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Sharing Our Growth: Margaret Mead was Wrong

Margaret Mead was WrongThis is the seventh in a series of posts that will tease out key ingredients from the exponential growth of Share Our Strength over the past few years.

In my last post, I emphasized the importance of acknowledging that your most important stakeholders are those people sitting next to you: your staff. If you do not consciously convince each other of the credibility and criticality of your strategy, it’s going to be hard to convince others.

At the same time, I do not want to lose sight of the power and necessity of building a network of external evangelists for your strategy.

Randomly visit the headquarters of any ten nonprofits and you’ll find that at least nine have a poster somewhere on their wall with the iconic and reassuring words of Margaret Mead to

“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed it is the only thing that ever has.”

The words are reassuring and inspiring but would be more accurate if amended to read “can begin to change the world.”

Actually changing the world takes a lot more than a small group. In fact it takes more people than you can know, speak with, meet with, and a commitment to reaching out to circle after circle of potential allies in ways that are accessible to them and empowering them.

Whenever we stopped to think about what it would really take to leverage (as opposed to raise) the billions of dollars necessary to change the lives of millions kids across thousands of miles and numerous cultures, it became obvious that no matter how committed our staff of 50 or 100 or 150 might be, that was just a fraction of the people that would be necessary.

One of the critical operating principles of an organization should be to relentlessly increase the number of shareholders that has genuine ownership for creating change. This not only means collaborating, partnering, forging coalitions, etc., but also giving real ownership to others so that they are working with you or even independently of you, toward a shared objective. Whenever you think your ambitious mission is the sole province of your own small dedicated team, you are thinking too small and destined to fall short.

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About Billy Shore

Billy Shore is the founder and executive director of Share Our Strength, a national nonprofit that is ending childhood hunger in America. Shore is also the chairman of Community Wealth Partners, a Share Our Strength organization that helps change agents solve social problems at the magnitude they exist.

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