Emotion, Nonprofits, Reflection

Courage. Coragem.

Two weeks ago, nonprofit and community leaders gathered together in Yakima, Washington, to work in teams on hard issues. In several different conversations, people used the word “courage.” They described some people as having it, others as needing it, and a general hope that the community could muster the courage needed to do things differently.

I couldn’t help but think back to a time when a different community of leaders used the word “courage” to describe what they needed to have. I wrote about that experience in 2012, and the lessons from then seem as relevant now.  

As we go into the Thanksgiving holidays, I am tremendously grateful for the women I got to know in Salvador, Brazil– and the nonprofit leaders and partners across Washington I work with today. 

Coragem

Originally posted in February 2012

NancyTeachingSalvadorI was in Salvador, Brazil, last month teaching a class on NGO capacity building and grant writing, sharing everything I know about building community and structure around a mission that makes the world a better place.  On Friday, as all of the tools and tricks it takes to run an effective organization settled into the minds of class participants, one leaned forward and said, “Temos que ter coragem.”  We have to have courage.  Courage that allows them to pioneer new ways of doing things, knowing that they will make mistakes in front of each other along the way.

Indeed, courage was on the minds of these women that day.  A discussion about program evaluation shifted from graduation rates to measuring any gain in self esteem that might come through education and social support.  They described trying to get young women to even consider taking a university entrance exam within a culture of presumed failure.  Each of the women in the room had taken the Vestibular at least twice—several three and four times— before passing, and the young women they work with know that it is uphill battle to learn enough to pass this rigorous exam.  Their dreams of achieving a university education required courage to march through the pain of endless study with no guarantee of success, foregone wages, and, for some, social stigma for even trying.

As it turns out, the inner demons that haunt young African-Brazilian women were in good company. The night before, a police strike began, resulting in violence and looting in the neighborhoods to which these women were returning to that night.  By the time this conversation was happening, over eighty people had been killed, and randomness of crime had uprooted any sense of public security for the poor residents of the city.  The fear of what might happen was written on their faces.  They left early to journey home on public buses, some traveling alone as far as the airport.

Courage was on their minds, and now it is on mine.  These women are working in a space in which they have to muster together personal, professional, and social courage, battling internal and external demons around every turn.  They have to lift the spirits of others—giving others hope for a better tomorrow—when the same demons haunt them.  The success they achieve in these circumstances is heroic and humbling.

There I sat, listening to their discussion, aware of the space between their experiences and my reality.  What was my role in this partnership? Encourage? Encourage has someone else as its object.  It is passive, distant, and possibly condescending.  I was on a flight out the next morning.  Who was I to tell them to keep up the great work?

What struck me about my week in Salvador was how open these women were to learn and to teach, how they had made a commitment to social change and were in this work for the long term, and how they intuitively understood that their big societal issues were made up of many small problems, all of which could be tackled with the right resources.  They weren’t afraid to have the hard conversations.

Our alternative to encouraging them is to have courage with them.  We can be partners in hard conversations that cross cultural and power boundaries, giving each other the benefit of the doubt along the way. We can challenge our own limits, professionally and personally, in solidarity with them.  And we can build a long-term community in which to learn, celebrate, and labor together through whatever demons come our way.  To make a difference in this world, they reminded me, temos que ter coragem.

Adult learning, Emotion, Nonprofits

Manipulation or Influence?

 

At a recent conference, I introduced the work of Robert Cialdini, author of Influence and Presuasion. We were talking about how to motivate nonprofit board members, and I shared two possible approaches to moving a board member to raise money:

Option 1: You are on this board because you care about this mission. We really need to raise $10,000 at this event. Every board member should do their part inviting friends and giving funds.

Option 2: You have already shown great courage and commitment by stepping forward into the board member role. Your leadership makes an important difference in our ability to achieve our mission. I am going to ask that you do one more courageous thing and reach out to your friends and invite them to join us in our work.

As participants got involved in an activity, a man pulled me aside to tell me that he was bothered by Option 2. It was manipulative, and he didn’t think that we should be manipulating board members into doing things.

It seemed like a very nonprofit response. A huge body of evidence shows that people are motivated by their emotions. Companies use this research to get consumers to buy their products. (Cialdini gives some interesting examples here.) Wouldn’t it be powerful if nonprofits took what we know about influence and used it for good?

