A real life Aesop Tale or – How do you become a change agent with $500,000 or less?
Belling the Cat
The Mice once called a meeting to decide on a plan to free themselves of their enemy, the Cat. At least they wished to find some way of knowing when she was coming, so they might have time to run away. Indeed, something had to be done, for they lived in such constant fear of her claws that they hardly dared stir from their dens by night or day.
Many plans were discussed, but none of them was thought good enough. At last a very young Mouse got up and said:
“I have a plan that seems very simple, but I know it will be successful.
All we have to do is to hang a bell about the Cat’s neck. When we hear the bell ringing we will know immediately that our enemy is coming.”
All the Mice were much surprised that they had not thought of such a plan before. But in the midst of the rejoicing over their good fortune, an old Mouse arose and said:
“I will say that the plan of the young Mouse is very good. But let me ask one question: Who will bell the Cat?”
It is one thing to say that something should be done,
but quite a different matter to do it.
I recently was asked to have a phone conversation by an acquaintance who was an employee of a major and global NGO that has a budget of millions and millions AND a staff all over the world. I was being asked how I had developed my programming and how I had come to use our toolkit, the software, the integration of corporations CSR and HR leadership skills training and basically how the entire organization was developed. I spent about an hour on the phone going over the entire operation, the planning, missteps, learnings, development of curricula and even talked about our business plan and long term strategy for financial sustainability.
My husband was sitting in the background and listening to me speak about the entire strategy of our organization – a nonprofit that we actually invested over $500,000 of our own money into the design , curricula and technology – along with the efforts of our entire volunteer team who spent the last two years not earning anything in the knowledge that we were building something of great value and a legacy for the world. He was mad as hell! He said he had watched me wake up in the middle of the night, stress over making payments, funding the technology, working twenty hour days and eating meals over the keyboard as we launched our program. He had supported me throughout the entire two years to watch me succeed, not design the program for someone else who had enormous resources that we did not have. My quiet, loving supporter who has been my biggest champion and advocate lost it. He said I just laid the groundwork for someone else bigger, more resourced and without compunction to “borrow” the concept to take all my hard earned skills set and strategy to simplify their own program design. Hadn’t thought of that. Guess what? It was just announced that they had in fact done just that. It will of course take them years as well with a bureaucracy and layers of managers to get through. But it will be much easier to find the technology with unlimited resources to access. Now of course, ours is already functioning and completely tested and entirely solid but I could have used the consultancy fees to be sure! They will spend about $2 million designing something “from scratch” including hundreds of employee hours and donor dollars. Who knew?
But I am here to say, I don’t mind. By the time they actually get it up and running we will already have the data in hand proving our efficacy, the corporations who will not wait another two years for employee engagement and CSR programs nor the nations who want something right now to meet their gender Millennium Development Goals by 2020. Yes, I maybe should be more cautious about how and who I share our information with. Yes, I should be less trusting and more curious about why someone would want all of our information. But in reality, if it was easy, anyone could do it. And, in reality it is a lot easier to come up with the plan than it is to actually implement it. We actually already belled the cat!