Five Tips for Cultivating Change

As an organization goes through the change and growth process, is it wise to rigidly stick to the plan as it is? Or is it better to be vigilant, remaining open and adjusting based on feedback and changes in the environment? Here is how my client, a philanthropic foundation, successfully adapted as the COVID-19 pandemic hit and brought our carefully prepared plan crashing down. 

The foundation had made significant investments in various youth development organizations to enhance social and emotional learning skills among youth across the United States. Our Preparation work with them had laid the groundwork by creating a comprehensive strategy to foster learning, collaboration, and partnership among key delegates from these organizations.

The plan was put into action as we moved into CULTIVATING. This process involved continuous adjustment based on the group’s responses. Using their feedback, we adjusted the format from one annual in-person meeting to two annual meetings. These adaptations were well received, and we were optimistic about proceeding with this “continual improvement” approach.

However, the year 2020 brought unforeseen challenges that had a profound impact on the program. Like everyone else, the COVID-19  pandemic forced us to adapt quickly and find innovative solutions to ensure the program’s goals could still be achieved.

In light of these circumstances, we devised alternative ways to deliver the desired outcomes. This involved exploring virtual platforms and technology to facilitate remote collaboration, organizing online events and gatherings, and leveraging digital resources to provide support and share knowledge. 

These are the 3 moves that helped us through the process:

Implement: Carrying out planned activities, involving the right people at the right time.

The plan that was put into place for Years 1 & 2:

  • We created 5 peer groups across the organizations and planned for one gathering a year bringing them all together for a large, in-person event. 
  • In parallel, each of the 5 peer groups would have an in-person meeting during the course of the year.  

We received feedback that this structure wasn’t meeting the peer groups’ needs, and that being together as a big group was more beneficial to them. Taking this on board, we then moved to:

Iterate: Paying attention to how your environment responds to these activities and the progress being made, and adjusting as necessary.

  • Going into Year 3, we changed the model and adjusted it to create 2 big events in-person facilitated gatherings each year. 
  • We dropped the smaller meetings for each of the peer groups, at the client’s request. 

This was well received by all parties, and we intended to carry the same structure forward to Year 4, which brought us to 2020. This would also mark the closing of the program, and the plan was for the big finale to take place in San Francisco in August 2020. We even went as far as paying the non-refundable deposit for the hotel! However this was not to be. What we thought would be a three-week hiatus turned out to be the global pandemic. Realizing that it would now be impossible to meet in person, we had to think fast. 

Innovate: Anticipating that not everything that was planned will work, and being ready to develop novel approaches and solutions. 

  • By checking with key people across the peer groups, we got feedback about the subjects they would find most useful.
  • Based on this, we hosted a series of 6 virtual gatherings from June to December. 
  • Due to the virtual nature of these gatherings, we were able to extend invitations to more people in the organizations so there was greater participation. 
  • And we were able to host a (virtual) celebration to wrap up the program in the final gathering. 

By taking these 3 steps, the foundation  ensured that the program was impactful, and was closed in a meaningful way despite the difficult circumstances at the time. 

Until next time,

Practical Tips To Cultivate Change


Other real-life examples:

This approach to cultivating change is similar to how I have supported other clients:

  • Expanding the audience for the change initiative once feedback from a pilot program identified a larger appetite for change amongst stakeholders.
  • Adjusting the focus of a staff training program at the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic to develop skills for collaborating remotely.
  • Revising the approach to stakeholder engagement once the project launched in response to their feedback.
  • Developing a new way of supporting executive leaders when the planned approach failed to get their support.

If you’d like help cultivating change, please drop me a line and we’ll set up a meeting to see how Randel Consulting Associates can help.

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