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Daily Nuggets: A For Impact Blog

Long-term Vision and Near-term Vision

Vision is simply a clear picture of the future toward which you are striving.

Most organizations benefit from having a long-term vision, and a near-term vision.

Your long-term vision is often time-independent. Example: Ending Cancer.

Vision, in this sense, is more like a ‘higher cause worth pursuing.’ We call it vision, but we can’t always see exactly how to get there.

In these instances, we benefit from a near-term vision that will maximize the contribution and engagement of others. This is usually time-dependent and tied to an achievable goal.

Example: “By 2020 we want to make sure we have a national registry for xyz cancer trials. This will be an important milestone toward ending cancer.”

I’m sure we could simply reframe these visions as ’cause’ and ‘goal,’ but thinking of them as a long-term vision and a near-term vision helps to frame them in a way that is usually more visceral and engaging, because we’re focusing on the ‘clear picture.’

The Role and Context of the Engagement Tool (3min video)

This 3-minute video illustrates the context and role of the Engagement Tool.

Most organizations do not have true sales tools that can be used to engage with a prospect 1:1 and make an ask. They have other things… like a marketing brochure, pitch deck, or case-for-support.

Functionally, what will you USE to help you make an ask? (Answer: An Engagement Tool!)

A great engagement tool follows the WORK to get CLARITY around WHAT you’re doing and WHY.

Role and Context for The Engagement Tool from For Impact / The Suddes Group on Vimeo.

Download Illustration.
Download Sample Engagement Tool. Here is another Sample Engagement Tool: It’s about zombies.
See more on Engagement Tools.

Storytelling – The Basis for Human Progress.

I was turned on to Yuval Noah Harari’s Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind after reading a book review from Bill Gates. (I won’t try to ‘one-up’ a book summary by Bill Gates, so just read his.)

Harari walks through the rise of the homo sapien and argues that a ‘cognitive revolution’ is what allowed our species to really win out over other species.

Specifically, it was the ability to develop and transfer abstract concepts (Note: Harari calls these abstract concepts: fiction and story). Without an abstract concept, we would not have the concept of religion… or the rule of law. Without these abstract moral codes, our rival species did not assemble or cooperate in large groups. It required the idea of ‘something greater’ to develop cohesion and community in groups greater than about 150 individuals.

How did Homo sapiens manage to cross this critical threshold, eventually founding cities comprising tens of thousands of inhabitants and empires ruling hundreds of millions? The secret was probably the appearance of fiction. Large numbers of strangers can cooperate successfully by believing in common myths.

Any large-scale human cooperation – whether a modern state, a medieval church, an ancient city or an archaic tribe – is rooted in common myths that exist only in people’s collective imagination. Churches are rooted in common religious myths. Two Catholics who have never met can nevertheless go together on crusade or pool funds to build a hospital because they both believe that God was incarnated in human flesh and allowed Himself to be crucified to redeem our sins. States are rooted in common national myths. Two Serbs who have never met might risk their lives to save one another because both believe in the existence of the Serbian nation, the Serbian homeland and the Serbian flag. Judicial systems are rooted in common legal myths. Two lawyers who have never met can nevertheless combine efforts to defend a complete stranger because they both believe in the existence of laws, justice, human rights – and the money paid out in fees.

Yet none of these things exists outside the stories that people invent and tell one another. There are no gods in the universe, no nations, no money, no human rights, no laws, and no justice outside the common imagination of human beings.

People easily understand that ‘primitives’ cement their social order by believing in ghosts and spirits, and gathering each full moon to dance together around the campfire. What we fail to appreciate is that our modern institutions function on exactly the same basis. Take for example the world of business corporations. Modern business-people and lawyers are, in fact, powerful sorcerers. The principal difference between them and tribal shamans is that modern lawyers tell far stranger tales.

Here is the very powerful insight that sticks with me. Harari writes:

Telling effective stories is not easy. The difficulty lies not in telling the story, but in convincing everyone else to believe it. Much of history revolves around this question: how does one convince millions of people to believe particular stories about gods, or nations, or limited liability companies? Yet when it succeeds, it gives Sapiens immense power, because it enables millions of strangers to cooperate and work towards common goals.

