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Community Mobilization, Red Noses & Teen Pregnancy Prevention Month

Yesterday (Tuesday, May 24) I finished a multi-month project with Child Trends for the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Office of Adolescent Health (OAH) teen pregnancy prevention grantees.

Today my heart is full of appreciation for an incredible experience.

My assignment over the past few months has been to design, develop, and deliver two 2-day long training events in Denver, CO and Washington, DC for teen pregnancy prevention grantees on the topic of community mobilization. It was a capacity building training event that focused on teaching them to use a number of tools and processes to more effectively lead mobilization efforts in their communities.

The OAH staff was terrific to work with. Jacque McCain and Tish Hall were the “point people” on this project for OAH and I could not have asked for two better folks to work with. They thoughtfully considered the training design and materials I submitted, provided useful feedback, and were willing to let me do a few unconventional things to make the training more meaningful and memorable for the grantees. In DC, ten of the OAH staff were also able to attend and it was great to have them there too.

Maryjo Oster and Kristine Andrews of Child Trends were the official liaisons between me and OAH. They were also training colleagues who were willing to do whatever was needed to make sure both events ran smoothly – from managing handouts, to helping people use the Catchbox microphones, to assisting grantees with their learning activities, to providing orientation instructions for “The Community Mobilization Game.” Even more, despite the long hours and hard work, they kept their wits and senses of humor about them. I especially appreciate that they were willing to try some out-of-the-box participant engagement strategies with me. For example, Maryjo, who is also an outstanding professional musician, brought her guitar to both events and led the groups in just the right songs at the right times.

Margaret Black and Stephanie Hines of Capital Meeting Planning were incredible for their ability to manage the travel and lodging arrangements for nearly 250 people, deal effectively with hotel and audio-visual staff, and also manage all of the materials I needed for the training events. They did all of this…and more…with grace and humor!

Ideas & Insights from Denver CM Training
A moment of clarity for a grantee.

Finally, the 235 grantees (120 in Denver and 115 in DC) attending the events were absolutely amazing! They participated with wild enthusiasm – whether they were listening to a mini-lecture, engaged in one of the many group activities, doing some reflective writing, giving in to the Cha Cha Break, speaking up into the Catchbox mics to share their ideas, trying on Red Noses, throwing themselves with gusto into “The Community Mobilization Game,” or smiling and laughing with one another throughout the event. It was incredible – and was made incredible – by the grantees! Grantees traveled from all over the United States and the Marshall Islands to attend the training events. I feel honored and humbled by the efforts each made to be with us. 

Finally, as you will see in these pictures, Red Noses were an important part of these events. There are two reasons. First, Thursday, May 26th is Red Nose Day and I made sure I gave out about a dozen Red Noses as prizes, recognitions, and just for fun, all to call attention to the day. You see, Red Nose Day is about raising money to help children and youth who are in poverty. Last year about $33 million was raised in the United States for this cause. This brings me to the second reason: May is National Teen Pregnancy Prevention Month in the United States, which was founded by my late colleague and close friend, Barbara Huberman. The correlation between poverty and teen pregnancy has been well-established. Community mobilization, Red Noses, & National Teen Pregnancy Prevention Month – to me, they all just seem to make sense together.

Be Greater. Do Good. Every Day!

Tom Klaus

© 2016 by Thomas W. Klaus

One Year Ago…

May 2015 was an exciting month for me. First, I discovered Red Nose Day, a poverty alleviation effort begun in the United Kingdom that had made its way to the United States. Second, I wrote a blog asking people to submit their Five Words of Gratitude to someone they would like to honor. Then, I got sick and spent a couple of months trying to figure out why; until I landed in the hospital in Philadelphia and met my new best friend, Jude (my pacemaker).

In May 2016…

Jude is working just fine and I feel absolutely terrific. In fact, my golf scores have never been so low. Why, last week I shot a 77…on only three holes! (Just kidding, of course, it was on 18 holes – he wrote without a shred of humility.)

Red Nose Day 2016 - Cup
The Red Nose Day Coffee Mug for the Caffeinated Crowd

Red Nose Day (May 26th) is thriving. In 2015 it raised $23 million to improve the lives of children around the United States and the world. Red Nose Day supports meals for children; provides reading, educational, and after school resources; provides bed nets and drugs to fight malaria and HIV; supports access to medical care for low income and homeless children and their families; and pays for vaccines and clean water and sanitation. Red Nose Day is becoming a terrific cause-related marketing campaign in the U.S. This year Walgreen’s continues to be a major sponsor and not only can you buy Red Noses there, you can also buy accessories to complement it. The handsome guy in these photos is modeling not only the nose but a Red Nose coffee mug and lapel pin. The lapel pin is a particularly safe choice if you do not want to be caught in someone’s Smart-aleck phone photo that will be plastered all over social media.

