Raise your hand if you like change

A few questions for this sunny Thursday morning:

1. How many times in the last week have you heard the news, your boss, our president, your partner, or your kid’s teacher talk about how things have to change and we have to take action?
2. How many times to do you agree?
3. How many times to you know HOW to make the change?

If you are like most people, you have a high number for question 1, lower for question 2, and even lower for question 3.  It is undeniable that we are confronted with pressure to change from all directions these days. In the workplace, we talk about “change management” and “change leadership,” and this is especially true in the health field. We can’t even talk about the field without talking about change. As such, many our leaders are (or should be) taking a step back and refreshing our strategies for making the large-scale changes that are required of the Affordable Care Act. This is no simple change that we are looking at. Many of us at community based organizations have to look at the core of who we are – our mission, our name, our clients – to figure out how to move forward in the coming years. This is a transformational change. As stated by Dean Anderson and Linda Ackerman Anderson of Being First, Inc:

“Transformation demands a shift in human awareness that completely alters the way the organization and its people see the world, customers, work and themselves”

Read that again slowly. Completely alters the way people see the world? Ok, I need to let that sink in for a minute.

The other key part of transformational change is that we don’t necessarily know what the exact end goal will be. We don’t know how the ACA will ultimately impact our clients and communities. We don’t know if sequestration will happen again this year and our funds will be cut massively. We don’t know when and how immigration reform will take place. These are some serious game changers for us!

When you put these two things together: Not knowing the end goal + Completely altering the way people see the world = A rocky road ahead!  The critical piece here is that this kind of change requires a radical shift of mindset to invent the future.

At many community organizations, we have been working with the mindset that everyone should get tested for HIV. We all need to know our status. Early detection can save lives!  Hispanics in particular are affected by this; about 40% of Hispanics who receive an HIV diagnosis are then diagnosed with AIDS within one year, meaning their bodies are much sicker and need a lot more medical attention. These days, funding for community organizations has moved from “testing everyone” to “testing only the people who are at greatest risk”  (i.e. not everyone).  This creates an internal conflict with people. It threatens values. The only way to continue forward with this kind of funding is to really look at these values and what is being asked of us by our funders. We have to decide, does this approach fit our mission and values? Can we shift? Do we want to shift? Is there another route to getting the funding we need?

Bottom line is that change really takes courage to look consciously at what is driving this change (funders? community? health system changes?), our organization’s capacity, communities, our staff and, most importantly, ourselves.

Whether you like change or not (some of us do), it happens. All the time. Life is transformational change! Where will you be in 20 years? What values will you have? Who will you love?  The same is true at work – we might not know exactly where we are going, we might not know exactly how we will get there, but we are going, and we will get somewhere, whether we are awake and conscious to the changes or whether we are asleep at the wheel.

 This blog was inspired by the National Minority AIDS Council’s “Building Leadership for Organizational Change and Sustainability” Training.

Written By: Emily Klukas
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