Nearly all of our community conversations are about activities: "agency Y does this or program X does that." Yet, when our "working differently" communities want to solve a problem, they begin by developing the highest aspiration possible so that all relevant resources, decision-making, participants, and measurements can be aligned for success. You will know you haven’t reached high enough if you can still answer the question “Why?” about any outcome statement. Here’s an example:
“We need all of our kids to have a nutritious lunch!”
Why? “Well, because if they have the right nutrition, they have the right energy.”
Why do we want that? “Well, if they have the right energy, they’ll be able to concentrate.”
Why do we want that? “Well, if they concentrate, they’ll learn more.”
Why do we want that? “Well, learning more could lower the dropout rate.”
Why do we want that? “Well, lower dropouts means more graduates.”
Why do we want that? “Well, more graduates are more likely to go to post-secondary education or meaningful careers.”
Why do we want that? “Well, to improve self-sufficiency and stabilize our community economy.”
Why do we want that? “Well . . . because we do!”
Ah, so there’s your aspiration: Self-Sufficiency and a Stable Community Economy
It took seven “whys?” to go from activity to aspiration. All the intermediate answers are desirable outcomes that can be targeted and measured and achieved in order to reach the aspiration. Looking back through all the answers, you can begin to see some of the people, resources, and activities that will need to be engaged to reach this aspiration.
Practice the “Why Test” at your next community meeting.
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