On Leading Change

On Leading Change


On Leading Change uncovers fresh ideas and actionable insights from people on the leading edge of social change. Whether they’re working in government, nonprofits, or starting their own social enterprise – these are the leaders moving our world forward. Each week we discuss the moments that defined their path and unpack their hard-earned knowledge to inspire and accelerate action. Hosted by Jo-Ann Tan, Director of +Acumen – The World’s School for Social Change. Discover more at plusacumen.org We are on iTunes: https://itunes.apple.com/gb/podcast/on-leading-change/id1143108463?mt=2


How to Think About Innovation  

"Innovation is not continuous improvement. Continuous improvement…is just good hygiene. Innovation is the break from the norm for a given context." – Nidhi Sahni Innovation is hugely needed in the social sector but is often misunderstood and misapplied. Nidhi Sahni, Partner and co-lead of The Bridgespan Group's Global Development practice breaks down what this buzz word really means for change leaders on our podcast this week.

Why We Need to Change the Way We Train Leaders  

David Smith had to study for his civil engineering midterm exam, but it was the night of the U.S. presidential election and the vote was too close to call. David stayed up into the wee hours of the morning following the news. Needless to say, he didn’t do well on his midterm the following day. When his engineering professor was asked why the midterm was scheduled the day after such an important political event, the professor blithely told David that “we train the best engineers here” and if David wanted to be involved in politics, he should go to the other side of campus. This exchange got David thinking about how he wanted to make an impact in the world. Did he want to build amazing bridges and physical structures, or build bridges that connected people? David ended up majoring in political science and co-founding a youth civic engagement network while still an undergraduate student, which he then ran for another four years. His journey as a civic mobilizer, strategist and leader has informed a lot of his thinking about leadership and what it takes to build a diverse and engaged community. The need for “cross-sector leadership” Today, David is the managing director at the Presidio Institute, where he is passionate about “cross-sector leadership” – the idea that to solve today’s complex problems we really need to be able to bring leaders in different sectors together – business, nonprofit, government, academia, faith-based institutions, and more. However, getting such diverse groups of people working together productively is difficult. David observes that “people are better at pointing fingers at each other, than pointing fingers at the challenge”. For example, government might complain about businesses being overly profit-driven at the expense of community or other ethical considerations, while businesses might complain about over-regulation by the government. [...] A second shift, is more fundamental, the willingness of a leader to be challenged and perhaps change themselves. This takes great self-awareness, an openness to listening to people unlike yourself and a willingness to find ways to come together. As David notes: “One person’s truth is not necessarily right over anyone else’s, but collectively you can actually find what it means to be a member of that community. There is a lot of grey and only understanding how you enter into that type of a conversation in a posture of learning, and in a posture of contributing, and in a posture of joint ownership and collaboration…that’s ultimately where you’re going to be able to achieve change. That happens in a fellowship, that happens in a community, that is what civic health is about.” You can listen to my full conversation with David Smith where we discuss: David’s journey as a mobilizer, his explanation of the factors that contribute to civic health and his observations around why civic health in the United States has declined in the last three decades David’s views on “cross-sector leadership” and how the Presidio Institute trains such leaders Tips on how to begin to think and practice “cross-sector leadership” in your own community The Presidio Institute offers a full range of cross-sector leadership training opportunities – both in person and online. Their online platform Leaderosity offers paid courses that include instructor facilitation and coaching (different from +Acumen’s free online courses). +Acumen also offers a suite of leadership courses that touch on aspects described above – Adaptive Leadership, Persuadable Leadership and Seth Godin’s Leadership Workshop.

Three Simple Lessons on Innovation from Government  

“One of the things I’ve always done in my career is I’ve always volunteered for the hardest job.” Long before there was LinkedIn or Monster.com, when computers still filled up whole rooms and only displayed green text on black screens, Virginia Hamilton led a team that created the first statewide job matching system in the United States. She hasn’t stopped since, taking on roles in policy, program design, and even starting and running her own non-profit, all with an eye toward changing large-scale systems in new ways. Today, Virginia works at the US Department of Labor and is a seasoned innovator in government and the workforce development sector. One thing I love is how Virginia didn’t just fall into this role as an innovator. She’s put her hand up over and over again. [...] The US Department of Labor has run [HCD] challenge twice for more than 120+ teams across the nation. The lessons these teams have learned have been fundamentally game-changing – teams are re-energized, new insights about what customers need have emerged, and programs have become more successful in reaching the unemployed. Most importantly, this is 600+ people across the nation that now have a new process that they can use over and over again in their day-to-day work. We’re honored to be a part of the work to help to spread “good process” in service of supporting workforce development across the US, and we’re so glad for individuals like Virginia who are working behind the scenes to improve the lives of millions in the US. Listen to my full interview with Virginia to learn: - More about Virginia’s inspiring career in supporting the un(under)-employed find productive jobs - The three simple lessons she has learned in trying to launch and get buy-in for new initiatives - The importance of what Virginia calls “good process” and why that trumps “best practice” - How human-centered design has had an impact on workforce innovation Our thanks to volunteer sound engineer: Wu Shan See more about Virginia Hamilton, and her work, visit our blog http://plusacumen.org/blog/on-leading-change-three-simple-lessons-on-innovation-from-government You can also hear our previous episode here https://soundcloud.com/onleadingchange/how-are-you-making-your-customers-feel-beautiful Know someone you think we should be interviewing? Suggest it here: https://docs.google.com/forms/d/1tD-dpCVwIRFgXTJuA2-ogg2eXdukndTd1gFfQDn1pY8/edit

How Are You Making Your Customers Feel Beautiful?  

Diana Sierra is the co-founder and CEO of Be Girl, a social enterprise currently focused on helping girls, especially those who live in low-income communities, get access to the proper products with which to manage their menstrual hygiene. You can learn more at http://plusacumen.org/blog/on-leading-change-how-are-you-making-your-customers-feel-beautiful “This conversation goes way beyond pads or panties. It’s about changing consumer behavior through design.” When it comes to designing solutions for the poor, many people are quick to emphasize the need for it to be practical, affordable and accessible. However, how many of us stop to figure out a solution that makes the people we are trying to serve feel beautiful as well? If we did that, how might it change about the way the poor see themselves, and the way others view them? Diana passionately believes that just because she designed something for end-users in Africa doesn’t mean that she has to compromise on aesthetics or quality. She recognizes that, rich or poor, we have a shared desire to be seen and that we are really not too different from each other. “We create products for womankind. So the same quality product that you’re planning to deploy for Africa is the same quality product you can get here in the U.S.” “The fact that somebody’s income is low…doesn’t mean that their aspirations are low, or what they expect from their products are low. Everybody can be shooting for the stars regardless of the amount of money that they have in their pockets.” We chatted prior to Diana’s whirlwind trip to Kenya, Tanzania, Uganda and Nigeria to begin testing commercial sales of her products. You can find find Be Girl’s products here and learn more about their “true get one, give one” program here. We wish her all the best. Diana and I covered a lot more ground in our Skype conversation. Listen to it in full below and learn more about: How Diana transitioned from being an industrial designer to starting a social enterprise What Diana learned as she iterated on her initial prototype (which was made from umbrellas and mosquito netting) Be Girl’s hybrid business model and how she has thought through the criticisms of the buy-one-give-one model Diana’s advice for aspiring social entrepreneurs

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