Wed, November 23 2011

Is sand blowing over your tracks?

Katya Andresen's avatar

Author, Robin Hood Marketing

Filed under:   Nonprofit leadership •

My mentor, Bill Novelli, recently gave a speech for social change makers at the Gates Foundation, and he talked about working early in his career to market the Peace Corps.  He said, “Our research showed that returning Peace Corps volunteers shared a common fear: that the sand would blow over their tracks, and all their work back in the country where they had served would simply disappear.”

Do you ever feel the sand gusting over your steps of progress?  I do.

So I thought I’d share what Bill said on the topic of how you sustain social change.  In his speech, he made four points that I find inspiring and hopeful.  I hope you do, too.

1. GO BOLD. Don’t be timid or give in to muddling along.  Think like this haiku: “Problems worthy of attack, prove their worth by attacking back.”

2. GO BIG.  Seek to change the environment where people live, work and play.  Use media strategies and policy advocacy to influence what people see around them.  When people see different behavior, they believe it’s normal and they follow suit. 

3. GO BEHAVIORAL.  Seek to change individual behaviors - for example, with health, work through change agents who influence people personally, from medical professionals to teachers.

4. GO BRAVE.  “Leadership,” says Bill, “really, really matters… You can lead from the front, middle or back of the ranks.”  He quoted Colin Powell who said: “Have you ever noticed that people will personally commit to certain individuals who, on paper or on the organization chart, have little authority, but instead possess pizazz, drive, expertise, and genuine caring for teammates?”  Yes.  You can be that person.

This Thanksgiving, let’s be grateful we are lucky enough to be in jobs that allow us to make tracks—and to commit to making the kind that no amount of sand can ever erase.

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