Now Is The Time

Ending hunger, homelessness, and the cycle of heels.

In the United States more than 633,000 people experience homelessness every night.  48.9 million Americans are at risk of hunger - including one in five kids. Nearly 50 million Americans are living in poverty.  Hunger, homelessness, and poverty are devastating for individuals and our communities. This is unacceptable, unjust, and illogical.

We know that effective, commonsense policies like SNAP and EITC lift people out of poverty. We know that Rapid Rehousing and Housing First models reduce homelessness. We know that innovative philanthropic endeavors like Collective Impact and Social Impact Bonds can transform the way government, nonprofits, and local communities work together to tackle our toughest challenges. We know we can band together and create change.

Now Is The Time to get this done.

This site will feature a collection of personal reflections, original ideas, and smart thinking from around the country and the globe on the issues of hunger, homelessness, and poverty.  We'll check in with thought leaders and discuss ways we can create change. We will also highlight ways to leverage two of my favorite things - National Service and the philanthropic sector. 

Social Change - Evolution or Revolution

I fell in love with Seattle a decade ago but still hold many East Coast roots: I love the Yankees, I always choose Twizzlers over Red Vines, I occasionally wear pantyhose, and I loathe the Seattle Process (e.g. endless meetings, retreats, and convenings to form a work-group or task-force to develop a plan, to reach consensus, to solve a problem). The Seattle Process is prominent in our social impact work, especially when the government, nonprofit, and philanthropic sectors come together to work on a common issue.  I am impatient when it comes to social impact and struggle with the balance of embracing the process culture and working to change it.   

I always relish the opportunity to learn from folks across the country who share a passion for making the world a better place but have unique talents, values, leadership philosophies, and yes, processes. In the fall of 2012, I attended the Independent Sector Conference in San Francisco and walked away empowered by my fellow under 40 leaders to innovate, make decisions, push through the process, and be a game changer.  I did just that.  As a result we moved the needle on many of our goals but we also had a lot of challenges and frustrations. I was constantly told, "Lauren, change is a revolution not an evolution". Evolution sounded like process to me. Can people who are homeless, hungry, or living in poverty wait for our data, donors, systems, processes, and practices to evolve?  Haven't we waited long enough? Would the private sector wait for an evolution? What are we waiting for? Should our sector adapt? What's the balance?

I headed to NY to find answers to those questions at the 2013 Independent Sector Conference. After a few days on inspiring dialogue with thought leaders, debating new ideas, and listening to experts I am fully convinced that Now is the Time for Change. Our government is shut down. We in the independent sector need to mobilize our resources, harness our collective knowledge and lead the change. We need to evolve now, stop being afraid of failure, take risks, and begin a revolution to help the most vulnerable.

I will walk away from NY committed to this revolution for social change and informed by the lessons that have been learned through the evolution of our sector: 

1. Our people are our greatest resource. We need to invest in talent now and have honest conversations about performance management. 

2. Innovation is not just about invention....we need to start implementing faster and doing so in innovative ways that maximize impact. 

3. Authentic partnerships are challenging and extremely rare. For collective impact models to work we need clear roles and shared vision. 

4. Advocacy, advocacy, advocacy.  Funders need to invest in this work. We need to engage our donors and corporate philanthropy partners in this work. We need to get smarter and more strategic about our approach to policy and advocacy. We cannot fix complex social problems without policy change. 

5. We need to listen and learn more often and more quickly.

6. We need to stop doing the things that aren't working.   

7. Values and ethics are critical to success.  

Looking forward to moving my team from evolution to revolution.