Innovators, leaders, and fundraisers are storytellers. We develop NEW stories. We’ve evolved to do this! And… “Telling effective stories is not easy. The difficulty lies not in telling the story, but in convincing everyone else to believe it.”

The task in front of us is not easy, yet — just as it always has — all progress of humanity depends upon it.

Audacious Philanthropy

Read the feature article in this month’s Harvard Business Review: Audacious Philanthropy. Lessons from 15 World-Changing Initiatives.

The Movements: The Anti-Apartheid Movement – Aravind Eye Hospital – Car Seats – CPR Training – The Fair Food Program – Hospice Care – Marriage Equality – Motorcycle Helmets in Vietnam – The National School Lunch Program – 911 Emergency Services – Oral Rehydration Solution – Polio Eradication – Public Libraries – Sesame Street – Tobacco Control.

It’s a ‘must read’ for social innovators, funders, and movement leaders!!!

Executive Summary:
Research revealed five elements that together constitute a framework for philanthropists pursuing large-scale, swing-for-the-fences change. Successful efforts:

  1. Build a shared understanding of the problem and its ecosystem
  2. Set “winnable milestones” and hone a compelling message
  3. Design approaches that will work at massive scale
  4. Drive (rather than assume) demand
  5. Embrace course corrections

The article walks through dozens of illustrations and case studies — and it’s in these individualized narratives that we find true gold. Here is one vignette about the power of reframing to advance the LGBTQ rights movement:

“Supportive philanthropists financed polling and focus groups to help movement leaders understand how to reframe the core message. The research revealed that many voters perceived the movement as driven primarily by same-sex couples’ desire for the government benefits and rights conferred by marriage—and they did not find that a gripping rationale. This insight was pivotal: The movement refocused its communications strategy on equality of love and commitment, arguing that “love is love”—a message that struck a chord. Victories piled up, culminating in the 2015 Supreme Court ruling that legalized same-sex marriage throughout the United States. And although limited in scope, the push for marriage equality advanced the broader LGBTQ rights agenda in ways that might not otherwise have been possible or that would have taken much longer.”

The Rise of Automation. Man’s Search for Meaning(ful) Work.

15% of The Suddes Group’s focus is in the form of coaching emerging social entrepreneurs. In that area, I will remember 2017 as the year we saw the rise of automation-for-social-impact. We’re encountering dozens of artificial intelligence start-ups for social good. It’s eerie. All of a sudden we’ve crossed some threshold where this ‘automation stuff’ is a commodity.

At the same time, the business conversations around meaning, purpose, and work are exploding. So we can SEE a future where there will be fewer jobs, AND we’re collectively searching for more meaning in the jobs we have.

This is what makes an article from America Magazine about meaningful work so timely. “Can Catholic Social Teaching Help Solve the Labor Crisis?” – August 21, 2017. (America is a bi-weekly Jesuit Catholic publication.)

I’ve shared this article dozens of times in the past two weeks. It captures the collision of these concepts. It also provides a moral argument for meaningful work.

In summary, the article walks through three big discussions:

  • Due to automation, jobs will continue to disappear.
  • Meaningful work is our purpose and inherent to human dignity.
  • We have a responsibility to do more than ‘make-work-jobs.’ We must think about how to create meaningful work. Work that “has a meaningful contribution to the common good.”

Selected highlights:

  • “The United States in this century has seen the most severe falloff in employment rates since before World War II.”
  • “For most working Americans, foreigners are not the main competition–machines are the ones gunning for jobs.”
  • “One study in 2013 found that 47 percent of Americans were at high risk of losing their jobs to automation in the foreseeable future.”
  • “Human beings were made for work…. the United States’s poor and marginalized yearn to be full participants in their own societies. As Catholics, with our rich body of social teachings, we need to stay engaged in the conversation, helping people find work that is meaningful. Of course that means encouraging job growth. But we may also need to reject some of the quickest and most obvious solutions to the employment problem, in the interests of realizing an economy built around service and the common good.”
  • “St. John Paul II reminds us that work is ‘a fundamental dimension of human existence on earth.’ In Genesis, God commands Adam and Eve to work, and responding to that command is our way of answering the divine call to ‘multiply and subdue the Earth.'”
  • “Work derives its objective significance from its meaningful contribution to the common good… this is a magical ingredient that can convert even a dreary task into something ennobling, humanizing and salutary for our souls.”
  • “Stimulating new markets is much more difficult than generating make-work jobs, but the former is much better if we want people to spend their lives engaged in meaningful activities… for those who truly need material assistance, it is better to subsidize directly than to distort the labor market.”

