Today I was in San Mateo with some of the NFS team facilitating a Backyard Academy. It seemed fairly appropriate for us to be rounding off the last weekend of the Fellowship with an academy, having begun our own Fellowship session back in July with the San Francisco Academy. It seemed like we had come almost full circle – having been students full of questions ourselves, now being able to answer those questions for other people. It was also inspiring to see the depth and variety of the information across each of the training tracks. There was so much information being presented and discussed that didn’t even exist at the time we did our academy – new initiatives, new tools available, and new plans for the future. When I am in the middle of everything at NFS day-to-day I can sometimes lose sight of the scope of the progress we are making, especially when the resistance to change can be so strong. However, today was one of those great moments of being able to stand back and take stock of the huge amount of progress over the last 5 months.
One of my favourite things at NFS has been working with the grassroots constituency, because the fabric of the movement to end slavery in our lifetime is made up of its people. Without ambitious and committed people claiming the ‘abolitionist’ title, the movement ceases to exist. This week we spent a day as a team analysing grassroots for 2012. It is becoming more apparent that there is a necessity for strategy to be driven by an accurate understanding of what is happening on the ground. We need to understand the strengths and weaknesses so that they can both be addressed most efficiently. This took me back to something I blogged way back in week 1:
“It is like ordering a drink at Starbucks – the cashier takes the order and offers perfect customer service, processing the transaction with expertise. The team of baristas take over, roasting the beans to perfection, perfectly frothing the milk – the temperature just right. The latte art is applied with precision, and the caramel sauce lightly and artistically drizzled. The drink is crafted to perfection and the team’s passion for coffee is evident. However…if it turns out that the customer ordered tea, then none of that matters. You can complete a task to perfection, but its focus must be accurate to achieve the desired goal.”
Ironically, I think I ‘knew’ the problem all those weeks ago, but only now can I appreciate how the solution to be ‘accurately focussed’ can actually be achieved. We need to be more sophisticated in our approach: we can be implementing good programs or solutions, but they will only succeed with maximum efficiency if they are appropriate to the people and the place that we are seeking to provide them. This requires an accurate understanding of the existing movement, and of those we hope to engage. Resources can be better allocated, time can be more economically spent, and energies can be more effectual – how can results fail to be better? We need to be savvy with the data available to us. And as for 2012….watch this space!