Hey, if you are brave enough to wear the Red Nose, though, you will also want to check out the Red Nose Training Manual. The Red Nose Training Manual was written by my friend Howard Macy, a world class philosopher, theologian, and lover of the Red Nose. After seeing my own Red Nose photo last year, Howard sent me a copy of the Red Nose Training Manual. In his Red-Nose Manifesto Howard argues:

Your red nose is not a disguise, but an accessory. People will know who you are, but they will also recognize that, even more profoundly, you know who you are, too.

The little book is a quick, fun read with lots of great suggestions for making the most of the Nose. Be sure to read and let Howard’s Red Nose Manifesto sink in.

I am starting to carry my Red Nose with me when I travel for work. In fact, I am going to try to document its journey with selfies…now that I have figured out how to take one.

Red Nose Day 2016 - Button
The Red Nose Day Lapel Pin for the Faint of Heart

The Five Words of Gratitude continues to grow. My original plan had been to write a special 2015 Thanksgiving blog using the many contributions I had received. However, because I was still recovering from the close call with my health, it seemed like a good time to write my own five words. Since posting the original Five Words of Gratitude blog, people have continued to make contributions. I assume this happens as people “stumble” across the blog as they surf the web. Finally, a year later, I am able to feature some of the words that have been shared. I will not give the names of the people who shared them nor will I identify by the name the people for whom the gratitude is intended. Nonetheless, I think you will get the sense of deep appreciation that is being expressed.

Many offered their Five Words of Gratitude and let them say it all:

  • To my boss: She celebrates my unique gifts.
  • To those who share their wisdom with me: Your sharing matters…I’m growing.
  • To my spouse: I appreciate your steadfast loyalty.
  • To my colleague: Second mouse gets the cheese.
  • To my parents: Thanks for making me believe.
  • To my mentor: Your unrelenting curiosity and hope.
  • To my friend: Your wisdom, friendship appreciated always.
  • To my sibling: Thank you for graciously listening.
  • To my spouse: (Name), my love, thank you!
  • To my friend: Helping me navigate through challenges.
  • To my parents: Thanks for kindling my fire.
  • To my child: Grateful to infinity for you!
  • To my staff: You care! Mahalo nui loa (Thank you very much)

Others found five words were not enough so they provided some additional commentary:

  • To my spouse: Morning coffee, evening wine, joy.And everything in between!
  • To my parents: Support. Encouragement. Love. Humor.I do activities like this with the children and families I work with, but often forget to apply it to my everyday life.
  • To my child: Your smile makes my day!She is amazing and confident!
  • To my spouse: Thank you for being there.She has always supported me, no matter how crazy my ideas are.
  • To my friend: Go to your zen place...Love…Laugh…Learn…Celebrate

Some did not need the full five words, yet their words were full of meaning:

  • To my spouse: You make me whole.
  • To my mother: Inspiration to overcome obstaclesI remember her words whenever there was a problem: “We will just have to make do.”

One of my favorites was from a midwife, written to the mothers whose births she had attended: Honored by attending your childbirth, to which she then added: World peace begins with birth.

I hope you have enjoyed this slight deviation from my otherwise really serious blogs. My intention? To help you remember the joy in your life; to see kindness and appreciation in our world (in spite of the current U.S. Presidential campaign); and to put a Red Nose on your face.

By the way, I have decided to keep the Five Words of Gratitude site active for purely selfish reasons – I need the inspiration and the reminders to live my own life with gratitude. You are welcome to record your own Five Words of Gratitude and to cut and paste the link – http://goo.gl/forms/XT9OfgQI6K – to others as well. And, yes, I will be sure to share them with you in a future blog.

Be Greater. Do Good. Every Day.

Tom Klaus

© 2016 by Thomas W. Klaus

To Engage or Mobilize? A Leap Day Meditation

Recently I have been ruminating on the difference between community engagement and Leap Daycommunity mobilization. “Ruminate” is a great word for a Leap Day because the extra day gives us more time to really think on something, right? In the United States, where I do much of my work, we seem to prefer the term mobilization more than engagement, though we sometimes refer to mobilization as engagement and vice versa.

The more I have studied and practiced both, the more I find the mixing of the two terms to be confusing, problematic, and incorrect. I can hear at least a couple of my colleagues say, “Whoa, Tom, aren’t you splitting hairs? It’s all the same, come on.” I will grant this much: there are elements of each in the other. However, the priority and emphasis we give to each is important because they are not fundamentally the same.

Whether we choose to prioritize and emphasize engagement or mobilization, it will make a difference in how we work with the community.

In my efforts to parse the difference between the two, I have identified some important distinctions. These need to inform our choice of engagement or mobilization and how we do them.

