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APPENDIX A: THE 21
ST CENTURY MODEL TO ADDRESS POVERTY PROJECT

 May 2005 Appendix A 1

      In November 2003, Clarence Carter (then Director of the Office of Community Services) initiated a two-year project to develop and frame a theoretical construct upon which new ways of thinking about and addressing poverty could be built and that could be used to help launch a long-term social change movement. As the project leader, Mr. Carter initiated the work with a strongly held, but complex and unrefined vision for a fundamentally different approach to poverty. The project was designed to harness the components of that vision, enhance it with research and the participation of others, and give it the form and structure necessary for it to serve as the basis for change.

Mr. Carter brought in a team of external resources with multiple areas of expertise, including organization, community, and workforce development, as well as human services, sociology, communications, and technology. The organization and workforce development component of the team served as the strategic and project management arm of the operation, serving as a central hub for strategy and coordination of all of the components of the project. The sociology, community development, and technology team members served as subject-matter-experts, who offered subject-specific guidance for a number of project activities, including its overall direction, the development of the working sessions, the implementation of further research, and as expert reviewers of the research products associated with the project.

         Because changing the way the country thinks about and addresses poverty is a long-term goal, the project got underway with the understanding that realizing that goal would obviously not occur over the life of a short-term project. With that in mind, the initiative was designed to establish a foundation upon which future strategies could be built and to give the issues of poverty structure and form so that the people and organizations that make up society—the people who can collectively make a difference—could create systemic and comprehensive strategies toward a future built upon the construct. The extent to which the project accomplished that goal is at least partially attributed to a shared understanding between the project leader and the project team that, since they were navigating “uncharted territory,” their work together was a learning and discovery process. This understanding, combined with the absence of an organizational hierarchy, contributed to a spirit of adventure, openness, collaboration, deference, and creativity. The project is described in more detail in the sections that follow.

Project Philosophy

      A few key philosophical tenets thread through the work of the project, and were held as truths in the development of the construct and related project activities. These tenets are: 

·                          The best place to address poverty is in the community. The community is the entity just small enough to know its own circumstances, people, issues, and resources and to have the ability to impact all of them. It is also the entity that is most directly affected by its own issues of poverty, and therefore has the most stake in addressing it and in creating its own desired future. On the other hand, the community also just large enough an entity to have formal and informal leadership that can gather and deploy resources toward those circumstances and can influence policy at the local, state, and Federal level.

·                          Supporting communities in addressing their own issues of poverty means providing enabling conditions, not prescribing them. No Federal or other outside entity can know what supports, strategies, or solutions any particular community needs to address its issues of poverty. Therefore, strategies must support, enable, and empower communities to address issues of poverty locally in ways that make sense for their unique circumstances. Doing so also creates appropriate ownership and commitment within communities in its own well-being.

·                          No one entity, political party, sector, organization, program, funding stream, or service delivery strategy can claim blame for the nation’s issues of poverty or fame for successfully addressing it. Responsibility for the current and future poverty situation is shared by every sector of society—it is a systemic issue. In addition, the speed at which societal, economic, cultural, and technological change occurs renders any solution obsolete in short order, no matter how appropriate it might have been at the time of implementation. Therefore, defending turf, past programs, or strategies is not necessary and should be discouraged in any activity associated with the project.

·                          No matter how big an undertaking the reconstruction of the nation’s approach to poverty is, or what form or shape it ultimately takes, its impact must reach the individual. We must strive to develop systems, structures, and strategies in which resources and capacity do not stop at the door of the system, but rather, reach the individual and make a difference in their life.

Approach and Activities

  The project in general was approached iteratively, with multiple activities in various stages of development occurring concurrently. This iterative approach meant that for most of the year-long project, none of its components was fully developed. The positive side of that scenario is that the concurrent evolution and learning from the development of each activity or component informed the others, which resulted in a natural alignment in the end. The challenge in that scenario is that the complete picture was not known until late in the game, when all of the components naturally came together to form a coherent whole. The resulting ambiguity was considered a necessary evil by the project staff. As mentioned previously, the spirit of discovery and learning and the absence of a formal hierarchy was key for the ultimate success in building the construct in its current form. Given the project’s iterative nature described above, the activities described below are provided in relative sequential order.

