When tasked with building a comprehensive quality standard tool to ensure people with disabilities get the care they need, in order to live full and meaningful lives, my stakeholder group has had to make a lot of choices both big and small. These choices add up to a larger change initiative.
During the Change course, I spent quite a bit of time reflecting on how those choices impacted the overall theory of change. Nelson Mandela said, “May your choices reflect your hopes, not your fears.” At the beginning of this project many of our conversations were centered on fear, which stunted the growth of the project, but when we began to talk about what we hoped would come from our choices and this project we were able to create a stronger theory of change.
The course on Change has provided me with resources and teachings centered on change theory and subsequent frameworks for change that impact both my personal life and professional work.
Below you will find my final coursework reflection from my time in the Change class and a full list of objectives that the course offered.
Analyze and reflect on the traditions, frameworks, and concepts in the fields of social and organizational change, including examining the drivers, sources, and these causes of change: need, innovation, failure, and conflict.
Analyze the dynamics and elements of change processes as they impact the trajectory of change.
Understand alignment and learn to identify resources and processes that sustain change.
Analyze practices and acquire tools needed as an agent of change. [Week 6 Dialogue]
Develop approaches to creating visibility and generating insights for change.
Learning Objective Mastered
#1- Analyze and reflect on the traditions, frameworks, and concepts in the fields of social and organizational change, including examining the drivers, sources, and these causes of change: need, innovation, failure, and conflict.
The Week 1 Collaboration post focused on the theoretical theories of change—notably the work of Stein and Valters, who argue that change operates on a continuum. In this post, I explored their theory of change by first looking at the broad points of change that they describe as ‘implementation’ and change that happens ‘within an organization.’ These levels of change refer to both layered, multi-leveled change and change that is linked together across people and/or organizations. Then I dove deeper into their assertions of change and looked at the three levels of change including: individual, relational, and systemic or organization change. When you drill down to the specific levels of change you can begin to see where the drivers, sources, and causes of change occur. After examining this framework for change, I reflected on my own traditional understanding of change, grounded in the Gandhi’s belief that you must be the change you’d like to see. Thus, I recognized that my attraction to this tradition is centered on my desire to achieve meaningful personal and/or individual change which can, at times, create some internal conflict or feelings of failure.
The Week 3 Collaboration post allowed me to take the theories and frameworks we had studied in Week 1 and Week 2 and apply them to other organizations. In this post, I identified some of the drivers, sources, and causes of change for each of the four organizations I identified earlier in the week. Applying my theoretical and conceptual understanding of change to real-world organizations helped me reach a see change theory as something that was actionable.
As we head into a new year, I am more committed to being proactive about change. As I’ve mentioned, I’m a person who often says yes with the hope that I’ll just figure it out and I’m more than willing to go where called—this willingness to follow along has brought significant positive change in my life. However, the change is short-lived. To work at balancing the emerging change and to be better about initiating change, I’ve purchased a Passion Planner. It is a personal planner that helps you identify areas of your life where you want to see change and then set goals and track your progress. All the while, you get a great day planner to help you manage your calendar. This is not the first time I have attempted to use this particular planner but after this term I feel more confident in my ability to leverage change for personal growth.
Before this course I very much thought people and organizations were either beneficiaries or victims of change—not to say I had a bad relationship with change but I believed change, even the positive kind, was disruptive. This thought process implies that change is not plan-ful or actionable which is a small-minded understanding of change. This course has shown me that change does not have to be disruptive. At times, change may happen to you. But often, it is something that you can see emerging and ultimately prepare for or even initiate.
Learning Objective Mastered
#2- Analyze practices and acquire tools needed as an agent of change.