  • Personal v. Public Approaches: Engagement is a relational approach that taps the power of personal social networks to systematically build an ever expanding circle of participation and support. Mobilization is a more public approach as it tends to use group and mass promotion and marketing strategies via traditional and social media.
  • Less v. More Resources: Because engagement is relational, it requires fewer resources. Often it just needs people who have friends or acquaintances and a social network they are willing to engage. Okay, maybe it will sometimes cost the price of a soda, a cup of coffee, or another beverage to lubricate the conversation. However, mobilization can be more resource intensive because many traditional outreach strategies are expensive. Even social media is increasingly finding new ways to charge for expanding one’s reach.
  • Empowerment v. Compliance: A key aspect of engagement is empowerment: it draws communities into meaningful participation which also empowers them to be the decision makers for their own future. This is because, in the best engagement scenarios, the agenda for change is generated by the community, with the community, and for the community. In this sense, community change through engagement is intrinsic, arising from within it. Mobilization tends to enforce an extrinsic, pre-determined agenda on a community. Communities may go along (comply) with the agenda of the funder or a powerful local group or organization. Often they do so hoping they will eventually get what is really needed in the end. Sometimes it is merely to get along with the powers-that-be in the community to make life a little bit better.
  • Ownership v. Buy In: Engagement and empowerment fosters ownership of the community issue and its solution as people become invested through relationships and personal stories. These make it “personal.” Mobilization build interest, and even some commitment, as people acknowledge the importance of the issue. Yet, because of the impersonal nature of mobilization, people may be less likely to fully participate in the change or feel a sense of personal empowerment and ownership.
  • Long Term v. Short Term: Community engagement may not be as flashy as the strategies used in mobilization, but engaged communities which change through participation, personal empowerment and ownership tend to maintain the change longer. They are also more resistant to “snapping back” to the way things were before. Mobilization strategies can get faster change, which may be why they are used instead of or with engagement strategies, but it may not be change that is deep enough to last. If you want something to “stick,” engagement offers greater promise.

Merriam-Webster.com offers definitions of “engage” and “mobilize” which are noteworthy. “Engage” – “to hold the attention of” and “to deal with especially at length.” “Mobilize” –  “to bring people together for action.”

This brings me to this final distinction between community engagement and community mobilization.

  • Slow Food v. Fast Food: Community engagement is like eating and sharing food cooked with friends, made with fresh ingredients, and enjoyed together. It often results in a meal that is satisfying and an experience that lasts in the collective memory of the group. Community mobilization is like fast food. You can get it by yourself through the drive-up window, you can get a lot of it, it feeds your hunger, and yet it is not particularly memorable nor long-lasting. In fact, you may be back at the fast food window in just a couple of hours to get another dose.

My bias toward community engagement is pretty clear in this blog, and many others I have written. Community mobilization does have its place. Sometimes mobilization has to be the choice because that is what the funder, the timeline or the circumstances support. Also, there are some mobilization strategies that do support quality community engagement.

Nonetheless, whenever you have the choice, choose engagement. The dividends are higher. Even when you must choose mobilization, look for ways to infuse it with engagement.

Enjoy your Leap Day!

More later,

Tom Klaus

The Bells of Christmas Eve

I was born much later in our parent’s lives than my sisters. It was never made clear to me whether I was an accident, an afterthought, or simply a last gasp attempt to get a male to carry on the family name. Regardless of the plan, or lack thereof, I was born into the same generation as my nieces and nephews, and we grew up together, nearly as siblings. I was the oldest by only three years. It was always a bit odd for me to call my parents “Mom” and “Dad,” when they called them “Grandma” and “Grandpa.”

For the first 25 years of my life, Christmas Eve was celebrated by all at my parents’ house. Though there were gifts for everyone under the tree, my sisters’ families would also celebrate Christmas morning in their own homes where my nieces and nephews would finally receive the lion’s share of their annual yuletide loot. Mine, however, was received in total on Christmas Eve.

Since this was the arrangement during my childhood, I knew nothing else and never questioned it. My family was far from well off but, because we lived on a farm where humans were infinitely outnumbered by cows, pigs, sheep, chickens, sweet corn, potatoes, and other fruit and vegetables, we never went hungry. I remember each Christmas receiving one “big” gift, which usually meant it was the most expensive. The most notable of these was a miniature slot car racing set that stoked my boyish love of Midwestern dirt track stock car racing.

My Christmas Eve was always made special, however, by a mystery. After our holiday dinner of chili soup, oyster stew, and assorted delicacies, including pickled herring, mincemeat pie, and a canvas of sweets, including German Christmas cookies handmade by my mother, we would eagerly await the time to open presents. The mystery usually happened in the brief calm between dinner and the wild chaos of opening presents. It began as a faint jingling and would grow until we knew it was the unmistakable sound of Santa’s sleigh bells. All of us children would fly off to the only window we could reach and peer into the night. Never once did we catch a glimpse of him, but we knew he was there. We had the proof still ringing in our ears. When we finally peeled ourselves off the window and turned back to the Christmas tree, it always seemed a little bit fuller and brighter, and the gifts slightly more plentiful.