Engagement Tool Template for Social Entrepreneurs

I’m north of San Francisco this week spending time as a Mulago Foundation Faculty Member with the 2017 Mulago Foundation Rainer Arnhold Fellows.

I feel really lucky to have any association with this group. Hats off to Mulago for (literally) traveling the world in search of the most promising entrepreneurs. They’ve done a terrific job. Please take a moment to read about these amazing social entrepreneurs and the work they’re doing to end extreme poverty!

I’m helping each social entrepreneur craft his or her message and ‘ask.’ Here is the Social Entrepreneur Engagement Tool Template I’m using. (see: What is an Engagement Tool?) Our Altitude Framework guides how to process these components.

At 30,000′ (for social entrepreneurs) it’s powerful and simple to communicate the PROBLEM and then the SOLUTION. (Most entrepreneurs actually end up at 14,000′, geeking out about the platform, biz model, or the theory-of-change…)

Funders (or indeed ANYBODY else) are engaged FIRST and FULLY at the WHY level.

From here, notice the template has two versions (front/back). The funding presentation goal at 14,000′ is to help a funder understand WHAT you do and WHERE the money goes. In other words, what’s the RATIONALE for funds? What will be the IMPACT that will be achieved?

The coaching goal at 14,000′ is to help the entrepreneur SIMPLIFY the WHAT… and then communicate the resulting (and quantifiable) IMPACT.

Finally, at 3′, there are two ways to think about working toward the ASK.

Again, most entrepreneurs default to working on the model (at 14,000′). This framework helps them to communicate FIRST at the WHY level. Then it SIMPLIFIES the WHAT. And, CLARIFIES the ASK.

Social Innovation by Analogy

Building on yesterday’s post about analogy, it occurs to me there are two types of analogy: Recycled Analogy and Innovative Analogy.

It’s often said that innovation is nothing more than putting together existing concepts in a new way.

Here are some more nuggets from the book Shortcut to illustrate innovation and Innovative Analogy:

Steve Jobs once told Wired magazine that “when you ask creative people how they did something, they feel a little guilty because they didn’t really do it, they just saw something. It seemed obvious to them after a while. That’s because they were able to connect experiences they’ve had and synthesize new things.

And, here is a story about how Steve Jobs came up with the (innovative) analogy of the computer as a ‘bicycle for the mind’.

In a talk that showed the same grand vision but little of the polish that the world would later come to expect of him, Jobs stood behind a lectern and told of “the best analogy I’ve ever heard.” He cited a study reported in Scientific American that calculated the locomotive efficiency of various animals—from fish to mammals to birds—to determine which could travel from A to B with the least expenditure of energy.

The condor won. The condor took the least amount of energy to get from here to there,” Jobs told the audience. “And man didn’t do so well; he came in with a rather unimpressive showing about a third of the way down the list. But fortunately, someone at Scientific American was insightful enough to test man with a bicycle. And man with a bicycle won—twice as good as the condor. All the way off the list. And what it showed was that man as a toolmaker has the ability to make a tool to amplify an inherent ability that he has. And that’s exactly what we are doing here [at Apple]. It’s exactly what we’re doing here.”

As Jobs described it, Apple was building a “bicycle for the mind”—a tool that could take people’s minds anywhere they could possibly imagine and multiply its power.

Recycled analogies are useful. They provide mental shortcuts and need little explanation. Examples:

  • We’re going to be the Uber of ____
  • This is going to be the Mecca of ___
  • Innovative Analogies are original (imported) concepts. Steve Jobs applied a concept from study in Scientific America! Innovative Analogies might take a little explaining, but they create a new (visionary) frame for the audience.

