Living and Giving

Did Gandhi Have a Business Plan?

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As ever, the discussions on Social Edge continue to be fascinating and enlightening.  I\’ve been following another wonderful discussion moderated by Charles \”Hipbone\” Cameron, on the subject of \”The Theory of Change.\”  Here\’s an excerpt:

We all have a whole boatload of different theories of change: change happens when the heart is deeply moved (people feel the injustice of racism) or when law demands it (Lyndon B. Johnson signs the Civil Rights Act in 1964), change happens better when you are seduced into it than when you are threatened into it, or vice versa, there are views that say it takes a hero (Martin Luther King) or that heroes are irrelevant (the tides of history theory) — dozens of opinions and points of view.

And then there is The Theory of Change.
The Theory of Change is a methodology, designed to create the kind of change social entrepreneurs are interested in. It involves:
•    Identifying long-term goals and the assumptions behind them
•    Backwards mapping and connecting the preconditions or requirements necessary to achieve that goal.
•    Identifying the interventions that your initiative will perform to create your desired change.
•    Developing indicators to measure your outcomes to assess the performance of your initiative.
•    Writing a narrative to explain the logic of your initiative.

I\’d like to share my thoughts on how planning and communication contribute to change.  And on what we can learn from Gandhi too!

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Dear Hipbone, A fascinating discussion, and I appreciate your nuance on language and communication, ever important.  I was struck by this statement:

\”If you know what you want to achieve –if you can clearly imagine and describe your wished-for end state, The Theory of Change will allow you to work your way backwards, seeing at each stage what needs to be accomplished so the next step can be begun….\”

There are two items needed here: 1) Effective Planning and 2 )Effective Communication. That word \”effective\” needs be determined by the particular organization, culture, team who is operating the plan and communication.

I would say this for simplicity\’s sake. I am not sure how the above, helpful statement of Theory of Change is any different than:

\”If you know what you want to achieve, research and write your business plan, state the case for market need, address how you will solve it. Then create an Ops Plan/Operations Plan to support how you will go about achieving this vision.\”

Sometimes I wonder if we focus on creating new language.  I do not believe it matters if the structure of it is forprofit, nonprofit, government, church, PTA.  And let\’s take it further to an \’initiative\’ level: The same rule in planning and communications goes for helping your kid\’s soccer team create more marketing awareness, figuring out the best sales strategy and resulting impact of saturating your neighborhood with girl scout cookie sales and determining how you are going to change your lifestyle and achieve a healthier state of body and mind.   And to shake up our minds a bit further — how a country determines its best strategy to defend against terrorism or to use student involvement instigating peaceful demonstrations which oust a dictatorship.

Any good action, initiative, organization designed to change society and change thinking, would merit some type of planning and communication for optimum effectiveness.   I would like to believe that, and, I think that the process itself is so helpful for team members to see, create and understand priorities as they create this plan together.  It opens up our minds to the best execution possible. That\’s my hope. It\’s not just the theory or the plan. And it\’s not just the communication.

So here\’s my final wrench I am throwing in: I have a very successful funder who built a $100 million accounting firm. \”I don\’t believe in plans, Pamela,\” he told me.  \”I just focused on listening and serving my customers. To this day, that\’s what I do every day: Call dozens of customers.\”

I have to ask myself, too: Did Gandhi have a plan?  I read his biography.  He had a structure. He had a vision.  He had a plan, but I am not sure a written plan.  We\’d do well to learn from his movement as well: He focused on people. He focused on communication.  He focused on a movement for change.

A good lesson for us all, I would think. 🙂  I very much look forward to people\’s feedback.

Thank you again, Hipbone, for successfully guiding us through a most interesting discussion!

Warmly, Pamela