When I was on the verge of becoming a teenager, the mystery was revealed to me. The sleigh bells were real but they were not attached to a sleigh. They were dangled out another window (near the one we would race to) tied up by bailing rope, and hidden to all visitors outside the house by a small bush and the winter darkness. At the appointed time each Christmas Eve, my father would slip away to the room and start yanking on the bailing rope to play the orchestra of bells. It was, I believe, the only musical ability he possessed.

On this particular pre-adolescent Christmas Eve, I was shown the sleigh bells and invited to ring them for the others. Even more, I was invited to take over the annual tradition. Things and families change as they tend to do and the tradition was lost. But I still have the bells. Every time they jingle I am transported back to another more innocent time.

My last Christmas Eve adventure with the bells came on my son’s third birthday. By this time the sleigh bells, which really are from my great-grandfather’s sleigh, had been reconditioned and placed on a new leather strap and were hung on a wall in our home for display only. However, on this Christmas Eve, the only in which I (a guy named Klaus) would ever play Santa Claus, I conspired one last time with the bells.

I left the house to run an errand and changed into the Santa outfit in a nearby parking lot. I returned home as Santa, where I asked for my son. He came down the steps and stood frozen upon seeing me. His eyes were about to pop out of his head when I asked…”You must be Jakob. I just saw your dad and he helped me with a problem. I forgot my sleigh bells at the North Pole and he said I could borrow yours, but I had to ask you first. Is it okay?” Still frozen in silence and staring wide at me, it took several seconds for Jake to slowly nod his head. I thanked him for the bells, slung them over my shoulder, and left. When I returned home as dad after running my errands, Jake was no longer at a loss for words. He told me all about the visit from Santa, how Santa had asked for the bells, and how he and Santa had just talked…and talked…and talked.

I still have the bells and, in fact, they hang in my office today where, occasionally, as I walk by them I brush against them and, once again, the symphony of bells takes me back to those Christmas Eves in our Iowa farmhouse.

May your holidays be filled with wonderful experiences that become the most enduring stories of your life.

More later…in 2016

Tom

What if…”Better Practices” not “Best Practices?”

An emphasis on using “evidence based practices” is stifling experimentation. This was the statement I posed in a poll within my last blog, back in February 2015, just before I got sucked into a vortex of Federal grant writing from which I am only now extracting myself. The results are in and a full 77% of respondents agreed or strongly agreed that the statement is true.

Before we run out and create an “evidence based practice” of wild experimentation on the basis of this finding, however, it is important to keep two things in mind. First, this was a highly unscientific poll that was not intended for grounding a new discipline but only for stimulating dialogue…which it did. Second, I am not really a “best practice” or “evidence-based” curmudgeon, but I am not an uncritical fan of them. On some days, I may even be more critic than fan.

In fact, we need “best practices” and “evidence-based practices.” I was particularly taken by the comments of my friend Andy Penziner who offered this defense of evidence-based practices in a comment on my blog at www.nonprofitgp.com:

First, evidence-based solutions/best practices would seem preferable to pet solutions or random practices. Second, context and generalizability should always be acknowledged and considered. Third, a creative, open mind should never be stifled in favor of blind deference to whatever the best practice d’jour might be; they can coexist. Finally, as for pleasing funders or conforming to their priorities…well, it’s kind of a fact of life, eh!

I would like to add two additional points to these. One is that there are some situations in which “evidence based practices” are the best and only practices you absolutely want. For example, do you want to see a doctor that is not using evidence based medicine in providing care for you? Probably not. Do you want to live in a high rise building that has not been built to the standards of evidence based architecture and building construction? No way! Do you want fly down the highway in heavy traffic inside an automobile that has not been built to evidence based standards and carefully tested? Absolutely not. Keep in mind that my previous blog was a bit of a rant about using “best practices” and “evidence-based” practices to address complex social problems. A complex social problem is one that eludes solutions proposed by “best practices” and “evidence-based” solutions because it shares the characteristics of a complex adaptive system. It is dynamic; has many interdependent agents or factors; one change in the system affects changes throughout the whole system; and it is robust in its ability to do all of these things. Within complex social problems, there may be a place to use some “best practice” or “evidence-based” interventions for very specific purposes. However, to believe that one or two or even three or four “evidence-based” interventions can solve the whole of the problem is just wrong thinking. It is also to commit the error Andy warns about: failing to acknowledge the role of context.

The other thing I would like to add to Andy’s list is that “best practices” and “evidence-based practices” also have useful historical value. They tell us what did and did not work well in the past, which may have value for our current situation. Considered in this light, “best practices” and “evidence-based practices” can suggest to us “better practices that may work” though they offer no guarantees of working in our situation. I bristle against “best practices” and “evidence-based practices” when they are presented as the “solution” regardless of the context, which, in the case of social problems, is usually complex.

