Stakeholder Enagement

The Heart of the Story: Grameen America

I'm excited to be working on a national storytelling campaign for Grameen America.  Grameen America is the leading micro-finance institution in the US.  Today, Grameen has lent over $482 million dollars to over 75,000 women in 11 cities across the United States to start their own businesses.

This week, I joined up with Grameen’s national staff to lead a creative marketing and communications strategy session to inform the storytelling series that we are setting out to capture.

To build a strong storytelling campaign, it’s important to invest time upfront to bring stakeholders together, listen, and develop a holistic understanding of the key themes that matter most.  Once we have this base, it determines how we work in the field to surface the people who truly embody Grameen’s mission.

Here is what we did this week with Grameen America:

1.Bring Stakeholders Together.

It’s critical to bring a diverse group of people to the table, representing a broad set of perspectives and expertise.  We worked with Grameen to gather leaders from their national fundraising, operations and communications teams.

2. Active Listening

 In order to understand who Grameen is and the impact they are creating, we need to listen.  In our session with Grameen, we listened to each participant share what inspires them on a daily basis and keeps them doing what they do.  We listened to every person around the table share amazing stories of women whose lives have been transformed through the Grameen community.  Grameen staff, some who have been with the organization over eight years and and others only 3 months, all talked about the direct impact they witnessed in the lives of women and their families.  As active listeners, everyone around the table took notes.  Everyone listened for key words that got to the heart of the stories and moved us as an audience.  Listening to understand, instead of listening to respond, allowed these key words to surface.

3.Identify Themes

After active listening, the team put the words they had gathered on the wall.  These words represented the essence of the Grameen America story.  They shared who the Grameen women are, the barriers they have overcome, the dreams they have realized, the communities they have fortified and the confidence they have built.  Putting these key words up on the wall clarified for the team which themes were most important to express in the storytelling series.

We led this session with Grameen so we could have clear themes to develop in our storytelling series.  But the benefits go much deeper.

Takeaways

First, this session was great for teambuilding.  Staff members felt more connected to each other, more connected to their own motivation, and charged up to bring what they discovered back into their daily work.

Second, building this storytelling campaign in partnership with a diverse team of national staff creates broad ownership, allowing insights to spread more organically through the organization. 

Finally, this session clarified overall communications strategy.  The team discovered more powerful ways to express Grameen’s mission and impact.

Next Steps

We are now heading into the field to capture the stories of women who have thrived because Grameen gave them a real opportunity to build their own American Dream. 

Get In Touch

I'd be happy to customize similar strategies for your organization. You can contact me here.

Behind the Scenes: Divest-Invest and The Educational Foundation of America

I'm on a mission to capture exciting stories from investors around the country who are moving their money out of fossil fuels and into climate solutions.  

The Educational Foundation of America was one of the first foundations to join Divest-Invest Philanthropy.  This week, I'm making a short video featuring EFA's board members and executive director discussing their ethical and financial commitment to support the new energy economy.  

And we had fun, too!  

System-Change: The New Green Economy

People's Climate March, NYC 2014

People's Climate March, NYC 2014

My whole career has been dedicated to systemic change.  I am led by a deep passion and persistent optimism to believe that it is possible to design a healthcare system, or an education system, or a justice system that actually serves communities in a positive way.  

What does it take to change systems?  Usually, it's money. Changing where the money goes in the system.  Different input, different output.

That’s why I’m super excited to be doing some work with Divest-Invest Philanthropy.  Divest-Invest is a movement among philanthropic leaders to divest their holdings from fossil fuels and re-invest in climate solutions.  So far, 500 institutions and 50,000 individuals - managing assets in excess of $3.4 trillion-  have pledged to move their money out of the industries that are directly contributing to global warming and to invest instead in renewable energy, energy efficiency, clean tech, sustainable agriculture, water conservation, energy access and climate justice initiatives.  

This is system change at work--an active re-allocation of funds that can change the economic game and lead the transition to a new sustainable economy that protects our planet and the communities most at risk.  