As Jeff Brooks writes on his blog, we don’t avoid emotions in Option 1 since everything we say or do signals some emotion, possibly not the ones we intend.

As Allen Gannett writes in Fast Company, the difference between manipulation and persuasion comes down to one question: is what you are asking in the person’s best interest?

As influence expert Alex Swallow says on a recent podcast, effective influence creates a win-win outcome that lasts.

Boards members by definition should care deeply about the mission of the organization on whose board they serve. It is in their best interest that they are motivated to do anything they can to support the cause they love. I truly believe that board members are the superheroes of our communities, taking on the most important social issues of our time as volunteers.

Beyond nonprofit boards, we hold the power to make lasting change when we move from information sharing to imagination capturing, habit shifting, and action inspiring.  It will take courage to step into this new space. But you have already shown great courage and commitment. Why not do one more courageous thing and give (intentional) influence a try.

Photo by Neil Bates on Unsplash


Upcoming event: I’m speaking on February 1 as a part of the Learning Technology Design conference. In Chunk Flip Guide Laugh: Creating Learning Tools That Lead to Action, we will walk through Discover, Design, and Delivery, and I’ll share some stories behind Washington Nonprofits’ popular toolkits.


 

Adult learning, Emotion

Learning ≠ Doing

If you want people to be more financially literate, you invest in financial literacy education, right? So think governments, businesses, and nonprofits worldwide. They spend billions of dollars on financial literacy to improve budgeting, reduce credit card debt, and increase retirement savings. Financial literacy is now a required part of Washington State curriculum.

The result of all of this investment? A 0.1% variance in financial behaviors. That’s it. All this education yields very little change in behavior. Behavioral economist Dan Ariely referred to this research while in town talking about his book Dollars and Sense: How We Misthink Money and How to Spend Smarter. His book is not about financial literacy, he said, but the systems that cause us to behave as we do. Rather than understand how a $4 coffee fits into our budget, he encourages us to think about our habits. Does that $4 coffee make us happy? Does the second one make us as happy as the first? If so, it is worth it. If not, don’t buy it. As the financial literacy research says, if we are aiming to change behavior, we should teach soft skills, like confidence to act, willingness to take risks, and propensity to plan.

As someone who creates learning experiences on finance, I found this a breath of fresh air. Learning doesn’t (necessarily) lead to doing. Teaching someone something doesn’t mean that they bring that idea into their life. We don’t have to dwell on the movement of content from my brain to yours. We have license to bring into our teaching all of the inner and outer body experiences that lead people to do what they do. We can focus on habits, confidence, systems, and culture. We can give out templates and share links to “just in time” videos. In fact, we aren’t teaching lessons but facilitating action.

 

Talking about facilitating action….

Image result for map it cathy mooreI was thrilled to receive in the mail this week my copy of Map It: The Hands-On Guide to Strategic Training Design by Cathy Moore. (Three cheers for her tagline: Let’s save the world from boring training!) Cathy tackles this issue of learning ≠ doing head on. Her Action Mapping has us defining a measurable goal and actions we can see in support of that goal. She invites us to develop a range of interventions—including but not limited to training. We think about the barriers holding folks back. We build in a lot of time to practice in authentic ways. Cathy’s approach has deeply influenced me in my work leading the teams that created Finance Unlocked, Boards in Gear, and other nonprofit toolkits. I appreciate her thought leadership guiding us in how best to facilitate action. I love the Ninjas.

https://speakerdeck.com/cathymoore/design-lively-elearning-with-action-mapping?slide=9

Adult learning, Emotion, Nonprofits

Emotions in Learning: Ok, but how do I do that?

EmotionsA few months ago, I presented to nonprofit colleagues about learning and the power of emotions. One said, “Okay, I get it. Emotions are important in learning. But how do we do that? It seems weird to overly emote in the middle of a training?” True. Don’t start howling in the middle of a training. Let’s think of it in a larger frame: How do we engage emotions in moving people to action? What role do emotions play as they form habits, change behavior, and bring learning into the life of their organizations?

