Results 1st has a history. It began with Hal Williams’ leadership of the Rensselaerville Institute (TRI). TRI is referred to as “the think tank with muddy boots.” Beginning in 1972, TRI mounted a series of self-help projects for vital infrastructure in low income communities in 16 states. Projects included the revitalization of company towns in Appalachia and a project called Water for Bell–a 17 mile water line installed by Cherokees, which was a cover story in Parade Magazine and featured on Sunday Morning with Charles Kuralt.
Hal and his TRI colleagues noted that many other nonprofits were getting more money from foundations and governments, and wrote the book Outcome Funding…a New Approach to Targeted Grantmaking. In its initial year, the book sold 800 copies. Five years later it sold that number in a single day. This led TRI into consulting engagements with foundations and governments to shift from funding programs to investing in results.
In its transition to guiding those who give and spend philanthropic and government dollars to create human gain, Hal found that many of the approaches they had instinctively used in community development worked well as broader tools for outcomes. For example:
- Those with a problem or challenge are often less interested in process than results. In Bell, OK, Cherokees were less interested in meetings to build trust, for example, than they were in putting in a water line so they no longer had to carry water a mile or more. Trust came from that success.
- Clear targets galvanize work to achieve them. In all its renewal projects, TRI found that knowing the specific number of feet of sewer pipe or the number of children in a small town to get to grade level were the central point. This led to simple tracking measures visually portrayed for all residents who could see the consequences of their work.
- Individual sparkplugs in communities and organizations were far more critical than plans, committees or meetings. They made all the difference.
In addition to helping others, TRI felt it should lead by example and created the national program, SchoolTurnaround. It offers a focus on achievement rather than programs, clear school targets, and a focus on building principals as the sparkplugs most critical to change.
When Hal resigned as President of TRI in 2008 he became its first Senior Fellow and works with the Institute to hone tools and approaches. In addition, he pioneered use of the term Results First and is now helping nonprofits and governments to use a set of tools that make those words very operational. (See Examples on the website.)