As a Family interested in systemic change, we sometimes fail by not studying, planning, charting and measuring our projects so that they can be proved as valuable… and replicated well. But even when we do receive a well executed project, when it’s time to replicate the project elsewhere we sometimes don’t take the time to learn it well. We cut corners saying, “The poor need this now!” Studying the data is essential.
Kevin Starr and Greg Coussa say everyone is rushing to get their project up and running as fast as possible: “Even the big international NGOs—the BINGOs—are getting in on the action with a wave of innovation labs and rejiggered mission statements. Whee!” (SNGOs = Small NGOs — the majority of our situations.)
To attack an empty whiteboard with a fistful of markers is to experience the dawn of creation, and a wall festooned with Post-Its pretty much guarantees a break-though. Rapid prototyping sounds cool even if you don’t know what it is, and who wouldn’t want to be the subject of a breathless article in Fast Company? Someday, if you play your cards just right, you could even be summoned to the TED stage. Wow!
In a conference to the Daughters of Charity, St. Vincent warned us about running ahead of Divine Providence:
Planning is good when it is submissive to God, but it goes to excess when we are eager to avoid whatever we fear; when we trust more in our precautions than in God’s Providence. Planning goes to excess when we hope to accomplish much while anticipating His orders with our disorder which causes us to adhere to human prudence rather than the Word of God (CCD 12:122)
And although he was more concerned that we be submissive to the will of God when he counseled this, we can be sure that he also wanted us to take enough time to let God reveal to us what would be most effective for Hi beloved poor ones.
Replicability is possible only with a well-planned, well-considered, well-measured and well-documented effort. When we come upon or a good idea or process and move to build our own, care is necessary that we understand what we are implementing.
Here’s the thing, though: High-fidelity replication is hard. You have to do everything as well as the innovators did. You can’t leave stuff out, make arbitrary changes to methods and procedures, or cut corners just because you didn’t raise enough money. If you do it wrong, it may not work at all. Replication is both a science and a high art: You must be committed to and obsessive about the details.
Starr and Coussa’s article at the Stanford Social Innovation Review is a must read.
Are you going to replicate a succesful project for systemic change? Is it
- well-measured and
Have you studied the project thoroughly? Then, and only then, is it time to replicate.