    I’m starting to think about Innovative Analogy and how it has played out in the social sector. I’m cataloging examples to share in a later post (at which point they will be ‘recycled’). If you have any example, email me.

Creating analogy is one of the most important skillsets in the world.

Humans are unique in that we can we can have an innate ability (and urge) to infer abstract patterns (a.k.a. concepts) and move them from one domain and apply them to another. We do this through analogy.

This ability to gives rise to language, communication, and learning.

Analogies are also at the root of strong sales and leadership. Steve Jobs described the first Mac as a bicycle for the mind. Eisenhower framed the Vietnam conflict in terms of a ‘domino theory.’ The first locomotive was framed as an ‘iron horse.’

We advance concepts by building on existing concepts.

So when was the last time you remember making a study of analogy? Shouldn’t we be studying it constantly?

Start with this book: Shortcut: How Analogies Reveal Connections, Spark Innovation, and Sell Our Greatest Ideas. I’ve read some 50 books on analogies and metaphor. There are more comprehensive reads, but Shortcut offers a digestible and effective 101 for everyone.

I’m adding it to the required reading list for For Impact leaders.

NB: When we’re helping an organization build a funding message, we include a step in the process to construct analogy. I believe this needs to be a part of every strategic planning, leadership framing, and ‘sales prep’ process.

Kernel and Context

These are two words we use to frame the presentation.

What’s the kernel of the presentation?

You can think of this as CLEARLY answering these questions:

  • Toward what end? What are you really trying to do? What’s the vision?
  • How will you do that? Where does (or will) the money go?
  • What is the plan to get there and how can I (the prospect) help?


If you were to simply make these points your presentation might feel empty.

Step two is THEN to backfill with CONTEXT… these are key storylines that bring the color, emotion, magic to the presentation.

Examples of contextual storylines:

  • Founder’s Story.
  • Timeline.
  • Impact Statistics.
  • If the kernel builds the LOGIC, the context builds the MAGIC.

    It’s worth noting that this is the same structure used in a sports broadcast. There is play-by-play, followed by color-commentary (and in that order!). We value the first part for the clarity and the second part for the context.

    Use this two frames to help you think clearly about your message or funding presentation.

The Three Pillars of the Funding Experience

“Message is what people hear, it’s not what people say.” – Frank Luntz

Going further with this idea, we (at For Impact) would say ENGAGEMENT results from what people EXPERIENCE; it’s not just what people HEAR.

As it relates to sales (or really any type of engagement), clearly we need to think about more than message. We need to conceptualize the TOTAL EXPERIENCE: MESSAGE, APPROACH, and CONTEXT.

Let’s think about the EXPERIENCE of the ASK.

  • Message: It needs to be simple. You need a strong story and a clear funding rationale.
  • Approach: Your results will depend on whether your are delivering this ‘message’ to a room full of people — or to another individual one-on-one. Engagement will be 10X higher if you visit one-on-one! Moreover, if you really home in on the SCIENCE of ENGAGEMENT (dialogue, use of visuals, listening, etc.), we know that engagement can be 30X higher than if you delivered the message to an audience from a stage.
  • Context: Any comedian will tell you CONTEXT IS CRITICAL. This is why they do warm-up acts (PREDISPOSITION). WHERE you do the ask matters. As does WHO is doing the ask. SNL Creator Lorne Michaels famously coaches new cast members: The Beatles had to play Love Me Do before they created The White Album. A veteran SNL rock star has more audience leeway with message (jokes) and approach (skits) than a newbie.Conventional wisdom often says a board member should be the person to ‘make the ask.’ We don’t think that’s true!!! What’s (universally) true is that context matters, and that the leadership needs to be represented as part of the ask process.

    Conventional wisdom is weak in terms of message and approach, and so it tries to overcompensate by putting the responsibility for engagement on the shoulders of the board member.

If you’re struggling with commitments — a form of ENGAGEMENT — think about where you can improve in these three areas of the experience: message, approach and context.

If you still need help, speak to one of our coaches (reply to this email). We offer a select number of (free) coaching calls for alumni and readers of the WOW emails each month. This is our method of impacting the sector and building relationships through the WOW readership.