In the Week 6 Dialogue discussion I explored the resources and tools available to me as I pursue my Capstone project. In this post, I identify personal practices such as my meditation and mindfulness work, other self-care behaviors and my mantra. Additionally, I acknowledged the professional cohorts and educational resources available to me including CLU and my personal mentors. I’ve realized many of the practices adopted by change leaders are centered on creating space for themselves and seeking out creative opportunities to expand their world views. During this post, I also alluded to Kanter’s 6 Steps for Leading Positive Change—at the time we had just come of a grueling election cycle and I admitted to be curious about how both President Obama and President-elect Trump were leading positive change considering the tension and upheaval caused by the election. I realize Kanter’s model, while extremely important to how great leaders inspire, is much more reflective of the work being done by special interest groups and collations dedicated to protecting the rights and safety of populations of people who may be threatened by the views of our President-elect and his new administration. We as grassroots leaders are called to show up, speak up and look up, team up, never give up and lift others up because change happens when we unite together.
In the Week 7 Dialogue discussion I explored the extensive frameworks for social change initiatives presented through the Community Toolbox. After reviewing these tools, I identified which framework for change best suits my Capstone project. I discovered the “Evaluating the Initiative” outline met most of needs because it was designed to look at implementation projects and evaluate their effectiveness. I was also able to identify where the tool might need to be reworked, specifically when applying it a change project that would impact a multitude of programs managed by a wide variety of different stakeholders.
I recently joined the fundraising team at the Girl Scouts of Arizona—Cactus-Pine Council. This new job came with an entirely foreign culture which included a practice known as ‘check-in’ and ‘check-out’ which are designed to bookend conversations and meetings so that each person’s voice is heard in the center of the room. At first this practice seemed silly and I struggled to figure out the purpose. After learning about Kanter’s model for leading positive change, I realized that this practice was all about showing up and lifting others up just as Kanter calls us to do. ‘Check-in’ and ‘check-out’ encourages us to be fully present while also raising the voice of others. It creates a foundation for open dialogue which we know encourages change. I’ve found myself often thinking am I showing up? Did I team up? Did I refuse to give up while being mindful of progress? These simple internal questions have helped me be a better teammate and have encouraged me to view change as something that I can be engaged in rather than feeling as though change bulldozes me.
Before this course, I thought change initiatives happened in much the same way—you have an idea, you determine who, what, where, when and how the change needs to happen and then you build some sort of tracker to understand impact. While this is not entirely off-base, it is a generic understanding of change frameworks. Now I’m able to think about change projects as individual and unique to the problem they are trying to solve. This means that I must be more aware of the stakeholders, community and social issue the change initiative is trying to address and support because if you ascribe to a faulty change framework it is unlikely you will generate the impact you are aiming to make.
Learning Objective Mastered
#3- Analyze the dynamics and elements of change processes as they impact the trajectory of change.
Artifacts: Assignment 2
In this paper, I explored the following: a proposed solution statement, stakeholder identification and division of responsibilities, a collaboration plan, a list of necessary resources, and a timeline for full implementation of the change initiative. Each of these pieces represent dynamics and elements present in my own change initiative that needed to be explored completely to understand the trajectory of the project. Most important to this discovery process was linking each dynamic or element to the larger picture or scope of the change initiative. Since my project is so large, it became very clear to me that these pieces would need to be in alignment. I asserted, to elicit impact, my change initiative and stakeholder team would need to have a keen understanding of our strengths, weaknesses, internal and external relationship, resources available to us and a commitment to the mission or change project we are developing. As Clark and Dees point out, identifying and understanding those elements ensure that your change project is scalable and has potential to make long-term transformation towards eliminating or lessening the social issue you are concerned with impacting.
This paper helped see how I can better plan for change. My professional work requires that I manage a large pipeline and prospect list of donors. These lists require that I isolate how much I’m asking a donor to give, the weight or percentage of that money that I believe will come in, the quarter I’m going to ask in and the quarter I anticipate the gift will be received. After completing those basic elements of pipeline, I’m able to begin to think about the dynamic present in the work. I begin to identify who this potential donor has relationships with, what organizations they have given to the past, I identify their wealth capacity and then create a list of next steps that I assign dates to. This project is an initiative of change—raising money is a change process. Now when I approach my pipeline and prospect list I can see how all those dynamics and elements work together to bring about change. In fact, I’ve even created a tracker in Excel where all this information can be contained and reviewed as each donor moves through their individual cultivation plan—this is in large part due to developing a timeline tracker for this assignment.
