Source: Top 25 Motivational Values from The Art of Giving where the soul meets the business plan by Charles Bronfman & Jeffery Solomon.
Pick your top 3 values and how these values become the fire that ignites your business, relationships, professional pursuits, and personal life. Values alignment is key to finding lasting joy and fulfillment in your endeavors.
Being stuck is not a happy place to be.
For organizations, this is more a symptom of something bigger, something problematic.
In organization, models, paradigms, ways of doing things get calcified and over time loses its meaning and relevance. While the rest of the world has dramatically changed, there are some practices that have not been examined to be effective or relevant or helpful to modern-day development actors.
Some organizations are “stuck” with one funding model, one implementing model, one education model, one strategy model, and one management model. There is no “other” way than the way it is done. There are no other seemingly alternative viable approaches. The ways of doing are such that people are rewarded to keep the status quo and any movement to change has been met with fierce and ruthless resistance.
Aid and the business of aid are becoming a tired debate issue. When developed countries give aid, they do not do alone for the sake of benevolence. It has tied, whether implicit or explicit, political, economic, social, cultural, and most of the time, ideological, colonialist agenda and considerations.
Moving away from aid model, a lot of newer organizations, networks, start-ups, and campaigns have been built with the power of connection with people in the developing countries with genuine desire to seek the best solution from within these nations and communities, amplify and scale up, and leave these communities able and empowered to chart their own future successes.
Searchers are not concerned about the roadmap, the tried and tested way or the one that is handed down by technocrats and bureaucrats in air-conditioned offices in headquarters in developed countries. Searchers are not concerned about who gets the credit at the end of the day. As long as the problem is solved or being solved with capacity to understand and learn from those whose lives are touched by it and vice versa.
Stuck is where there is a false dichotomy between surviving by cruising along for the longest time or failing because change is too risky enough. The latter has a chance to invigorate and actually create new value for the organization while cruising along is a wasteful and immoral use of organizational power.
Getting unstuck is asking the right questions. When Yahoo employee sent an letter to executives telling them how they are failing, what things are not working well, it paved the way for Yahoo to reset its course, which prevented it from declining amidst growing competitors like Google and Facebook.
Who are the searchers in your organization? Are they leading your organization to re-examine its paradigms? Is your organizational culture allowing searchers to ask the right questions?
Things have not changed.
People working in the non-profit see the scarcity, the lack, and the need for more, greater, better, and bigger. They tend to compete for the small pie that is handed out to them by the donors, funders, and whoever holds the purse. It is a game where the small gets smaller and the big gets bigger. When you think that with all the goodness in the sector, cooperation is not normal; scarcity mentality drives brazen competition.
What drives the non-profits to compete? What led to divisive, turfing wars prevalent among them?
To keep the staff, to keep the programs going, to keep the funders happy, to keep the status quo? What is the fall out? Who doesn’t get the pie and who folded up sooner than later? These do not get published but whispered around.
Good competition is good. Bad competition is bad. It is always a race to the bottom. It kills everyone on its path.
If you are small, nobody wants you, you don’t get picked. That is the reality. But smallness is a perspective. Scarcity is a perspective. The small to you is not small to the people and communities that subscribe to them and hold them as part of their tribe. It may be cliché sounding but it is true, the worth of an organization is not based on their net worth but their network.
I take the blue ocean perspective - that success comes not from battling competition but by creating untapped new market spaces for growth. The social sector needs blue ocean, not a sea of red. Making the sea red is not the way to live for social good. We need to create our own blue ocean because at the end of the day, we owe it up to the people we seek to serve. If there is thriving not sinking, the sector will be healthy, whole, and more powerful.
I always get inspired from the words of Dr. James Yen, the Father of Rural Reconstruction. I just knew that you cannot go wrong when these principles become part of the practice & philosophy of working for the poor, marginalized and voiceless.
Live among them
Learn from them
Plan with them
Work with them
Start with what they know
Build on what they have
Teach by showing
Learn by doing
Not a showcase but a pattern
Not odds and ends but a system
Not piecemeal but integrated approach
Not to conform but to transform
NOT RELIEF BUT RELEASE
What is your personal code that you live by?
How do stay true in your practice and everyday life?
A few months ago, I made a short presentation on the value of understanding the results that mission-based organization have been producing. This is to support the thesis on building management’s capacity to manage their results effectively.
What kind of results is your organization producing on a regular basis? Is this adding to your performance story? How results data are used to learn from the feedback from interventions in communities, beneficiaries or intended audience?
Regardless of the kind of performance the organization is bringing to the table, there are some sort of results/outcomes that get reported to donors, stakeholders, and funders. In this essay, I interchange results with outcomes and vice-versa.
