This post is part of our Behind the Scenes @PCYI_Org series. This series gives us an opportunity to share news about the various projects we’re working on, but it’s also a chance for you to learn more about us and to ask questions and make suggestions to help improve the quality of our work. Today our post is courtesy of our Executive Director, Graham.
Well, it was certainly nice to take some time off over the holidays. I was able to completely disconnect from the office, my wretched BlackBerry and I’m feeling recharged and ready to go…. Good thing too, as we have some serious work to get done in the next few months.
Monday we met first thing with Recreation and IT folks from Mississauga and Brampton to talk about an app that will make accessing recreational opportunities easier for children, youth and their parents. Microsoft approached us a number of months ago and offered to support this work for free as part of its community contribution and they have already invested quite a bit of volunteer time into the project.
This sort of meeting, where PCYI tries to introduce a new and collaborative way of doing business, is a perfect illustration of the challenge that comes with an outfit like ours. We have good evidence from our research that finding out what activities are available and accessible is an ongoing problem for youth and their parents and an opportunity to try a new technology to remedy that problem.
Explaining the context of our work – and our interest in improving outcomes for children and youth – is really important and, not surprisingly, a bit confusing for others.
PCYI is, at the heart of it, a ‘change agent’ but we are without many (or any) of the tools required to create an incentive or reward for participation. For that reason we need to continually focus on the end game or outcomes that might be realized by doing business in a new way and the strength of the concept or idea we are putting forward. Above all, we need to recognize that organizations have their own priorities and need to demonstrate how a different approach would be complementary – not another competing priority. We need to be sensitive to how much we are asking of others and we are not naive – no one has extra resources lying around! At the same time, it’s really critical that we are seen as ‘friends’ and likeable, intelligent folks, not adversaries.
The primary challenge of introducing any change to practices or policies from the ‘outside’ is something I continue to learn over and over. No matter how well intended, the introduction of a new way of doing business almost automatically seems to imply that the work that has gone on previously is in some way inadequate – which is never the case. At the same time you have to address the old adage “nothing so preciously guarded as that which is laboriously learned” and understand people have put their heart and soul into doing the best job they could. The only way to advance change – and you really can’t do it enough – is to be clear about one thing: all the previous work and effort was indeed successful and has become a great platform that will allow us to try new and potentially more effective ways of doing business.
Graham Clyne is a national leader in the non-profit sector, published author in the areas of research and economic evaluation, well-respected public speaker and moderator, and Executive Director for Peel Children & Youth Initiative. He has also been awarded the Peter F. Drucker Award for Non-Profit Innovation. He became part of PCYI in 2010 after having worked with a number of other non-profit organizations across Canada, including The Calgary Children’s Initiative, The Prevention Dividend Project: Foundation for Learning, and United Way: London & Middlesex. Graham is a proud dad and grandpa and you can follow him on Twitter here!