As I’ve mentioned, I was not one that thought of change as being a part of a larger plan or initiative. This is not to say that I did not have experience setting goals, creating strategic plans, and developing objectives. However, I did not recognize that these things were representative of a change initiative. When you drill down our learning about change and apply some of the frameworks we’ve learned, to our daily work, you begin to realize that we all work and live in constant change—most of it we even help structure or create. This new knowledge or connection to my own work has made me much more mindful of goal and objective setting. I’ve started to ask more questions and search for answers that are more drilled down and focused on the issue we are trying to solve or the new product or service we are trying to create. Often, I become the team member in the room that asks if we have thought about our value proposition and if we’ve identified all of the potential stakeholders and explored their needs. It has not always made me the most popular person around the table but it has helped us figure out if we are on the right track.
Learning Objective Mastered
#4- Develop approaches to creating visibility and generating insights for change.
In the Week 8 Discussion I explored the change I believe is happening in the entertainment industry specifically with women. In this post, I assert that there is a shift happening in female created content and humor that has been brewing for the past few years. This new facet of change is likely the result of female entertainment leaders like Tina Fey, Shonda Rhimes, Amy Poehler, and other notable women shifting the way we think of female stories and characters. I chose to explore Lena Dunham’s role in this change imitative because she would likely be considered my peer. I noted that Dunham has been able to build visibility around women’s equality, rights and female imagery/story-telling in large part because she produces art that can be consumed via digital media like her TV show, movie, and podcast. Beyond those platforms, she has also created an easily identifiable written voice—her book, published essays, e-newsletter and even her Twitter feed all contribute to her ability to generate insight and understanding towards gender equality. Being able to identify her ability to gain visibility and insight helped me identify how I can do the same for my project—I have deep connections to the disability community; a clear passion and voice I am willing to leverage for the cause and a desire to see real change occur for people with disabilities. These traits have helped me build an equally committed stakeholder group to help support the Capstone project and has contributed to my ability to secure meetings with key state and industry professionals.
In the Week 8 Collaboration discussion I identified the key questions needed to understand my own influence and intention as a leader. Dr. Ward’s presentation, on the that very topic, asserts that every change leader must be able to identify their mission, allies, and strategy. When you couple Dr. Ward’s ideas of influence and intention with Scharmer’s work on emergence and our CLU work around listening—it became clear to me that gaining visibility and insight is contingent upon my ability to see others in the change process and my willingness to listen to them and engage them as things begin to emerge during the change initiative.
I believe a large part of gaining visibility and insight for a change initiative has a lot to do with following what emerges. Recently, my team and I completed an all-day retreat where we reviewed our fundraising goals and projects that impacted our quarter one goals. I identified that agenda was built around the Theory U framework. It was exciting and fascinating to see the idea of emergence happen in action. As we worked our way through the agenda, to the base of the U, I could feel an increased sense of anticipation and understanding for work and how we could leverage this new knowledge to gain even more traction.
The last four months have brought some considerable change for me both personally and professionally. Theory U talks a lot about the conditions for change namely having an open heart, an open mind, and an open will. These are internal factors that help change emerge thoughtfully and get you to a space of questioning– am I doing the right work, am I present and am I seeing what is in front of me? Examining those internal factors has been a profound way of identifying where I might be stuck in a change process and what is holding me back. It has helped me figure how to best gain visibility for things I am passionate about in an authentic way—if I can be open with my heart and mind others believe my passion and want to explore my reasons for change.
Learning Objective Mastered
#5- Understand alignment and learn to identify resources and processes that sustain change.
