Achieving Durability: The Secret Sauce

Approximate Read Time: ~6 minutes

This is the week in which we celebrated Independence Day in the US. In groups, organizations, businesses, and movements, durability is an important part of independence. With durability comes the freedom, or independence if you will, for a group to pursue its vision and mission more closely aligned with its values. When durability is achieved, a group is more resistant to the whims of funders and stakeholders which may not always be aligned with those values, vision, and mission. What does durability look like, you ask? Here’s what we think at Tenacious Change.

We believe durability results from a mindset of Ownership-based Change which is animated by the process of Collective Change Leadership through the principles of the Tenacious Change Approach.

Ownership-based Change begins with the people who are going to be most impacted by the change. They are part of the change process from the very beginning and through meaningful participation they co-create the change and become vested in it as owners.

Collective Change Leadership is an approach to leading change that prioritizes the practice of leadership by those most impacted by the change. At the same time, positional leaders (those with the title or office) become participants in the change too, but they choose to lay aside their traditional leadership role and, at the most, take on the role of convening. We see elements of Collective Change Leadership in the work of Joseph Raelin (Collective Leadership), David Chrislip (New Civic Leadership), and Ira Chaleff (Courageous Follower).

We are convinced that Ownership-based Change and Collective Change Leadership will lead to durability because we’ve seen it happen…repeatedly. Here are two examples from our body of work that highlight the role of ownership and collective leadership.

SOLAR (State Organizational Leadership Academy and Roundtable)

SOLAR is a national network of independent, statewide nonprofit organizations in the US that work in the field of teen pregnancy prevention (TPP) and adolescent sexual health (ASH). It was first convened in 2007 by our founder, Tom Klaus, and his late colleague at Advocates for Youth, Barbara Huberman. The purpose of SOLAR was to provide a space for leaders of these organizations where they could share ideas and resources, find support in challenging times, and receive training and technical assistance. SOLAR utilized an email listserv, conference calls, and annual gatherings to achieve this purpose. Tom and Barbara worked on behalf of Advocates for Youth to convene SOLAR and provide training and technical assistance to participants as part ofa grant program from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

In the early 2010s, a number of changes occurred that impacted SOLAR. Tom left Advocates for Youth to complete his doctorate; Barbara Huberman passed away after a lengthy illness; and federal funding expired. For a time, Advocates for Youth stepped up to continue support for SOLAR even as its members became more engaged in leading it to ensure it did not disappear.

For the past few years SOLAR members have volunteered to ensure the durability of the network – from facilitating regular Zoom meetings to hosting on-site in person meetings to even providing funding. In the Spring of this year, a collaboration of six SOLAR participants from Alabama, Georgia, Iowa, Louisiana, Michigan, and Mississippi wrote a funding application to the Office of Population Affairs (OPA) to not only provide TPP programming in their states but to continue SOLAR for themselves and other statewide TPPASH organizations. That application was successful, and they received notice of funding in late June. We are pleased that SOLAR is made durable by the efforts of the leaders of these organizations, who are also the people most impacted by the network.

Saskatchewan Prevention Institute – Adolescent Sexual Health Community of Practice

In 2014 we worked with the Saskatchewan Prevention Institute to help it establish a province-wide community of practice for people and organizations working in adolescent sexual health. During one of Saskatchewan’s coldest February weeks in 20 years, Tom Klaus traveled to Saskatoon to lead a training and facilitate the creation of the community of practice. Despite the cold, participants came from throughout the province. By the end of the training event the community of practice had been established, interest groups created within the community of practice, communication systems agreed upon, and leadership identified. For several months we continued to provide support to the Adolescent Sexual Health Community of Practice. Today, nearly 10 years later, the community of practice continues. The Saskatchewan Prevention Institute continues to convene the group and members continue to engage in the practice of leadership. Like SOLAR, the Adolescent Sexual Health Community of Practice has become durable because of the ownership of the group by its members and their willingness to engage in the practice of leadership.

The other thing that ought to be obvious from these two examples is that achieving durability takes time. This is a point we stress with every group, organization, business, or movement we serve. Funding alone does not achieve durability. As we wrote in The Challenge of Durability last week, it requires us to religiously do three things over time: 1) look back and learn; 2) remain present and mindful; and 3) become adept at forecasting. This week we add the secret sauce: continuous commitment to the mindset of Ownership-based Change and the process of Collective Change Leadership. Mix well, bake, and enjoy!

What Controversy Could be Brewing In Your World?

sticks and pine cones near a coffee maker
Photo by Ron Lach on

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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