Identification of Topical Lenses

Poverty is obviously an enormous and complex topic, with many tendrils ranging from the conditions, causes, and impacts of poverty to the difficulties we as a society have in openly discussing it. The challenge in starting a national dialog about changing the way the country thinks about and addresses poverty is that the discussion can’t start ‘everywhere’ at once—there is simply too much there. At the same time, starting with a manageable subset of topics related to poverty will always seem incomplete. Understanding that the former is impossible and the latter is insufficient, the latter was chosen as a starting point. Five subtopics were chosen and used as “lenses” through which to view issues of poverty and the country’s approach to addressing it. These lenses served as areas of inquiry for the research activities (see “Development of Research Strategy and Products”), as topical themes for the initial working sessions (see “Working Sessions”), or as a thread running throughout all project activities. The five topical lenses are described below.

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Redefining Poverty—This lens was and can be used in the future to explore definitions of poverty for the purposes of expanding our thinking to encompass a broader set of elements that more accurately describe conditions of impoverishment. Since definitions lead to strategies, it suggests that if we are interested in changing the way we address poverty, then we must change the way we define it.

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Community-Based Solutions—This lens was and can be used in the future to explore ways to support, enable, and empower all communities to address issues of poverty locally in ways that make sense for their unique circumstances.

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Family Economic Security—This lens was and can be used in the future to explore key areas that impact families’ economic security, such as basic income (including work supports), acquisition and growth of assets, mainstream goods and services, and public policy.

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Maximizing Technology—This lens was and can be used in the future to explore ways that technology can be used to more significantly impact individual and community impoverishment.

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Leadership—This lens was and can be used in the future in two ways. One, as a thread throughout each area of inquiry to understand what leadership and leadership development work would be necessary to create and sustain the new approach envisioned through each lens. Second, as the development of a group of advisors/champions who can provide feedback and guidance on the construct and the strategies as they were developed, and serve as ‘communication ambassadors’ in their spheres of influence.

Identification and Selection of an Overarching Change Model

Any time people are faced with large, complex, systemic endeavors, the natural thing—and perhaps the only thing—we can do is to simplify it into manageable conceptual chunks. Once more manageable conceptual chunks exist, manageable operational chunks are easier to identify, develop, and sequence in a strategic way. The project team spent considerable time and energy gathering information and trying to make sense of the many components of Mr. Carter’s “vision.” In so doing, new components were brought to the surface and added to the emerging construct. At some point during this process, the first key conceptual simplification emerged.

As the project team learned more and more about the components of the initial vision during the early stages of its work, it became apparent that, although the topic was poverty, the project was fundamentally about change. Realizing this was key, because it meant that the initiative could draw upon a rich knowledge base of organizational and systems change in order to form a high-level framework for a long-term change effort (Fig. 1). The rationale was that if that knowledge base provided a framework for the fundamental characteristics of successful change, and the initiative mapped its approach and activities to that framework, then the journey into the unknown could at least be based on a known set of success factors. This discovery provided a sense of confidence that, despite the real uncertainty involved in exploring uncharted territory, the project could remain on track if its activities were mapped to this framework.  

Figure 1. Overarching change model used to map current and future strategies for creating the 21st Century Model to Address Poverty.

      While the framework of the overarching change model is useful in developing and organizing strategies to a common, proven framework, it does, however, oversimplify what is a complex, iterative, and messy process of change. No model, in its two dimensions, can represent a complex human/ systemic endeavor, and acknowledging that creating the 21st Century Model to Address Poverty will be neither linear (as the arrows suggest), nor clean (as the boxes suggest) was an important starting assumption.

Despite the limitations of the model, it can be used for both short- and long-term planning at least until another construct emerges as a better alternative. For now, the framework provides what is needed at this early stage of the work—an organizing principle upon which to plan current and future work (see overlapping timeframes represented in the graphic). A description of each of the model components is provided below; application of several of them within the project and construct can be seen throughout this blueprint:

* Determine the Need for Change (Assess Current State)—Knowing that there is a need for change is obviously a prerequisite for any change to occur. There must be something about the current state of things that is no longer sufficient in some way. We need to know enough about our starting point—current reality—to know that a change is needed in the first place, and then build a more solid, specific case for change with data that describes aspects of the current state in more detail.

