Three-minute case studies:  wiifm? Nonprofit executive director

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Executive director Nonprofits Social Dynamics wiifim (what’s in it for me?)

wiifim:  What’s in it for me? 

This three-minute case study is part of a series where we have interviewed individuals to discover how they are applying what they learned from the Allison Group.  What has been useful for them?

Bob’s challenge:  How to make his expanded world view useful 

Policy prevents this executive director of a state-wide nonprofit organization—let’s call him Bob—from including his name in an endorsement.  He was perfectly free and happy to tell us how our Social Dynamics briefing was useful for him.

After attending an excellent national conference, Bob came home excited about everything he had learned.  During conversations with other directors, he learned they were seeing many of the same changes in their clients that he was seeing at home.  He also was introduced to new technologies, ranging from AI to self-driving cars and DNA editing.

He returned home unsure about how to integrate all of this rich and rapidly-changing information into his daily thinking and decision-making.  It was clear the world wasn’t going to stand still while he organized and learned to apply what he had just seen.

He needed help organizing not only what he had learned but also incorporating the social changes appearing daily in his planning.

“When I use the Social Dynamics framework, lots of things suddenly make sense”

One of the most important things for Bob was to see how organizations—including governments, businesses, and his nonprofit must change over time.  These changes might appear random but they are not.

As the world gets more connected and complex, laws and policies can fall short.  We need to add new ways of keeping order and working together.

This helped Bob understand how a shift he saw as disrespectful might actually be a recognition of an additional need for a healthy society.   He explained: “I now recognize why the institutions I grew up trusting as bedrocks of our lives are no longer seen by many as solid and reliable.” 

Bob now builds into his plans more tolerant and effective ways of listening and making use of some of the new methods.  He reports that he now “has a model to use in thinking about how to take care of my organization in this environment.”

“Critical to our mission…

Bob reports, “I have new ideas about how to engage with young people.”   Unless our programs are attractive to young people, we will eventually put ourselves out of business,

He is using an Allison Group model of the changes in communication technology and style to enhance the language used in the nonprofit’s programs, as well as in their advertising and announcements.  “I better understand different modes of communication, the power of language, and how words are changing.”

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Mary Ann Allison, MBA, PhD, professor emerita, uses sociology, complex systems theory, media studies, and evolutionary patterns to study social change. Her approach combines skinned knees (real business experience ranging from Citigroup VP to directing an Internet start-up and leading a consulting company) and rigorous scientific theory. Her model of Social Dynamics provides practical tools for consciously adapting to the future.


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