Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Forces for Good - by Maureen

As pointed out by Phil Cubata at Gift Hub, the new book Forces for Good by Lelie Crutchfield and Heather Grant has some good lessons for those of us committed to affecting social change.

Here are the six main findings in the book:

1. Work with government and advocate for policy change
2. Harness market forces and see business as a powerful partner
3. Convert individual supporters into evangelists for the cause
4. Build and nurture nonprofit networks, treating other groups as allies
5. Adapt to the changing environment
6. Share leadership, empowering others to be forces for good

Reviewers of the book claim that Crutchfield and Grant have an important idea:
Jim Collins, author of Good to Great and coauthor of Built to Last, wrote: “Crutchfield and McLeod Grant have made a significant contribution with a Very Big Idea–the shift in focus from building an organization to building a movement. Inspired and inspiring, this book can change the way the world works by changing how leaders think.”

David Gergen, professor of public service and director, Center for Public Leadership, Harvard University’s Kennedy School of Government echoed Collins' praise: “The [nonprofits] having the greatest impact these days are those that have moved beyond old traditions. They are entrepreneurial, adaptive, externally-oriented, and sometimes a little messy. Working together, they are not only trying to fix problems, but also reform whole systems. For people who want to change the world—and who doesn’t?—this book provides an invaluable road map. Bravo!”

Ditto from Larry Brilliant, executive director, Google.org and Sheryl Sandberg, board member, Google.org, and vice president, Google.com: “Global problems like abject poverty and climate change require innovative, scaleable solutions. We have so much to learn from these six practices because they’re what lead to wide-scale social change.”--

Everyone seems to agree that Forces for Good outlines the characteristics of today's non-profit ideal. So how does Heritance measure up? Uh humm, to be perfectly honest, not very favorably, at least not yet.

Here's how the Heritance report card to date:

1. Work with government and advocate for policy change = F

(We have not yet worked with government agencies -- in part due to the fact that in the world of museums, especially in the US, the government and policy -- except in absentia -- do not play a role. Perhaps our role will be in part to point to this absence. )

2. Harness market forces and see business as a powerful partner = F

(We are talking with a start-up LLC about a joint venture and have applied for foundation money from an established business guru, but we have not formed any partnerships with corporations -- not even for money -- nor used market forces to our advantage.)

3. Convert individual supporters into evangelists for the cause = D

(Those of us who support Heritance are evangelists and have a respectable pitch, but there aren't many of us. We should recruit supporters with the goal of training them to be evangelists. Sounds creepy, but I think that is in part because many of us have become quite passive in our giving. In society at large, it is acceptable -- in fact preferable -- to quietly give money and do nothing that resembles a "sale". Society is sales averse, except in the realm of the object, where sales pitches abound.)

4. Build and nurture nonprofit networks, treating other groups as allies = C

(Given its year of existence, Heritance has done a respectable job. We have built an extensive network of museum professionals, where there was no network before. We have dozens of partner museums and have good working relations with a number of different kinds of organizations. Or course, we could do more to network and make our networks know.)

5. Adapt to the changing environment = C

(Again, given our youth, a C not a bad score. Our mere existence is due to a process of environmental call & response. Heritance is the product of an on-going conversation between partners, participating museum professionals, board members, advisors, funders, etc. and our process a cycle of planning-implementation-evaluation. But we don't deserve an A. There is soooo much we are not yet doing when you compare Heritance to an organization like Umeebee.org -- which also is a young org. We need to recruit more people and and become people who look, listen, learn and experiment with the multiple media available to us.)

6. Share leadership, empowering others to be forces for good = A

(I would give us an unmitigated A. As far as I can see -- which may not be far, since I'm the Director -- Heritance has acted upon its commitment to empower people in the internal, as well as, external aspects of our organization's work. We teach museum stakeholders how to optimize the resources of their own museums in order to best serve their communities. We have broken down the traditionally thick walls between museums through our international network of museum professionals. Internally, again insofar as I can see, we practice transparent and inclusive processes of decision-making.)

So, what do I make this report card. Not bad for a beginner but could -- and should -- be better with continued efforts in the areas we're doing well and more attention to the areas that don't yet exist for us.

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