* Determine Desired Future State (Gap Analysis!)—In order to plan for and implement change, we have to know what we are working toward. The more descriptive we can be in communicating the desired future we are seeking with the change, the more urgency we create and the more clarity we have for understanding what needs to get done in order to achieve it. Using what we know about the current state and what we envision as a desired future, we can begin to identify strategies for filling the gap.

* Establish a Sense of Urgency—No change can occur without a sense of urgency.  Without urgency, it is difficult to pull people together to guide the change or to even convince others to spend the time or energy needed to begin the work of change. Urgency is needed to counteract the sources of complacency—the force behind keeping things the same—such as the absence of a visible crisis, structures that focus people on narrow goals, too many visible resources, too much “happy talk,” and human nature of engaging in denial, especially when people are already busy and stressed.

* Create the Guiding Coalition—No one individual has the influence, stamina, knowledge, skills, time, etc. to create the change or to monitor progress toward it. A group of people with enough position power, expertise, credibility, and leadership must be mobilized as a team to carry the change through all of the inevitable obstacles and forces of inertia.

* Develop the Change Strategy—The strategies that will create the actual change are developed based on the analysis of the gap between the current state of ‘what is’ and desired future state of ‘what could be.’ Areas for potential strategy development include the work itself, behaviors, systems, structures, customers, culture, etc. It is important to develop at least some ‘quick win’ strategies to demonstrate that the endeavor is worth the effort and to create commitment for continuing.

* Communicate the Change Strategy—While a great vision can serve a useful purpose if it is only understood by a few key people, its real power is unleashed only when many stakeholders have a shared understanding of its goals and direction. Communicating the vision and strategy simply and clearly in multiple venues is key to creating a shared understanding among the very people who will further develop, create, and implement the change.

* Empower Broad-Based Action—Existing systems or structures that may have made perfect sense in the pre-change environment often emerge as obstacles during the change process. Empowering broad-based action means eliminating those obstacles, changing systems or structures that undermine the change, and encouraging risk taking and nontraditional ideas, activities, and actions.

* Consolidate Gains/Produce More Change—Once the change process is well underway, its progress starts to shake things loose enough to create more change. The credibility gained with each element of progress can be used to begin aligning more systems, structures, and policies with the vision than first attempted. In addition to the new projects these consolidations spawn, new people are added to the mix, creating more intellectual and emotional energy toward the vision.

* Anchor New Approaches in Culture—If all else has occurred with relative success, the new approaches, behaviors, etc. brought about by the change begin to anchor themselves into the culture. This only occurs if the new ways of doing things work and provide results superior to the old ways.

* Evaluate Change—Evaluating the change simply means knowing the extent to which the change has produced the results sought. It is important to consider this early on so that baseline data can be gathered to compare with the data to be collected after the change strategies have been implemented.

 

Development of the Theoretical Construct

  Understanding the project as an effort to develop a construct that could be used to establish a long-term, sustainable social change movement, and knowing that the many dimensions of the initial vision made it difficult for others to digest or to repeat for purposes of action, the project team set about refining and organizing the various components into a single theoretical construct (see Chapter 3: Theoretical Construct). The process of sorting, organizing, and refining the individual pieces resulted in a construct with the following components:

* Mission—what Creating the 21st Century Model to Address Poverty is meant to do,

* Vision—to what end,

* Imperatives—why it should be done, and

* Principles—on what foundation it should be built.

    These high-level construct components correspond to the overarching change model elements of Determine the Need for Change (Assess Current State), Determine Desired Future (Gap Analysis), and Establish a Sense of Urgency.

Development of Research Strategy and Products

      A key activity of the first year’s work was to ground planned and future work in the current state of ‘what is.’ Recognizing that a wealth of primary research in the topic of poverty already exists, the goal of this activity was to tap into it to provide the initiative with a reputable environmental scan of what is known. The research activities were organized around the areas of inquiry provided by the topical lenses Mr. Carter had chosen (see “Identification of Topical Lenses”) and the resulting products were used as:

·        Short theme papers in each area of inquiry to inform and ground the initial working sessions (see “Working Sessions”) in “what is,”

·        Key questions for discussion in the working sessions,

·        The basis for a presentation of the current state relative to the topical lens of each of the working sessions,

·        Comprehensive, stand-alone environmental scan products in each area of inquiry to ground the overall initiative, and

·        “Hybrid papers” in each of the areas of inquiry that provide the key themes, along with the supporting details (Appendix B).

