Organisational dissonance occurs when an organisations stated beliefs, purpose, culture and actions do not all align.
There are plenty of examples of organisational dissonance, and currently, in Australia, we can see it playing out in the highest levels of government as well.
Some of our bug bears, and most glaring contradictory misalignments include;
Organisations that claim that businesses should be a force for good but are themselves, non-profit entities. Taking the benefits of non-profit status, while having the stated aim that it is, in fact, businesses that should be the driving force for change.
Political parties that are staunchly anti-union, anti-strike action and generally have an attitude of ‘grin and bear it’ when prescribing action to their constituents, shutting up shop and closing down parliament to sort out their own internal problems, rather than simply do their jobs.
Non-profit organisations that claim to want to have long-term impact, but only focus on selling and promoting short-term, instant gratification projects and activities without working to have programs and frameworks for the long-term. At the same time failing to help their supporters understand and see the value in long-term engagement to solve problems.
Organisations with stated aims to assist members of a community through a single area of intervention, wanting to help a group of people, but only providing one element of the help. Ostensibly because they care about the welfare and opportunities of this particular community in need. At the same time they are refusing to work alongside or collaborate with other organisations, who provide different kinds of necessary support, to the same community. This kind of in-fighting among organisations is rife and causes misery inside and outside of the organisations.
Schools that claim to value education and delivering quality education to children, that simultaneously cut the lowest performing and most in-need students in order to keep their performance results high.
Organisational dissonance is one of the biggest blocks to actual equality of opportunity, as we descend further into a culture of ignoring the gaps between stated aims and beliefs and actions. No-one is perfect, no organisation is perfect, but systemic hypocrisy and dissonance should be identified and changed. Quickly.
When the Just Be Nice Project works with out partner organisations, one of the first things we look for is signs of organisational dissonance, staff dissatisfaction, cultural difficulties, uncertain future goals and a lack of trust. It is possible to align what you say you want to do, and what you do and how you do it.
It might not be easy, but it is possible. That is what makes character-led organisations so valuable.
The influence of the religion paralyses the social development of those that follow it. No stronger retrograde force exists in the world. I believe that the reasons for ending all further Muslim immigration are both compelling and self-evident. -Anning
This week senator, Fraser Anning of the Katter Australia Party (Full Transcript here) addressed the Australian Senate..
Excerpts of the speech, party leader Bob Katter's response and Annings non-apology are all available to watch below.
We cannot stress enough, this xenophobic, inaccurate, wildly inflammatory speech does nothing to advance the cause of improving equality of opportunity for any Australians.
For a representative of 'Australian' Ideals, Anning seems to forget that the second verse of our national anthem begins with;
"For those who come across the seas, we've boundless plains to share."
Without even going into the abject abuse, disenfranchisement and continuing negative impact of colonialism on the Indigenous Australians, the current anthem for Australia includes room for those from across the seas. Not Europeans from across the seas.
This divisive, hurtful and false rhetoric from our parliamentarians must be called out, but even further, their divisive and damaging actions must be called out too.
This is not ok. Australia can absolutely do better. We see the very best in the opportunities for positive impact that can be had, through effective corporate and community engagement and management. Keeping people doing what they are really good at, on the road to effective impact, and making sure that people who need help, get the help that they need, when they need it, for as long as they need it.
Keep looking out for each other, keep supporting the most vulnerable in our communities, and as always, Just Be Nice.
While all Muslims are not terrorists, certainly all terrorists these days are Muslims. So why would anyone want to bring more of them here? - Anning
We tell people “It’s ok to not be ok” and that is true, it absolutely is.
We don’t tell people “It’s ok to be poor”
Because we know it’s not.
Not simply that it’s not ok for them. But that it’s not ok for us to know and do nothing.
It’s not ok if we acknowledge that we aren’t doing everything we can to create an environment where everyone has an equal chance of providing for themselves and the people they care about.
It’s not ok when we know that it is not simply a matter of ‘laziness’, or ‘not being engaged’, or ‘not caring’. The myth of the feckless poor is only an excuse for people to ignore the issues that disadvantaged communities and individuals face. We would do well to remind one another that poverty is not a lack of character, it’s a lack of cash.
Trickle-down economic policies that ignore the responsibility of those with to contribute to improving the lives of those without.
In a time of unprecedented economic success and growth, we have a responsibility to say that it’s not ok to be poor. We should be compelled to action to take responsibility for people that are doing it tough, dealing with the inequality of opportunity that affects the 2.9 million Australians that live below the poverty line. Over 1 in 10 Australians. Right now.
If we are going to be concerned with mental health outcomes, as we should be, we need to acknowledge the fact that economic distress is a huge factor in emotional and relationship stress and other mental health issues. Feelings of hopelessness, an inability to take control of your life and get after the things you want to achieve, deep and constant feelings of uncertainty, feeling inadequate because you are struggling to provide for the people you care about. These are all very real mental health issues that stem from economic distress.
