Reprinted by permission of the publisher, John Wiley & Sons, Inc., from Do More Than Give: The Six Practices of Donors Who Change the World by Leslie Crutchfield, John V. Kania and Mark R. Kramer. Copyright (c) 2011 by John Wiley & Sons, Inc. All rights reserved.
GMF proposed a solution: ''We asked, what would it take foryou guys to get on
the same page?'' said Bill Graustein. And thenGMF offered to keep bringing the groups together to hammerout a unified agenda for reform. GMF contributed the funds,the meeting space, and staff sweat equity. Soon the ConnecticutEarly Childhood Alliance was born. With substantial effort by itsnonprofit members and other key stakeholders, formation of theAlliance led to the organizations finally working in alignment.The group members collectively became a major influence inestablishing the Connecticut state legislature's priorities for earlychildhood development. Solving adaptive challenges requires work that can be doneonly by those who are involved directly with the issue. Changetypically calls for a switch in behavior, beliefs, or values on the partof those with an interest in the problem, and this type of changecan't be imposed by parties outside the issue. Catalytic donorscommitted to achieving adaptive change need to provoke debate,encourage new thinking, and advance learning by and among keystakeholders. They need to mobilize the parties to work towarda solution, rather than imposing one. It's all about creating theconditions for change to happen. The authors of Switch refer to this process as ''shaping thepath.'' One way to shape the path is to tweak the environmentfor people. See if you can ''make the journey easier. Createa steep downhill slope and give them a push. Remove somefriction from the trail.'' Graustein and Nee understood this asthey engaged local collaborative efforts in Connecticut. Part ofGMF's message to communities was to do the opposite of whatpeople making plans for new resources typically do. Says DavidNee, ''We suggested to people that they not try to come up withbig ideas that would cost big money. But instead look for lowcostways to improve early childhood outcomes. This way they'ddevelop programs that could actually get implemented. We didn'tsuggest how they should do that, but we wanted them to thinkabout it.'' The city of New Britain was one of the Connecticut communitiesGMF began working with. Taking GMF's advice, NewBritain came up with an innovative solution GMF never couldhave figured out for them. The solution came from an unusualsource--someone who had never before been invited to theearly childhood dialogue--the head of pediatrics at New Britain'slargest hospital. This physician proposed that pediatricians in thecommunity begin doing developmental assessments of childrenfrom newborns to age three to help determine children's individualneeds. The kicker in the idea was that these developmentalassessments would be reimbursed by insurance. Excited by thepower of the idea, the pediatrics head became a champion amonghis colleagues for performing developmental assessments acrossthe community--leading to improved, quality attention to earlychildhood outcomes at no additional cost to the city of NewBritain.