So what does that LOOK like?  I'm only a few weeks into my project with Divest-Invest and I'm already stoked about all the exciting investments that participating foundations are making.  Here are a few examples:

Expanding the Market for Sustainably Sourced Food

In Portland, Ecotrust is strengthening the regional economy by creating direct relationships between urban and rural food producers.  This allows high quality sustainably grown food to reach wider local distribution and become more affordable.  On top of an online platform that connects food growers to local markets and restaurants, Ecotrust is also building The Redd, a working hub that will give farmers a place to sell to large local buyers, like hospitals and schools.   

Photo: Ecotrust

Photo: Ecotrust

Transforming Fuel-Guzzlers into Hybrids

Lightning Hybrids is company that retrofits the biggest polluters on the road-- buses, delivery trucks, shuttles and other large vehicles-- and turns them into hybrids, making them more fuel efficient and reducing harmful emissions.  

 

Converting Urban Spaces to Farmland

Boston-based Green City Growers is turning unused space in grocery stores, sports facilities, assisted-living facilities and corporate offices into small food-producing farms.  To date, Green City Growers have grown "over 140,000 lbs of organic produce, valued at over $500,000, donated 4,000 lbs of produce, & worked with more than 6,000 people on urban farms & gardens which cover less than 2 acres of space combined."

Photo: Green City Growers

Photo: Green City Growers

Foundations, pension-funds, universities, insurance companies, cities and faith-groups who divest from fossil fuels and re-invest in solutions like these are leading the way for a powerful green economy.  Together they are showing that when money is moved in alignment with values over pure profit, it is possible to change the system.

Unlocking Gifts and Dreams

This summer, I consulted with New Day Church to develop an organizational and leadership development series called Gift and Dreams.  

I designed unique creative tools to help New Day members identify their individual talents, share their collective dreams for their church, and explore areas for new growth

New Day had a blast with the series.  Check out what they had to say! 

Why Health IT Benefits from Engaging Diverse Communities


Telemedicine--the ability to conduct remote clinical visits through videoconference--is a rapidly growing industry.  HealthcareITNews reported that, “The global market for telemedicine is expected to be worth more than $34 billion by the end of 2020.”  

One of my clients, the non-profit health insurance fund UniteHere! Health, contracted with a telemedicine provider to help keep their ten thousand New York and New Jersey members away from unnecessary emergency room visits and hospitalizations.  The problem was that very few members were taking advantage of the service.  With low utilization, UniteHere! Health would end up with little return on their investment.  

I got called in to help UniteHere! Health increase utilization of telemedicine among its members because I had worked with them on a project to drive down costs by connecting their membership to primary care doctors and chronic conditions management.

I went straight into the field to test the mobile app, focusing on UniteHere! leaders who I knew would spread the word about telemedicine across the organization--that is, if they liked it.  I sat down 1-1 with each member and watched him or her navigate the service on their phones, from downloading the app all the way to having a videoconference with a doctor.

Here are my two major findings that I think will be valuable to all telemedicine or health IT providers who want to get more people engaged with their technology.

1.    Language
To reach the broadest base of potential clients possible, cater to language.

The majority of UniteHere! Health members that I tested the telemedicine technology with did not speak English as a first language.  To navigate a website or a mobile app that is written entirely in English is a barrier for immigrant communities.  It’s a high hurdle to jump.  Equally important, there have to be doctors available who speak the same language as the patients.  UniteHere! members who speak Chinese or Haitain Creole would have to be comfortable enough in English to navigate to the menu option that allows them to choose a doctor that speaks their language.  And then, radio silence.  There wouldn’t be any doctors available. 

 If telemedicine wants to serve a global population, it can’t be shortsighted about language. Language is essential. In New York City, half of the population does not speak English as home.

2.    Scaling the Digital Divide
Invest resources/staff into underserved communities and reap the rewards.

About 50 percent of the UniteHere! members I tested the telemedicine app with were confident tech users.  These were the type of people to whom you could say, “Download this app and let me know what you think.”  Typically, this is the person that tech developers are designing for.  The other 50 percent of UniteHere! members I tested the technology with had never downloaded an application on their smartphones. They needed step-by-step assistance to help them learn how to use it.  Once they learned however, they were up and running.  