I have become increasingly fond of the idea of “better practices that may work.” This allows me to feel comfortable standing in both the worlds of “evidence-based” practice and “what if” experimentation. On the one hand, it allows me to consider the evidence of proven and best practices. On the other, as Andy indicates, it helps me to keep a creative, open mind; always consider the context; and avoid uncritically adopting the evidence-based practice of the moment.

The key word in the phrase “better practices that may work” is “may.” “May” does not offer the guarantees of “will.” To say something may work is to say just as clearly that it may not work which is a loaded proposition for many folks.

It is loaded with the risk of failure. It is loaded with the humility required to admit that one does not have all the answers. It is loaded with the requirement to engage in the uncertainty, angst, and, some would say, joy and excitement, of “what if” experimentation.

Over the past few months I have been compiling some “what if” experiments with regard to community engagement on complex social problems and have been discussing them and exploring their implications with increasing regularity with my clients. If you work with communities to address such problems, here are a few of my questions to help you think of your own:

  • What if…people with lived experience of the social problem we are trying to address were really welcomed into our coalitions, leadership teams, and other planning groups? (As my friend Tommy Ross has said, “There is a big difference between an invitation and a welcome.”)
  • What if…that welcome included having the same decision making power as the rest of us?
  • What if…we valued and prioritized relationship building and social networking as community engagement strategies more than using social media and marketing?
  • What if…we focused more on creating community ownership of change than “buy in” to the change?
  • What if…we used principles to guide our work rather than checklists, protocols, and performance measures?
  • What if…we were to build trust before trying to change things?
  • What if…we shared the leadership and did not insist on being out front?
  • What if…we were to conduct evaluation that is focused on developing a better effort rather than measuring achievement of outcomes?
  • What if…we were to embrace the risk of “better practices that may work”?

Be greater. Do good. Every day.

Tom Klaus

Is the answer, after all, simply “kindness”?

Today I am doing something I do not usually do and it is not something I plan to do as a habit. I am publishing the same brief article I wrote for my newsletter as a blog, though I have expanded on it a bit more here. My sole reason for doing so is that I saw a short video today that moved me so much I wanted to make sure I shared it with as many people as I can. I hope you will take a look for yourself and share it as well. Who knows? Maybe we will change the world! Here’s the article:

What makes a “happy” new year?

As I was preparing to open a consulting practice exactly a year ago at this time, I began to wrestle with the question, “What will make me happy in this new year as my practice starts up?” The question of what makes one happy, new year or any other time, is not a simple one at all. Of course, the consummate answer to the question is “it depends.” However, to answer the question at a personal level, we are pushed to consider our values and then consider how our actions align with those values. In the end, according to many happiness researchers, we are likely to discover that our happiness is anchored in an overall satisfaction with our values and how we live our lives in relation to those values.

In this past year I have come to acknowledge and own that my core value is a belief in the “greater good,” which I understand to be the idea that each of us have an ethical obligation to leave the world a better place than we found it when we arrived. Further, I have come to understand that I live out this belief best when I do good for someone everyday. Now if this sounds a bit familiar (and I hope it does) it is because I have tried to capture this philosophy in the tag-line I use for my practice and which appears regularly in my on-line and print material: Be greater, do good, every day.

Recently I came across an incredible video that captures and powerfully illustrates the essence of this idea. It is the six-minute story of Josh, a young man from London, Ontario, who was bullied by other students in his high school. In one simple act of doing good to others, he stopped the bullying and transformed his school and his life. Josh’s story is a testimony to an important truth about doing good: it changes both the recipient of the act and the doer. Since I did not know what I could give you for the holidays, please accept this amazing video as my gift to you. May it inspire you to be happier and greater by doing good, every day in 2015.

Can you imagine what our neighborhoods, communities, and world could be like through simple acts of kindness like Josh’s? In this space I often write about strategies for community and social change and, frankly, I sometimes forget that the simplest, smallest acts are often the most effective. Relationship building is a key to facilitating social change and simple, small acts of kindness – done over and over again – are often the most effective relationship building tools. Many of us who are working on Collective Impact and other social change initiatives are eager for change to come and it cannot come quickly enough for us. We cannot, however, let our impatience convince us that we do not have time to be kind, for it is through kindness that our initiatives can be propelled at greater speeds to achieve greater impact.

Josh’s story reminds me of something I heard a couple of years ago when I was doing interviews in a research project on organizational leadership. I asked each interviewee this question: “What is the most important lesson you have learned in your years of leadership?” I will never forget this one response I received because for it has forever changed my own interaction with people: “It is always better to be kind than to be right.”