The research activity corresponds to the overarching change model elements of Determine the Need for Change (Assess Current State) and Establish a Sense of Urgency.

Working Sessions

As the research and theoretical construct were being developed, a strategy was developed to convene working sessions in which people from a variety of backgrounds and sectors could bring their expertise to bear toward creating a fundamentally different model for thinking about and addressing poverty. Four sessions were developed and convened around the topical lenses of Redefining Poverty, Community-Based Solutions, Family Economic Security, and Maximizing Technology (see Appendix C for specific session descriptions). These sessions would:

·        Serve as the first opportunity to begin the change “conversation” with a broader participant group.

·        Serve as the first opportunity to test the draft theoretical construct with stakeholders from various sectors and worldviews and get their feedback.

·        Be specifically designed as working sessions wherein a small number of people from various sectors would engage in strategic discussions and, in so doing, advance the work of the initiative. Success for all of the sessions was defined as walking away with:

o       A set of components that describe the desired future relative to the session topic.

o       An understanding of what needs to change to realize the desired future.

o       A start on specific strategies that will get us there.

o       Some kindred souls in this effort moving forward who can help make real change.

o       Use a common design, aligned with the overarching change model (see next bullet), to provide consistent and comparable results.

o       Solicit ideas for a desired future, identify gaps between the current reality and that desired future, and to create a brainstormed list of potential strategies that could be undertaken to begin filling the gap, all of which would be used to inform this blueprint for change.

The goals of the session described above correspond to the overarching change model components of Determine the Need for Change (Assess Current State), Determine Desired Future State (Gap Analysis!), Establish a Sense of Urgency, Create the Guiding Coalition, and Develop the Change Strategy.

Since these sessions were designed as working sessions, the number of participants was limited to 18-25 for each session. While the final numbers were to remain limited, the goal was to invite participants from a wide variety of sectors. Therefore, a wide net was cast to identify participants that have significant influence, expertise, and knowledge.

Potential session participants were identified using the following methods:

bulletA web site was established to collect recommendations from various groups and venues visited by Mr. Carter. Ultimately, over 500 names were submitted.
bulletThe project team broadly communicated the existence of the web site and encouraged his network to make recommendations there.
bulletThe project staff, with its collectively broad professional networks, was asked to nominate potential invitees and to encourage their respective networks to nominate potential participants.
bulletMr. Carter and the lead subject matter expert from the project staff reviewed the compiled lists and decided on a pool of approximately 30 people from which to pull the invitees.

The working sessions were held in late summer 2004 and met all of the project team’s criteria for success. This blueprint draws on much of the learning from the sessions.

Compilation of Working Session Proceedings

      Proceedings from each of the working sessions were compiled and served as the official records of the convenings (Appendix E). These records were distributed to participants, who were asked to review the records for accuracy and to provide feedback if what was captured was not an accurate reflection of what happened during the session. The records serve as reference and launching pad for potential future collaboration with participants. They also provide raw material to mine for developing this blueprint and for specific insights, strategies, and enhancements to the conceptual framework that can be incorporated into future plans.

 

Chapter 1    Chapter 2    Chapter 3    Chapter 4    Chapter 5

Appendix A (21st Century Model to Address Poverty)
Appendix B (Poverty Programs Summary and Matrix)
Appendix C  (Issue Papers)
Appendix C1 (
Initiative context presentation: Characteristics of Successful Change)
Appendix D  (Income and Work Support Policies and Strategies)
Appendix D1 (Working Session Descriptions)
Appendix D2 (Working Session Descriptions, continued)
Appendix E  (Working Session Descriptions, continued)
Appendix E1  
Appendix E2 (Current state presentation: Highlights from the research)
Appendix F (Participant List)
Appendix G (Project Staff List)



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