Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Things I Never Wrote

For one of the final assignments of the first semester we were asked to reflect on some of the things we'd learned. The list below is my brainstorming for that paper. Much of it never ended up in the paper, but it still seems worth sharing.

My experiences at TOPPS have certainly increased my knowledge and skills regarding the sector of social change represented by the small, grassroots, non-profit.

  • I've learned about various means of to fund a non-profit: grants, donations, support from foundations, support from faith-based organizations, and endowments.
  • I've learned that grants are time-consuming to apply for and the money gained from them is heavily stipulated regarding how it can be used.
  • I've learned there are very few grants available for the overhead costs of running a non-profit, such as electricity and water bills.
  • I've learned that, to support themselves, small non-profits can fall into patterns of chasing grants, which can detract from the mission of the non-profit.
  • I've learned about something called "Founder's Syndrome," in which the founder of a non-profit has trouble letting go of the organization.
  • I've learned about Succession Plans, also known as Leadership Transition Plans, which attempt to ease an organization out of the issues related to Founder's Syndrome.
  • I've learned a little about Strategic Planning. Specifically, I've participated in the early stages of developing a Vision and Mission, as well as completing a SWOT analysis.
  • I've learned a little about the role a board of directors can play in a small, non-profit.
  • I've learned the term "stakeholder" and begun to develop my ability to recognize both the obvious and not-so-obvious stakeholders of an organization.
  • I've learned that non-profits can be territorial and competitive for both grant money and clients despite and because of similar missions.
  • I've also learned the term "best practices" and studied a few of the best practices related to non-profits focused on after-school programs both nationally and locally.

That list of learnings is, I'm sure, incomplete, but should demonstrate that I have a better understanding of some of the mechanisms of social change at the grassroots level.

Sunday, February 21, 2010


It's been a time of slow progress for the past month-and-a-half. Progress on the organization TOPPS, my team is working with in Pine Bluff has been slow. Progress on finding an organization to work with for my International Public Service Project (IPSP) has been slow. And progress on identifying core issues, or root problems to focus on during my time here at the Clinton School has been slow.
While reading the book, Getting to Maybe, I came across the organization Roots of Empathy. It's an organization based in Canada that, on the surface tackles bullying in schools, but does it in such a way that I think it can potentially make a subtle, but significant impact on other root issues such as compassion, consideration and self-esteem in very young children.
I still have some hope for working with HIPPY and/or Sesame Street in Israel to promote peace in that region.
I'm also interested in Interfaith Encounter Organization, which promotes dialogue between opposing groups in the Middle East.
So far, I've contacted all of those organizations but haven't heard anything in return. If you're reading this and happen to know someone, or know someone who knows someone, in those organizations, I'd appreciate an introduction.