For me, this wise counsel and the illustration of its truth in Josh’s story raises this question: In all of our searching for the right frameworks, the right programs, the right strategies, and the right tactics to change our communities for the better, might the answer, after all, be found in kindness? 

My apologies to friends and colleagues who receive both this blog and my e-newsletter. If you receive this blog and would also like to receive my e-newsletter, please click here to subscribe.

Be greater; Do good; Every day,

T.W.K.

P.S. Please join me for “Creating Change with Collective Impact,” a GrantStation.com webinar on February 12, 2015. Whether you are new to the idea of cross-sector collaboration to solve complex social problems through Collective Impact or have been working with Collective Impact initiatives, I think you will find this webinar useful and valuable. In 2011 “collective impact” was identified as the number two philanthropy buzzword of the year by a writer in The Chronicle of Philanthropy. Since then the “buzz” around collective impact has only continued to grow. In this webinar we will take a closer look at the collective impact phenomenon, tackling some of the most important questions: What is collective impact? How does it differ from other collaborative approaches? Is it merely a new name for collaboration? How does collective impact work? How has collective impact changed since its introduction? How do you decide when a collective impact approach is the best fit for your project and your funder? This webinar is designed for grant writers, executive directors, project managers and staff, as well as development staff. The webinar will be held on Thursday, February 12, 2015 at 2:00 PM Eastern (U.S.). There is a cost involved, payable to GrantStation.com upon registration: $89.00 per person OR $150.00 per site for multiple participants. To register, click here or click on the title of the webinar above. I hope to “see” you there!

Upcoming GrantStation Webinar with Tom Klaus

Since you have your brand new 2015 calendar already to go, here’s something to put in it.

Creating Change with Collective Impact – A NEW Webinar from GrantStation.

Collective Impact is a term coined by FSG, a social change consulting group, to describe a cross-sector collaboration that focuses on solving complex social problems by embracing a common agenda. In 2011 “collective impact” was identified as the number two philanthropy buzzword of the year by a writer in The Chronicle of Philanthropy. Since then the “buzz” around collective impact has only continued to grow. In this webinar, Tom Klaus will take a closer look at the collective impact phenomenon, tackling some of the most important questions: What is collective impact? How does it differ from other collaborative approaches? Is it merely a new name for collaboration? How does collective impact work? How has collective impact changed since its introduction? How do you decide when a collective impact approach is the best fit for your project and your funder?

This webinar is designed for grantwriters, executive directors, project managers and staff, as well as development staff.

The webinar will be held on Thursday, February 12, 2015. Visit the link above to register or click here.

Date: Thursday, February 12, 2015

Time: 2:00 PM Eastern Time (U.S.), running for 90 minutes

Fee: $89.00 per person, $150.00 per site.

About the Presenter:

Dr. Tom Klaus (PhD in Organizational Leadership) is a nonprofit/social profit consultant who has worked at all levels of nonprofits from direct service, to executive leadership, to heading complex national initiatives. Tom is a “pracademic,” steeped in both the study and practice of nonprofit organizational leadership, collaboration, and community engagement. He is an adjunct professor at Eastern University (Philadelphia) in the School of Leadership and Development, where he is a pioneer in teaching collective impact. Tom is a frequent keynote, plenary, and workshop speaker and trainer. He is also a prolific writer, blogging on community engagement and collective impact on his own site (www.nonprofitgp.com) and Tamarack, a Canadian institute for community engagement, and contributing to the NPQ Newswire.

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I am pleased and honored to be working with GrantStation on this new webinar. GrantStation is an organization dedicated to creating a civil society by assisting the nonprofit sector in its quest to build healthy and effective communities. GrantStation.com offers nonprofit organizations, educational institutions, and government agencies the opportunity to identify potential funding sources for their programs or projects as well as resources to mentor these organizations through the grantseeking process. GrantStation provides access to a searchable database of private grantmakers that accept inquiries and proposals from a variety of organizations; federal deadlines; links to state funding agencies; and a growing database of international grantmakers. In addition, GrantStation publishes two newsletters highlighting upcoming funding opportunities, the weekly GrantStation Insider, which focuses on opportunities for U.S. nonprofit organizations, and the monthly GrantStation International Insider, which focuses on international funding opportunities.

If you are new to GrantStation, please take a few minutes to learn more at grantstation.com. GrantStation is an important resource for nonprofit organizations seeking to create and sustain the greater good in their communities.

I hope you are able to join me and GrantStation for this webinar on February 12, 2015.

Be greater; do good; every day,

T.W.K.

Teen Pregnancy Prevention Lessons from a Small Town

I’m a National Public Radio (NPR) junkie…I freely admit it. Each morning, as I shave and shower, I tune into my local NPR station to catch up on the news I slept through. This morning I was pleasantly surprised to hear a story on an issue that I’ve worked on for most of my career.

