Friday, May 6, 2011

An emerging theory of change

Organizational Dynamics, a course I teach at HUC includes the concept of "A Theory of Change."

A definition:

Theory of Change defines all the building blocks required to bring about a long-term goal. ‘Like any good planning and evaluation method for social change, it requires participants to be clear on long-term goals, identify measurable indicators of success, and formulate actions to achieve goals.’

Many people use it interchangeably with the term “logic model” but it differs from logic models because it requires stakeholders to articulate underlying assumptions which can be tested and measured, and because shows a causal pathway from here to there by specifying what is needed for goals to be achieved.

The theory of change I've worked with the last dozen years plus or minus a gray hair goes something like this..

Our ultimate goal:

create Jewish learning that makes a positive difference in the lives of learners.

To do that we need:

  • more than the classroom only model (we assume Jewish/human wholeness comes from more than knowledge and we assume the family, lived experience, meaning making etc is needed).
For a congregation to replace the classroom model they need:
  • a collaborative team of professionals and lay leaders
  • they need to create a worthy vision that then directs action
  • they need to pilot first steps of a new model toward that vision
  • reflections, experimentation will help the team know what to try next
  • good engaging program will open more people to wanting to be part of the new model
  • regular communication in the system - a necessity
We assumed all this to be true. Leaders were key, their power and their imagination would make the change. A best product that met peoples needs would expand the call for more. We assumed top leadership had to be the primary engine to lead the change.

Okay, in some congregations this theory makes sense and is working.

The congregations we worked with over the last decade had the power of a leadership team to establish the urgency for change, and the reality of innovation. Change in those days meant "add a few more family ed events." These top leaders over the last decade used their powers to create proof texts that more than a few family education events were needed and possible.
the market has changed.
Congregations are more open and eager for real innovation ( are we getting to the tipping point we've been looking for?)
Today we see a congregations that don't naturally work in a Task Force kind of way with a patience for process. If you haven't noticed, the New York minute has been replaced by the NY 1/4 minute.

Today innovations are out there. They don't need to be created.

We know the top seven models of if " not classroom only" that have emerged.
Possibly seven more will be invented, but for now, the top seven are enough to shake the trees. The proof texts and the floor plans for how to build t hem have already been created.

Because the marketplace is different, because a decade of trying out things for the first time have produced a body of knowledge in how to create high impact models,
The Jewish Education Project. with our partners the Experiment in Congregational Education and the Leadership Institute,are launching a method of innovation built on a very different theory of change.

The product is called: Express Innovation
(Express meaning fast and express meaning demonstrate).

It is based on a new theory.

Here is the new theory of change.

Our ultimate goal:

create Jewish learning that makes a positive difference in the lives of learners.

To do that we need:

  • more than the classroom only model (we assume Jewish wholeness comes from more than knowledge and we assume the family, lived experience, meaning making etc. is needed)
For a congregation to replace the classroom only model they need:

  • Facts on the ground: Implement (aligned to their values and best moments) a high impact model
  • Data: Demonstrate the positive difference a new model makes in the lives of learners.
  • Social capital: be present for the stories, the dreams and the relationships of the connected ready people in the community. This is the highway to the new model.
  • Communication: two ongoing communication will build the buzz and ownership of what is being created.
Facts on the ground-quick implementation:
We assume that instead of thinking through and processing a vision...just na'ashe vnishma it.
Do it and then reflection on it is going to build the belief that a new model is worthy.

Fifteen years ago, when we were introducing family in our congregation,
One parent got up and said, "My father didn't come with me, so why do I have to go."

Another parent said, "this is the for the children I don't have time for this."

A psychiatrist, Eve, came to the rabbi and I after that dreadful meeting and said, "Just do it." We did. Good results. The naysayers became highly engaged.

For me this experience gave me "The chocolate ice cream principle." Like ice cream, you look at it, you say it is fattening, high in cholesterol and you criticize. Once you experience it, you say "mmm give me more."

Data: We assume that decision makers need bottom line evidence. It is hard to make strategic bold decisions on anecdotes. Data is going to bolster governance in making a shift.
Data can be compelling to parents. "I want my child to be part of the thing that makes a difference."

Social capital/social network: We assume that relationships relationships relationships is powerful. I'm reading "Social Network Theory and Educational Change." Great and a bit complicated book that says that shows how friendships, relationships and the personal story are a force that can blow over old models.

Communication: We assume that communication is vital and needs to be two way. Dialogical is the key. If we communicate out the data, the success, the relationships, then leadership will own this new model and get behind it with enough force to make the needed change (the difference is they don't have to shape it, process it). Leadership sees success and then brings their power to the system.

Listening from the connector people, the people who have tasted the future will shape next steps.

New theory?
not really.
Everything I've said has been said before.
Putting it together in a new way..
I think so.

Express Innovation, built on this emerging theory of change, is being launched this summer as a new approach to creating innovation.

Wish us luck. We are so excited and so are the many congregations in New York who said,
"Count me in. We are ready."