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Driving A Revolution

Despite the current recession and rigid funding models, the competencies necessary for human service organizations to thrive are within reach. However, these enduring constraints make it even more critical for organizations to lead with purpose and strategically build capacities. A new national report from the Alliance for Children and Families, Disruptive Forces: Driving a Human Services Revolution, was developed to arm 
human service organizations with the foresight necessary to do so.

The report identifies and expounds upon six disruptive forces predicted to significantly affect the human service sector during the next 3-5 years. Moreover, it highlights competencies and strategies organizations must possess and implement in order to leverage and capitalize on each disruptive force or, in some cases, to themselves become the forces that dramatically reshape the sector.

The Alliance and its partner in developing Disruptive Forces, national accounting and management consulting firm Baker Tilly Virchow Krause, take the strong position that high-performing organizations are capable of recasting the six disruptive forces as opportunities.

“When individual organizations reflect on the disruptive forces as opportunities, significant organizational transformation can result, such as enhancements to service delivery, advocacy position within the community, and effectiveness of programs,” says Christine Smith, principal at Baker Tilly.

Tools for Strategic Thinking, Acting, Planning

Disruptive Forces should compel organizations to ‘work’ their strategic thinking muscles by not just examining what’s happening today, but by considering how these game-changing shifts will alter how it will be necessary for organizations to operate in the future,” says Polina Makievsky, COO of the Alliance. “Nonprofits can use this report with their leadership teams and with their boards to ask themselves the questions: What does this mean for our agency? What does this mean for how we deliver services and conduct business? How can we act upon this information?”

One organization that already is doing this is Alliance member Village for Families & Children, Hartford, Conn.

“Board directors are active participants in the strategic process and have oversight responsibility for the way in which the agency will carry out its mission in the future,” says Galo Rodriguez, president and CEO of Village for Families & Children. “In a recent strategic retreat, we touched on some of the disruptive forces identified in the report as we spoke about the changing environment we are confronting. As a takeaway exercise, board members were encouraged to read the Disruptive Forces report and plan on discussing the findings at upcoming board and strategic plan committee meetings.”

To assist with that strategic thinking, the report provides ideas and examples that provoke leaders to consider their organizations in new ways.

For instance, the fifth disruptive force calls for branding causes rather than organizations. “A nonprofit that previously was identified as ‘an entity,’ may now be viewed as a key component of a larger community-based solution,” Smith of Baker Tilly explains. “Additionally, as a member of this larger solution-based approach, the entity has increased credibility relative to being ‘in it’ for the good of the whole versus the good of the entity.”

Roadmap for the Next 3-5 Years

In addition to identifying six game-changing shifts that’ll impact the nonprofit human service sector during the next 3-5 years, the Alliance’s new Disruptive Forces report also includes macro- and micro-level roadmaps for the sector and individual organizations, respectively. They prompt leaders and board directors to identify particular actions that will position their organizations for the future.

“Readers can peruse the report fairly quickly to understand concepts and gauge self-performance related to the six disruptive forces,” says Monica Modi Dalwadi, director at Baker Tilly. “The benefit comes in understanding and applying the concepts in the macro- and micro-level roadmaps. The roadmaps are simple tools to inform a complex strategic decision-making process.”

Within the Alliance, planning is underway to weave the concepts from Disruptive Forces into Alliance program offerings, new member benefits, and resources. This includes potential conference events and workshops, research projects, magazine articles, webinars, and presentations from thought leaders. Information about new opportunities will be shared through the Alliance website.

The Disruptive Forces podcast features Polina Makievsky, COO of the Alliance, and Monica Modi Dalwadi, director at Baker Tilly. The two discuss key aspects of the report, why it was developed, and how it can be a resource to the field.

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