Check out this link to NPR’s story this morning (Sunday, March 30, 2014): What A Small Town’s Teen Pregnancy Turnaround Can Teach The U.S. : NPR.

What I really liked about this story, aside from hearing the voice of my long-time colleague and friend, Forrest Alton, CEO  of the South Carolina Campaign to Prevent Teen Pregnancy, were a couple of important lessons that I think Denmark, SC can teach the rest of us.

First, teen pregnancy prevention requires a long-time, continuous effort. The effort has been ongoing in Denmark for more than 30 years. This illustrates why investment in teen pregnancy prevention, and other social change initiatives, has to be long-term – very long-term. For years I have been arguing that systemic social change requires at least 10-15 years of focused, committed effort under the best of conditions. Anything less, will not stick. I’ve been working with a lot of teen pregnancy prevention organizations across the United States on program and organizational sustainability in order to give them time necessary to make change happen and last in their communities. One of the first messages I try to convey to these groups is that change takes a long time and attaining sustainability is an intentional process that also takes time. However, good things will come if we are patient…and work hard.

Second, it is a balanced approach. Anything to do with adolescent sexual health, including teen pregnancy prevention, is a hot potato in many communities…particularly communities in the American south.  I started my career as a youth worker. The first lesson I learned was this: if you want to help individuals experience personal change and growth, meet them where they are, not where you want them to be. To do anything less conveys a profound disrespect. This is also true when it comes to working for change in communities. Michelle Nimmons, the woman featured in the interview, really seemed to understand this. For over 30 years she has been working with the people of Denmark, SC to strike a balance between effective efforts to address teen pregnancy with a respect for the community and its beliefs and values. It appears she has been uncommonly successful.

My professional research has focused on leaders of sexual health organizations engaged in social change efforts (you can download an executive summary at www.begreaterdogood.net). As with any social change effort, leadership is key. Leaders who are most effective are also long-term and have become adept at working respectfully with communities. They help their organization stakeholders understand that change takes time and continuous investment while keeping them motivated. They also help their stakeholders understand the necessity of working respectfully with the community. I’ve also come across some leaders who exhibit something a bit more than respect – what I can only describe as love. Ah, but let us save that for another time.

More later…

T.W.K.

 

If I have to explain it, it won’t be funny…

If I have to explain it, it won’t be funny….

A great way to close out the week with humorist and fellow dissertationist Jeff Logan.

When Collective Impact Isn’t – Part 2

In Part 1 of “When Collective Impact Isn’t” I posed the question I heard raised at a recent Collective Impact Champions for Change meeting of backbone organizations  in Cincinnati:  When is a community change movement using the Collective Impact framework and when is it using the framework in name only but doing “business as usual?”  As the Collective Impact framework proliferates there will be community based initiatives that will simply re-brand their BAU (“business as usual”) initiatives as Collective Impact in order to ride the wave.

In my previous post I wrote that “a key to understanding the difference between Collective Impact and business as usual is that the how of Collective Impact is at least, if not more, important than the what…The what of Collective Impact is easily summarized into its five conditions: shared agenda, shared measures, mutually supportive activities, continuous communication, and an infrastructure (backbone organization) to coordinate and lead the work.  It was correctly observed by the Champions for Change participants and faculty that some (maybe even many?) social change initiatives have used these five as a checklist to assess the activities of their existing initiative and, if they can check off each of the five boxes, TA-DA!, they are newly christened as a Collective Impact initiative.”  Checking off the five boxes only creates a faux Collective Impact initiative unless attention is given to the how (process) of using the framework.

Understanding and implementing the how of Collective Impact is essential to having a community change initiative that legitimately lays claim to the title.  To be clear, both the what and the how are important and initiatives can err by giving too much emphasis to one over the other.  On the one hand, an over-emphasis on the how of process risks achieving the goal of the initiative.  Haven’t we all been a part of those groups that meet, plan, include, meet some more, plan some more, and include even more, but never seem to get anything done?  They are like race cars on an oval track – they appear to be going somewhere, even quickly, but never really go anywhere of consequence.  In recent years, though, nonprofits and communities have been so driven by the what of outcomes that success may be attained but not sustained.  This is because initiative durability or sustainability is largely a result of the how, not the what, of Collective Impact.  (For more on this, see my previous blog titled “How to Sustain Good Work without Fundraising.“)

During the Champions for Change meeting I identified four indicators that a community initiative is failing to achieve the how of Collective Impact.  After each indicator is a query that can be used to evaluate whether as much attention has been given to the how as to the what of an initiative that seeks to use the Collective Impact framework:

