If you only read one thing this week…

What makes nonprofits successful? by ifyouonlyreadonethingthisweek

The book Forces for Good: The Six Practices of High-Impact Nonprofits feels like the nonprofit equivalent of From Good to Great by Jim Collins that has so influenced the private sector in recent years.

For those of you who don’t have the time to read the book, Fast Company’s review provides a succinct summary of the six key findings that Leslie Crutchfield and Heather McLeod Grant discovered as they studied the 12 most successful nonprofits over a three-year time period.

In brief (but the article is worth reading as it fleshes the six points out a little more), successful nonprofits:

1. Don’t just implement great programs, they connect it with advocacy.

2. Connect in with market forces (don’t just rely on trying to ignite altruism!).

3. Engage others outside the agency to be passionate champions of their work.

4. Work collaboratively through networks with other nonprofits.

5. Learn to adapt (this seems the most obvious of the findings to me!)

6. Ensure that leadership doesn’t just reside with one person in the agency.

It is interesting to look at where (and where not) the intersection exists with this and the Good to Great approach. The book makes reference to the fact that management structures did not appear to be a critical success factor for these 12 NGOs. Also something which feels a little counter intuitive.


Is Work Life Balance a Myth? by ifyouonlyreadonethingthisweek
December 14, 2007, 7:01 pm
Filed under: If you only have 15 mins

As we get further embedded into December, which for many countries holds holidays in it, and for those in the northern hemisphere, the idea of hibernation – I have been pondering work-life balance once more and how to achieve it. In this quest to get better at it, I googled some solutions and came up with a couple of interesting different angles:1. First off a set of (in my opinion)  five ways to get back in control of the balance from WebMD (a health website). I liked the fact that they also have a link to a quick test to help you understand whether you have the balance right at the moment. Although some of the tips may be easier or harder depending on a) where you are working and b) what your current job is – it gives useful food for thought.2. A more challenging article from Fast Company Magazine which claims that work-life balance is a myth in today’s globalized world, and that we are making ourselves unhappy by believing the ‘story’ that we can have it all. The first couple of pages of this article felt depressing – however the author turns it round at the end by encouraging us to see our lives as chapters and that at different times we will want the balance to be different. ” “Those who succeed… are the people who learn to dance with change, who create and ride the wave”. It is worth looking to the end of the article for some recommendations on how to move forward.

How the U.S. can get smart about global challenges by ifyouonlyreadonethingthisweek
December 12, 2007, 11:15 pm
Filed under: If you have 30 mins

The Sunday, December 9, 2007 Op-Ed entitled, “Stop Getting Mad, America. Get Smart.”  in the Washington Post, looks at what the U.S. can do to improve its international influence and join forces to tackle global challenges of the 21st century.  Authors Richard Armitage and Joseph Nye are former diplomats – one a Republican and one a Democrat – and now co-chair the Commission on Smart Power at the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS).  The premise of the Op-Ed and also the Smart Power project is that, “In a changing world, the United States should become a smarter power by once again investing in the global good.”  Each of the five recommendations for transforming U.S. power include critical issues for the NGO community: reinvigorating partnerships and institutions with military and non-military actors; creating a Cabinet-level voice for global development to prioritize issues such as global health; investing in public democracy including through support to NGOs; rethinking free trade; and taking the lead on climate change.  Food for thought in a U.S. presidential election year.  More on the CSIS Smart Power project is at http://www.csis.org/smartpower/

Why do we consume so much? by ifyouonlyreadonethingthisweek
December 12, 2007, 11:08 pm
Filed under: Development theory, Environment

For those of you who are tired of reading I thoroughly recommend taking a 20-minute break and watching ‘The Story of Stuff’. It is a really well done animation of the whole production line from extraction to production to manufacture to consumption to disposal. Annie Leonard, the presenter, is a great speaker, and there are tons of interesting facts thrown in (did you know that of all the things that are produced each year only 1% are still in use a year later). My only critique is that it is US-centric (although it never claims to be anything else). But given the 5% of the total global population who live there are consuming 1/3 of the world’s resources it is probably a good focus. And there are lots of additional resources to be found on the site. Something good to watch as many of us head into a holiday season that focuses on consumerism.

Work life balance and Blackberries. by ifyouonlyreadonethingthisweek
December 12, 2007, 6:05 pm
Filed under: If you only have 15 mins, Time management

PC World is running an article on a revolt by Australian government staff who do not want to be issues Blackberries. It seems that some people are worried that constant access, and the expectation of constant attention to the devices, erodes the work / life balance to a degree that they are unwilling to accept. Read the article here, and tell us whether you are troubled or delighted by your CrackBerry