Do you sometimes read an issue of a favorite publication and find yourself picking up on snippets you see as valuable? And do you forget them just as easily? I do both. Here’s an example and what I have learned to try and tie to use. The case in point is the Fall 2021 issue of the Stanford Social Innovation Review (SSIR) where I came across four passages that rang a bell for me. They are in italic below.
1. A Testimony. Thank you so much for this wonderful and educational experience. It is clear that a lot of thoughtful time and planning went into developing this event. –A 2020 Attendee.
This from an ad (page 3) for a SSIR workshop. Such generic quotes are popular and remarkably unhelpful testimonials. Does “wonderful” translate to useful? And the focus on an input–thoughtful time and planning– applies to bad programs as well as good ones. Finally, if I want to see such comments as useful in deciding to attend, I need to know how many have a similar view. Hard to know much when the sample is one.
2. A critical problem well preserved. Recent collective efforts to build digital platforms to pool resources or facilitate interaction among grantees are helpful but have rarely included citizens as collaborators. Sidelining citizens in this work makes social innovation processes unproductive and, arguably, less effective.
Passage from an article on Open Social Innovation (p. 26). So why do we keep seeing it repeated as if it was new discovery? I see the failure to involve participants in designing and implementing solutions as continuing bad news. Why, in this digital age with abundant tools for participation, does this continue to happen?
3. Truisms repeated.
CRI’s decentralized structure ensures that the focal points are very local and that the initiatives come from the bottom up. Building up neighborhood strengths instead of trying to overcome perceived weaknesses respects the dignity of the people targeted.
These two comments were selected as large print highlights (pp. 43 and 46) in the article “Building Relationships, Strengthening Neighborhoods.” The solutions of bottom-up development and building on strengths have been stated for decades. Is this the best we can offer for highlighted insight? I guess examples showing verified level of success are too complex to fit in the highlight box.
4. Any takers? According to a 2014 study by the World Bank, nearly a third of the reports available as PDFs on their website had never been downloaded even once.
This from the Viewpoint “Putting Evidence to Use” (p. 59.) Wow. All that work and no readers. This reminds me of the many programs that purport to create a national model which they will disseminate widely. What happens if no one applies the model—or even reads it?
I read the issue and tapped out this blog entry. “So what?” as we like to say in Results 1st. So how do I remember these points and, more importantly, how do I use them? First a problem: did you notice that what I remembered generally reinforced thoughts I already had? One option is to try to open up to alternative viewpoints which do not immediately hit a responsive chord. I will leave that for 2022 in favor of something I ready to do now. I can stop reading and start acting
I pick two actions. First, send the article in # 4 above to five foundation friends and ask them to consider requiring that those seeking money to write something build in at least five persons who will read it and apply what they learn. Second, ask my colleague Karissa who does internet searches brilliantly to find me five examples of how a strength-based neighborhood project explicitly outperformed a problem-centered program. I will send them to journal friends for publication consideration.
Whew. Now I can move onto my next read.