This could be:
· project-based results – results from project interventions and activities
· strategic outcomes- which come from corporate strategies
· performance measurement outcomes- results that come from individual performance of employees, performance of departments, or performance on a specific task or function
· development results- outcomes that come from identified broad strategic development goals that organizations have set from the beginning, usually aligned to sectoral or national/international benchmarks
These results form part of the narrative of how the organization has been effective in its mission, how it has articulated its reason for being and how it is using its resources effectively to optimize its relevance for its target audience. And lastly but not the least, how this results mindset increases success for the organization. Most of these are upward accountability- to keep the funders happy and thus keep the funding flowing.
Most non-profits and mission-based organizations these days have some sort of a results-based management system. Other organizations in a more regulated industry have come up with their own results-driven management systems in place. Either they align to these industry benchmarks in a specific or general way.
According to Treasury Board of Canada, results-based management (RBM) is a comprehensive, lifecycle approach to management that integrates strategy, people, resources, processes and measurements to improve decision-making and drive change. The approach focuses on getting the right design early in a process, focusing on outcomes, implementing performance measurement, learning and changing, and reporting performance.
This is always the question that I encounter.
For small organizations with tiny budgets, few staff and programs running, or a volunteer-run board/committee working on specific activities only, what can the results-based management offer?
1. FROM ACTIVITIES MINDSET TO RESULTS MINDSET
It offers a solid framework to wrap strategy, resources, people, processes and measurement together. While most RBMs have been used in program and project interventions, it can (should be) also be used at the organizational level where no resources, inputs, people can leave unintegrated or fall of the cracks of the process.
For example, what can a group of volunteer moms supporting a local day care or after-school programming think for results? They need to think of the changes that took place in the lives of the students as a result of their programming.
When I was starting in the sector more than a decade ago, this was revolutionary. There was an 'aha' moment and felt liberating to be freed from the numbers game.
2. STRENGTHENS THE PERFORMANCE STORY OR IMPACT CLAIMS
It strengthens the performance story in a seemingly tightening regulatory and accountability demand from donors, funders, and general public. The intensity, complexity, and stronger demand for evidence puts organizations under pressure- to perform, to evaluate their work with rigor, to engage and learn from their innovations. Without an RBM as a framework to set and start this process, organizations will be caught unprepared, ill-equipped and will be scrambling all the time for the next “shiny” object to understand and communicate their results. The pressure cooker environment is not the best place to learn, innovate, and adapt.
No.1 and No.2 have clear implications for management to respond to the call for understanding and organizing their decisions based on results not on outputs they do regularly. Number of trainings conducted, number of wells built, number of school nutrition program started, number of basketball coaching provided, etc. These are outputs from activities. The trees not the forest.
Unfortunately, a few weeks ago I randomly scan around various organizations in the social sector and I see that outputs are claimed as outcomes. These impact claims are false and deceptive. There is a lot of room to grow on this area.
It is definitely difficult to retrofit the organization to think strategic and see the forests from the trees. But even small organizations can adapt to understanding the effects (including unintended, unexpected, and negative impacts) they have on their audience, their costs, methods, and implementation strategies, among other things.
This is not to say to comply for compliance sake. These regulations are coming down the pipeline faster than most of the social sector can possibly take. While compliance is one thing, it is best to work at a point of advantage, having an organic, bottom-up system that is in place. Not perfect but good enough to start. It is also time that the funder walks the talk on organizational capacity-building!
Let me know your thoughts. Did I miss something important?
March 8 marks the International Women’s Day. Today I honour and salute the mighty women of my life. Without them I will not be here right now and enjoying my life and whatever success that I have. This is long overdue!
To my grandmother who helped raise me and my siblings. She was fierce, strong, bold, wise, and full of energy about life. She had always something to say about life and us wanting to get a degree and have a better life than her. And you will know when you did something wrong! She can talk for hours and hours and hours!
To my mother, who had single-handedly put us all to school, thank you. She is the most hard-working, persevering, and talented person I have ever met and will continue to hold up in that place. Her life is a symbol of loving sacrifice. She paved the way for us to reach our dreams and goals in life. And more than that, she exemplified tenacity and at best determination in the midst of many adversities.
To my sister for being the best friend, role model, playmate, and confidante I always have. She has taught me a lot of tips, tricks, strategies about many things. She is strong, brave, compassionate, and wise. Always a big support and would be the first to be along my side in times of need.
To my teachers mostly women since Grade 1; they were kind, compassionate, supportive, very skilled, wise, and inspiring! They have seen the potential way before it had manifested.
To my daughter, by being yourself, you have made me a better person, cook, singer, dancer, storyteller, playmate, organizer, first-aider, comforter, parent, and best friend. I learned that I have more patience that I can ever imagine to have.
To all my women mentors, you know who you are. For most part of my career, I have stumbled upon or sometimes sought your advice, opinion, insights, strategies, and wise counsel. Thank you!
To my fellow workers and sisters in social change movements, I take my hat off for the many good things you do everyday in your families, communities, networks, and organizations.
Let’s pave the way for the next generation of women leaders by making this world a better place than the one we have.
Who are the mighty women in your life? Let them know you are forever grateful.