Here’s how, I say. We consider what we teach and how we teach. (Teacher folks call this curriculum and instruction; workshop presenters think in terms of content and presentation style. What and how.)

WHAT WE TEACH

Delivering an effective workshop starts with an understanding of the audience: who is sitting in those seats, what is their reality, and how do they feel about what you are trying to teach them. Adults come to learning with a lot more emotion than children do. They have developed a fear of math, a sense of overwhelm when it comes to sorting out complex human challenges (like nonprofit boards), or a feeling of powerlessness when talking about the law and compliance issues. They have a long memory about someone who did something, or of something they tried to no avail. Nonprofit folks also have deeply rooted commitment to fixing problems based on life experiences, whether positive or negative. They exude a passion for their mission, a heartfelt love of the work that sustains them through the work of raising money or volunteering long hours. Emotions both drive and discourage people from taking action.

Emotions are really important to honor and harness in adult learning. That is why the design teams I led working on nonprofit board, finance, and law toolkits began with an understanding of the emotions that people bring to these topics. Here are some examples of how emotion was incorporated into these kits:

People tend to feel… fear overwhelm powerlessness
When talking about    . finance (yikes, money!) boards law and compliance
To honor this feeling, I… Make them laugh;

Use familiar language (i.e. family budgets)

Use language that simplifies;

Avoid the word should

Use language of empowerment

How do you do this? Think about something that you want others to learn. Complete these sentences.

People tend to feel…
When talking about    .
I can honor this feeling by

HOW WE TEACH

The best educators I know exude love when they teach. They make it clear from the moment they begin their presentation that they are on the side of everyone in the room. An effective teacher builds an emotional connection very quickly with the participants in their session.

How do we do that?

  • We draw out their why. Simon Sinek explains the power of starting with why on his viral TED talk. Why grabs people by the heart, and it is the heart that motivates us to action.
  • We demonstrate that we know where they are coming from. We show that we have been “in the trenches” ourselves, we do advance research, lead “right-off-the-bat” conversations that get them talking, and name and discuss the emotion that they are bringing to the topic today. We become an ally.
  • We give hope. Often in the form of case studies or stories, we create the space where participants feel hope that they will do better because they came today. They see that others have done it, and they can do it too. They build confidence by seeing concrete, doable steps forward.
  • We honor and celebrate diversity. There is a full range of diversity factors in any workshop, from demographic diversity to professional experience to the life cycle of the organizations represented in the room. It is impossible to present one workshop that satisfies the needs of all. One way to come closer to satisfying them, however, is to acknowledge the diversity and give permission for people to start from where they are. We invite connections between people that create space for mentoring or coaching.

As Dacher Keltner wrote in a review of the children’s movie Inside Out, “Emotions guide our perceptions of the world, our memories of the past and even our moral judgments of right and wrong, most typically in ways that enable effective responses to the current situation.” Honoring and harnessing emotions is a critical step in guiding people to learn.

How do you engage emotions in your presentations or speaking?

 

CC Image courtesy of tuckett on Flickr

Adult learning, Emotion, Nonprofits

3 Ways to Break the Nonprofit Scarcity Trap (Part 2)

tunnel-2242714_393_300
It is not hard to slip into a scarcity mindset this time of year. The world can seem flat when we get tired. (Luckily Memorial Day Weekend is right around the corner!)

Which brings us to Part 2 of our conversation about the scarcity trap. I wrote last week about the research on how poor people make decisions. I imagined how this research could inform how we work with small, underfunded nonprofits. Specifically, what if we could take what we know about tunneling, slack, and bandwidth in poor people and use it to set small nonprofits up for success.

  1. AUTOMATE GOOD DECISIONS

People who exist “within the tunnel” have a hard time making good choices. They don’t have the luxury to stand on that proverbial balcony and look over all of their options. They see what is right in front of their face.

Given that:
How do we put something in front of their face when they are ready to see it?
How do we help them to “opt in” to what we want them to do, to their benefit?

For example:

Forms: The IRS revised the Form 990 in 2013. In doing so, they took steps towards automating good decision-making by including a list of board best practices on page 6. I train people on nonprofit finances. Folks generally want to answer “yes” to questions on official documents. Simply including that list improves nonprofit behavior.