Assignment 3 explored my change initiative and offered insight into areas where the project requires some deeper thinking, as there are likely issues that could arise which could impact the project’s long-term sustainability. After identifying these issues, I offered potential solutions to mitigate them. These solutions included developing a partnership with the state agency to mandate the change initiative, rolling out the change initiative in small pilot groups and having the change initiative be an open source product to reduce cost prohibitions. If I was to iterate on each one of these solutions, it would be clear that these potential solutions could be very viable opportunities to increase the usability and scalability of the tool. Assignment 3 also included a plan for sustainability where I outlined a framework for maintaining the sustainability of the tool—this includes regular evaluations of the tool and the consideration of shared or third party ownership—this framework protects the tool. I then went on to describe an impact assessment that is designed to see if the change initiative works and can scale into something much bigger.
In the Week 6 Dialogue discussion I explored the resources and tools available to me as I pursue my Capstone project. In this post, I identify personal practices such as my meditation and mindfulness work, other self-care behaviors and my mantra. Additionally, I acknowledged the professional cohorts and educational resources available to me including CLU and my personal mentors. I’ve realized many of the practices adopted by change leaders are centered on creating space for themselves and seeking out creative opportunities to expand their world views.
We have a donor prospect strategy called Rah-Rah boxes. Rah-Rah boxes are named after one of our Girl Scout cookies and they are meant to uplift the work of great women leaders or people who support girls and women in our community. Our fundraising team keeps an eye out for awards, accomplishments and the like and then we send the recipients a box with a congratulations letter, a box of cookies or our fall product and personal note. It is a great strategy and it brings us a lot of joy but we have no idea if the strategy is working. This month I sent out 24 Rah-Rah boxes—after sending them I made a list of resources required to put together these boxes and built a tracker to see if any of this work converts people into new donors. This new understanding of the Rah-Rah boxes helped me figure out how to better leverage the ROI and got me thinking of actions that might make it more sustainable like: scheduling a time to follow-up and call the recipient or adding the name of the recipient to a guest list for a future event.
I have finally learned to look at change as something that can be sustained. Personally, my relationship with change has never been bad and I am not opposed to change. But I have always struggled to maintain change. Projects, new hobbies, and workout regimens all start with bang but eventually my interest fizzles. To be better about sustaining change I need to plan and make micro-goals that feel good to accomplish. It is also important that I recognize that not all change is meant to last forever but it can grow into something new.
I am grateful for this course! The materials, conversations and shared learning really challenged my personal and professional relationship with change. Because of this course, I now have a better understanding of the theory behind change, the frameworks of change, and traditions of change, how to create a change projects that has resources, is sustainable, and can make a difference.
Clark, C. & Dees, J.G. (2011). Designing Your Business Model for Social Impact. Retrieved from: https://centers.fuqua.duke.edu/case/knowledge_items/designing-your-business model-for-social-impact/
Kanter, R.M.. (2013). Six keys to leading positive change [TEDxBeaconStreet]. Retrieved from http://tedxtalks.ted.com/video/Six-Keys-to-Leading-Positive-Ch
Scharmer, C. (2009). Theory U: Leading from the future as it emerges: The social technology of presencing. San Francisco, CA: Berrett-Koehler.
Stein D., & Valters, C. (2012), Understanding “theory of change” in International Development: A Review of Existing Knowledge. JSRP Paper 1. London: The Justice and Security Research Programme (JSRP) and The Asia Foundation. http://www.lse.ac.uk/internationalDevelopment/research/JSRP/downloads/JSRP1.SteinValtersPN.pdf
Ward, S. (2014, July 30). Leaders at every level: An introduction to intentional influence, no matter what our position or title. Slideshare. Retrieved from (approx. 55 slides with some additional hyperlinks) http://www.slideshare.net/StanleyWard/leaders-at-every-level-an-introduction-to-intentional-influence