A lot has been written lately about the lack of gender and racial diversity in tech.  As CNN Money writes, “After all, engineers build gadgets and software for men, women and people of every color—and a diverse workforce means a more expansive understanding of what customers want.”  In this instance, increased diversity would contribute to designing better gadgets and software, and work to get that technology into the hands of “unlikely” customers.  

The Opportunity:  How might we bring the benefits of telemedicine to underserved communities?  

Here is the good news:  The UniteHere! members I tested the telemedicine app with uniformly LOVED the service.  They loved that if their child got sick in the middle of the night they could see a doctor from home for the cost of a primary care visit, instead of going to the emergency room and paying a much bigger bill.  They loved that telemedicine gave them the option of getting a doctor’s opinion on that pesky rash, and even receive a needed prescription, without having to miss a day of work.  One UniteHere! member who suffers with chronic conditions said, “I’m a fan of this, and I’m not a fan of ANYTHING.”  Another said, “This is like having a doctor in your pocket.”  

On top of that, the UniteHere! members who struggled with the technology were completely undeterred from trying to learn it, and were still very enthusiastic about what it could do for them. Some members sat with me for over an hour working to set their mobile accounts up.  What should have been a 5-minute registration process took longer.  They didn’t have an email address.  Or they couldn’t remember the password to their email address.  Or they were confused about how to enter their insurance information.  At no point did they say, “This app is not worth it.  I’m out of here.”  They wanted what the technology could provide for them.

The Value of Community Engagement

Telemedicine, health IT, and the tech world in general, would benefit from a strong investment in community engagement. And underserved communities will benefit from technology that they are currently being overlooked for.  

A commitment to community engagement would mean that tech companies equip skilled cultural workers to introduce technology in neighborhoods and regions beyond the middle-class tech-savvy markets. This engagement is an excellent opportunity to get product feedback from a diverse range of potential users and get new people onto platforms that they would never know about otherwise.  Many community leaders simply need the initial training about the technology and then they are up and running and ready to tell their family, their neighbors, their co-workers, the people they go to church with, the people at the YMCA, and the people who hang out at the local bar or coffeeshop.  That is how an intensive community engagement practice becomes scalable.  

Something as valuable as telemedicine should be accessible to everyone.  Catering to a more diverse clientele is a great way for the health IT industry to bring in more valuable business.  It’s a win-win.  And I would love to work to make it happen.  

Contact me if you are interested in learning more.  

On the Frontiers of Human-Centered Design

This summer I’ve been exploring the whole wide world of social innovation and human-centered design and talking with studios that are leading this work —like Ideo.org, Greater Good Studio, Public Policy Lab, and Design Impact.  When I tell my friends and colleagues that I’m interested in social innovation, they usually respond with, “what does that mean?”  When I mention human-centered design their reaction is something like, “huh?”

Let me explain. The way I understand it, big global design firms like Ideo popularized human-centered design as a core method to create innovative products and services for clients like Apple and Nike.  The principle is that the best way to design stuff that is really transformative for people’s daily lives is to deeply understand the person you are designing for. You need to watch that person go about their day, understand what they are motivated by, see their biggest frustrations first-hand. Then you can prototype a product or service directly based on their needs, and even better, involve that person in helping to improve your prototype by getting their feedback and watching them use it.  What you end up with is a product or service that directly caters to the person you are designing for.  And as a result, what you design is not just more effective, but can actually be transformative in a person’s life.  Human-centered design is definitely not rocket science.  It’s a common sense approach.  But in the design industry, it seems like it was fairly revolutionary to move away from thinking about consumers as “users” and designing for them from a distance.  

THEN (this is the part that’s exciting for me) a number of people from the design industry who had been using this human-centered practice with corporate clients started to say, “Hey, this technique is super effective for coming up with incredibly innovative and powerful solutions that change people’s lives.  What if we applied this design approach to social issues?  What if we used design to create transformative products or services or systems for vulnerable communities?”  And that’s how you get solutions like Greater Good’s work to empower Chicago citizens to help design a better public transportation app that encourages more people to get out of their cars.  Or Ideo.org’s work designing a high quality and affordable solar light for families in Kenya and India living on less than $1.25 a day.  Or Design Impact’s work to strengthen programs helping low-income women in Northern Kentucky get and maintain good paying jobs in advanced manufacturing.  