Fees: Every nonprofit in Washington pays a fee with their annual corporation registration. A portion of this fee is returned to the sector through basic training. While an individual nonprofit may not choose to invest in learning, that investment is made for them. They can access free, low cost, and on demand learning only possible because of pooled funds.

Some new ideas:

Nonprofit Kit: “I’ve been running this nonprofit for five years. I wish I knew that there were resources to help me!” (said at least 50 people when they discover that there is a state nonprofit association.) Once an organization is founded, it is up to the founders to scramble and find everything they need to know. Many of them have no idea that there is an array of organizations that exist to support them. The Nonprofit Kit (or “Nonprofit in a Box”) idea resembles the correspondence kits of the past, or the kits that a school classroom receives when kids are studying one aspect of science. Why not deliver (via email or hard copy) the basic lessons and tools of nonprofit governance to every new nonprofit in the state?

Nonprofit App: Want to add meditation to your day? There is an app for that. Need a book from the library? There is an app for that. Want to modify a photo to add a mustache to your cat? There is an app for that. Need to add reflection, tools, and a modified agenda to your nonprofit life? Not an app for that. But there could be.

Video games: 65% of households in the US have at least one person playing video games 3 hours or more a week. 31% of gamers are female, and they are on average 37 years old. 1 in 3 Americans over 50 play video games. Social interaction is a primary reason people play. (Research here.) Imagine 1 in 3 Americans playing “Call of Duty: Animal Rescue” or “Grand Community Impact.” These people are potential board members. There is no better way to put something in front of their face and have them “opt in” to learning than to show up where they are.

  1. SAVE TIME

Having time begets more time. By reflecting, being careful, and doing something right the first time, we save time. Not having time means no deep thinking and long term planning, which shortchanges us later on.

So:
How can we help nonprofits save time and build slack into their schedule?

Document vaults: Don’t make nonprofit people ever have to look for stuff. I know that there are a million ways to write a job description or a conflict of interest policy. But when you need to get started crafting something, you really only need 2 options to look at. There is a lot of research around narrowing choice to get better decisions. Putting what they need right where they will find it saves time.

Online learning: People are busy. They want to learn when they want to learn, not when we are offering a workshop. Much of what they want to learn can be considered “on demand” knowledge, meaning that they need to know how to fix their bylaws when they are ready to fix their bylaws. They want to know how to raise money because they need money (now). We can save time by creating tools for them to learn online—with ways to bring these tools into their meetings for deliberation.

Micro-learning: Time often shows up like pocket change, not enough to buy a sandwich but valuable nonetheless. Micro-learning takes many forms, but the main purpose is to deliver important, needed content in small form. One idea that I am playing with involves cards with discussion/idea prompts inspired by these Behavior Change Strategy Cards by Artefact Group. We know that boards and staff could probably squeeze 10 or maybe 15 minutes into their meeting? How do we help them to use that time for learning?

Go local: Every time we save them travel, we save them time. Rather than having big statewide events, go as local as possible without sacrificing quality.

  1. REDUCE BANDWIDTH

There is only so much information your brain can process. We spend just as much effort managing bandwidth as we do time. Having a lot of information to process can have the effect of making us dumber.

So:
How do we narrow the amount of information people need to know?
How can we simplify to environment in which they are working?

Networks/communities: Nonprofits working alone need to know everything. Nonprofits working together need to know whom to call when they need help. The more we invest in networks or communities of nonprofits and in the leadership programs that shape cohorts of leaders, the more we can manage the limited bandwidth issue.

Nonprofit “on call”: You don’t need to know right now how to dissolve a nonprofit. You need to know that when your nonprofit about to dissolve. Why take up brainpower with information that is rarely relevant to the average organization? Having a quick response “doctor on call” system allows leaders to focus on the most important issue in front of them now.

Capacity building collaboration: Let’s face it. A lot of confusion is created by all of us trying to help. The more the individuals and organizations trying to help nonprofits collaborate and communicate a clear message of who does what, the more we save bandwidth for nonprofit people who have a lot more important things to do.

 

Good communication starts with consideration of the receiver. Powerful education is anchored in the learner. Effective programs are designed around the end user. With the vast majority of nonprofits being small and undercapitalized, it seems like small innovations on our part could go a long way in helping them thrive.