually end. That’s business and the challenge of durability.

What Controversy Could be Brewing In Your World?

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Please follow this link (or click on the button below) to complete a brief Google form where you can tell us.

  • What controversies are emerging that you might be able to head off?
  • What controversies are you actually facing at this time?
  • Can you share a situation with us that we can turn into an anonymous “case study” and explore in an upcoming blog?
  • What specific questions do you have about preparing for controversy or managing controversy?

Remember, you can also access our video Preparing for Controversy in the Fog of (Culture) War on our website and we also offer a day-long training event on managing controversy – on-site or online.

Scheduling for Fall 2023 and Winter 2024

We are currently scheduling consultations, workshops, and training events for late summer and early Fall as well as for this upcoming Winter. Visit our website to learn more about everything we offer. You can even download and share this handout with your colleagues. Then schedule a time to talk to us.

Now Available!

Preparing for Controversy in the Fog of (Culture) War does not hold all the answers but it has some that will be helpful. It will help you understand:

  • the difference between a controversy and a conflict
  • the stages of conflict
  • the cycle of intractable conflict
  • the value and importance of Strategic Controversy Management
  • when to intervene so that a controversy does not become a conflict
  • how to slow or stop a controversy, even a conflict, when it occurs

Ninety-one percent (91%) of people completing the evaluation after the live April 2023 seminar told us they felt more confident in their ability to manage controversy as a result of participating in the seminar. Specifically, here’s what they told us how they benefited most from it:

  • Five big steps in controversy management.
  • The rules of civil conversation.
  • Understanding how controversy and conflict are different now from the 90’s and understanding where and how conflict can be deterred.
  • Learning about when more people are likely to “get on-board” with your issue. This helped me think about where my energy and efforts can be used more effectively.
  • Tom’s historical observations about the Culture War and how things have changed…or not changed.
  • The cycle of intractable conflict.

In addition to the video, there are downloadable PDF resources. All are available at no cost, though you will be asked to sign a guest book before accessing the video and downloads.

Click on the link below to see a brief trailer video and then access the full video and all resources.

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