Now, I LOVE this stuff.  My entire career has been focused on working with local communities to find innovative solutions to complex problems.  Like fundamentally changing the way police and social services were interacting with the community in Oakland, California, so those systems could proactively prevent the homicide and gun violence that was devastating the city.  Or working with the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Innovation in Washington DC to pilot new healthcare delivery systems across the United States that would better serve high need patients.  I’ve been practicing human-centered design my whole professional life!

And I’m really excited to learn even better ways of doing it. That’s why I’m currently participating in Ideo.org’s Design Kit: The Course for Human-Centered Design.  As a change agent and practitioner, as someone who loves to connect with people, create new systems, design new experiences, find interesting solutions and take action to implement them, human-centered design is an awesome addition to my toolkit.  It’s a super systematic and fun way of collecting insights, discovering design opportunities, brainstorming and testing innovative solutions, and implementing new ideas.  It’s a powerful approach for staying true to the community you are creating with.  And ultimately, human-centered design is a method that allows truly transformative and revolutionary ideas to break through, come to life, and have incredible impact in the lives of the people I care about.  This motivates me more than anything.

I can’t wait to share the solution I’ve been working on with my ideo.org team this last month.  My next addition on human-centered design: coming soon!

Rich Soil

To create space for new growth, you have to release what doesn’t serve the bigger vision.

I recently led New Day Church in a Festival of Gifts and Dreams, a workshop series where members identified their individual gifts and their collective dreams in order to build a more powerful church.  

Expansion calls for contraction. To have the bandwidth for new programs, worship services and ministries at New Day, members had to think about what current elements of New Day could be released. For example, the desire to create an eco-justice ministry might mean that another ministry would have to end.  

The COMPOST PILE was a great visual tool to help people name specific things that they felt New Day needed to release. Members wrote their ideas on paper banana peels and orange rinds, and stuck them on the pile.  

Compost is fertilizer. It creates the rich ground that allows new things to grow. Putting stuff in the compost is not the same as putting it in the trash. It doesn’t mean, “This program we’ve been running is worthless and has no value."  Instead, composting suggests that a program or a certain style has given its value, and can now serve as life-giving soil to create something new.  

New Day members felt empowered by the opportunity to compost that which they felt was no longer serving their church. I can’t wait to see what grows from the soil!

Dream Mosaic

To actualize a dream, you have to know what it is.

Last week, I led a team of New Day members to imagine the future of their church.  They imagined walking through the doors of New Day in 5 years. They visualized the people, the worship space, the activity, the smells, the sounds, the sense of touch, and how they felt emotionally.

When they opened their eyes, New Day members got busy using magazines and glue to create individual illustrations of this future church, the church they most want to be.

Then New Day worked together to fashion these individual dreams into a DREAM MOSAIC.

The Dream Mosaic is a powerful tool to align the vision of a team.  Using this technique unified New Day members around their common desire to expand and innovate. It showed them ideas and goals with tremendous collective energy.  The Dream Mosaic is a strong catalyst, motivating New Day to be accountable to themselves and each other in the work of building their future church.

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Sneak Preview: The POWER of Collective Vision

If you want to leverage the power of your organization and create the deep impact you desire, you have to harness the vision and creativity of your members.

This last weekend, I led New Day in creating an exciting collective vision for their church.  More to come!

Treasure Map

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Tuesday night at New Day Church was AWESOME!

I’m consulting with New Day, a young and vibrant church community, on an overarching strategy to strengthen their ministries and develop deeper leadership within the congregation.  

On Tuesday night, I led 30+ congregation members in making a social map for their church.  Together, they charted the talents and passions of their fellows and worked collaboratively to group people based on what they love to do.  

Now New Day has the prototype for an organizational Treasure Map-- "For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also” (Matt 6:21).  

Treasure Mapping is not only a super fun team-building exercise, it gives New Day a dynamic tool to better leverage the creativity of their members and make strategic decisions to grow their ministries.  

On Saturday, I’ll return to New Day for a collective visioning session.  I’m looking forward to more time with this passionate and joyful congregation!