  1. Self or Other-Appointed Backbone:  Is our backbone organization self-appointed, other-appointed or has the community appointed it?  A self-appointed backbone is understood to be a group or organization that steps up and says, “Hey, we’re going to do a Collective Impact initiative on this issue and WE are the backbone organization.”  While admirable that a group or organization would do this, it can be a fatal flaw in the process.  An other-appointed backbone is a group or organization that another entity, such as a funder, has appointed to be the backbone.  It suffers from the same fatal flaw.  Fundamental to the process of Collective Impact is the idea that backbone organizations are identified and empowered to provide leadership and support by the community.  The definition of “the community” is important.   I think of it as the “whole community” which means it needs to include not just the BAU folks (e.g., people with status, power, and position in the community) but the folks that can be easily forgotten, overlooked, or outright ignored, by which I mean the people to whom the initiative is aiming to help.  The term I learned in Cincinnati for this group that I really like is “Residents with Lived Experience.”  Residents with Lived Experience are those with direct experience with the issue the initiative is attempting to address.  While the BAU folks have a role in connecting the initiative to resources and services, Residents with Lived Experience will be the ones using those resources and services.  If they do not feel full trust and confidence in the backbone organization and its leadership of the initiative, the whole thing could fail for no other reason than lack of participation by the community.
  2. Top-Down Decision Making:  Does our backbone organization make the key decisions for the initiative or does our backbone convene the community in a participatory decision-making process that informs the initiative?  The Collective Impact framework encourages the identification of community champions who can provide leadership, including decision-making, in the initiative.  In my work with communities, I’ve suggested champions need to be found among at least three different groups in the community:  Grass Tops (people with access to resources through traditional power and status); Grass Roots (people without traditional power and status but who are so deeply respected in the community that their participation “holds sway” with many others); and Residents with Lived Experience.  I’ve observed that top-down decision-making is the default when there is an intense focus on achieving outcomes.  In such situations though it is easy for those being “served” by the initiative to feel like it being done to them rather than with them.  It is important to remember, if creating a long-term durable initiative is a high priority, that top-down decision-making is a major threat to sustainability because it often takes away community buy-in and ownership.  If you are interested in learning about a decision-making method and structure that creates equivalence of voices and results in high commitment and buy-in, I encourage you to take a look at Dynamic  Governance, a process I’ve been reading about for nearly two years and have recently begun to learn to implement.
  3. Pre-Determined Needs & Solutions:  Does our backbone organization already have a need and solution in mind for the community or does the community have a meaningful decision-making role in identifying both? In recent years, since the monumental failure of the D.A.R.E program to accomplish its goal of reducing substance use among youth (see the previously mentioned blog on this site), there has been an increased emphasis on the value of rigorous evaluation research.  The impact of this emphasis is being felt across disciplines that address many issues that are typically of concern to communities: school success, hunger, homelessness, violence prevention and reduction, teen pregnancy, etc.  The idea is this:  if government, funders, and communities are going to invest in addressing important issues that affect a lot of people, then the investment needs to be made in those programs and projects that evaluation research indicates have strong evidence for success.  These have become known as “evidence-based” programs.  Undoubtedly there is high value to investing in those things that are most likely to succeed, right?  Unless the whole community, including Residents with Lived Experience, are part of the process of identifying its greatest need and the best evidence-based solution for the need that the community can support, there is risk of at least four types of failure:  1) The Failure of Partial Understanding (wrong need paired with an evidence-based solution that addresses a different need or right need paired with the wrong evidence-based solution); 2) The Failure of Ignorance (right need paired with a bad solution, that is, one that really just doesn’t work); 3) The Failure of Cluelessness (wrong need paired with the wrong solution); and, 4) The Failure of Community Participation (right need paired with right solution but no community participation in the selection process, hence no ownership or commitment).  There are, of course, many variations of these that could be added to this list – if you’ve got one you’d like to add, please put it into a comment below.
  4. Exclusion of Residents with Lived Experience:  Does our initiative intentionally engage community Residents with Lived Experience of the issue being addressed and do we create equivalence in decision-making?  Liz Weaver of Tamarack Institute argued effectively in one meeting that community initiative decision-making needs to observe this rule: “Not About Us Without Us.”  That is, decisions should not be made that affect the lives of others when those being affected are not part of the decision-making process.  I’ve tried, successfully I believe, to weave this idea throughout this blog so I will not belabor the point.  Well, maybe just a little.  I really do understand good intentions.  My whole career in nonprofit work has been driven by the intention to do as much good for as many people as possible.  It is easy for zealous, good intentions to go off the Doing Good track, plow under the very community we are trying to help, and do more harm than good.  I’m a zealot and I’ve gone off the track a few times, too.  There are four strategies I’ve learned for staying on the Doing Good track.  First, slow down.  Second, now that we’ve slowed down, we can take time to listen to the Residents with Lived Experience.  Third, pay attention to what they are telling us.  Fourth, and finally, plan and do the good work with them, not to them.

More later…

T.W.K.

Copyright 2013 by Thomas W. Klaus