It’s ok to not be ok. It’s not ok for us to not do anything about the factors that lead people to struggle in the first place.
Just Be Nice. Be Good. Do Good.
Often we are asked about how it is possible to deal with particular issues.
For many, the journey into the world of positive impact is sparked by a feeling of needing to do something about a particular issue. Often people search for things to do based on these particular issues, rather than searching for the most appropriate way to help people in need of help. They are not guided towards the most appropriate way to help based on what they do the best and what is most needed by those seeking help.
This misdirection, taking the focus from effective help to particular issues, is exacerbated by the language that we use around these individual causes. The sector is constantly battling to promote issues as more important or more emotive than others, rather than focusing on the most important fundamental process;
Ensuring people in need, get the help that they need, when they need it, for as long as they need it.
Disadvantage doesn’t have one look. It isn’t limited to one particular issue, it is a complex web of many different factors and manifestations, often overlapping and interlinked, nuanced and time dependent. In the same way treating a scratch early prevents it becoming septicaemia, dealing with issues of inequality early can prevent them becoming life-threatening and community destroying.
Working to fight disadvantage means working to level the playing field. At the Just Be Nice Project we believe that working towards an equality of opportunity for everyone is the only real way to build a system that helps anyone.
So if it’s not about any particular issue, what is it about?
Well, lets look at what disadvantage is. Among many things;
Disadvantage is having the collective noun for you and your friends go from group to pack in the media.
Disadvantage is having to share a white bread sandwich with vegemite three ways for lunch.
Disadvantage is time on the phone negotiating bill paying extensions with every, single, service provider.
Disadvantage is being kicked out of your rental property because you were late on the rent because someone ran into your car and you couldn’t afford to fix the car you need for work, and the whole rent this month.
Disadvantage is failing school because you are busy looking after your sick mum.
Disadvantage is having a disability and being unable to access the help you need. It is having the same disability and being unable to access the leisure and social activities we all need too.
Disadvantage is getting a bill from DHS for the damage that was done to your rental property when your husband put your head through the plasterboard wall.
Disadvantage is having Centrelink make an administrative error and not pay you for a fortnight, so that for two weeks you and your family are unable to eat.
Disadvantage is getting too sick to work and not having any sick leave because you are a casual employee, and disadvantage is the scramble over the next few years to pay back those credit cards and money you borrowed.
Disadvantage is having a mental illness, and nowhere to go.
Disadvantage is coming out of rehab and having nowhere to go. It’s the only place offered to you being a harm-minimisation facility where people still take drugs. It’s avoiding that place because you want to stay clean, so you sleep on the street, and get told “Surely anywhere is better than sleeping on the street.”, “Ungrateful”, “Sort your life out”.
Disadvantage is the kid in class who can’t concentrate, for years, because from the ages of 3-10 she doesn’t get sufficient breakfast or lunch and gets told she is dumb because she is ‘falling behind.’ By the teachers and ‘dumb’ by her peers.
Disadvantage is waking up in the middle of the night as a 10 year old and checking to make sure that your Dad isn’t beating up your Mum in the living room.
Disadvantage is all of these things, and many, many others. Disadvantage can strike people at any moment and some people are born into disadvantage. We believe that all people should have access to the help they need, when they need it, for as long as they need. We believe that it is possible to create extraordinary positive change in the world, by helping people make ordinary positive change, and we would love your support.
Often charities and charitable endeavours are started with the best intentions. Intentions to do something.
Perhaps you have engaged because you feel inspired by a particular person or cause, maybe you were moved to action because something happened close to home. When moved to action, how do you determine what the best course of action is?
You can start with a simple, and important question to ask;
But then what?
You are inspired to move to action because you saw a homeless person on the street doing it rough? You want to give them a sandwich?... But then what?
What happens next? Do they get the long-term support to deal with mental health issues, economic difficulty and other socio-economic pressures to take them from homeless to engaged, employed, housed and happy? Does that sound like too much?
You are inspired to action after seeing how hard it can be for people leaving domestic violence situations. You donate sanitary goods to an organisation you see in your Facebook news feed… But then what?
What happens next? Do they get support in housing for as long as they need it to re-establish themselves? Are they provided with moving services, economic assistance? Are the children moved to new schools or supported where they are? Are necessary training arrangements made to ensure that the parent leaving is going to be able to find gainful, relevant and adequate employment? Is the person they are leaving being given assistance, counselling and being managed in a way that reduces risk to the family and the community? Does that sound like too much work?
We should be aiming to focus our efforts not on ‘Whether we did something’, but ‘Whether a complete outcome was achieved for the person/s we are trying to help.’. By focusing on the effort of the doer rather than the outcome for the person in need we have skewed the kinds of interventions available to the short-term, donor focused activities that might be nice to do, but aren’t necessarily doing the good that is required.
If you were in hospital for a broken leg and someone gave you a beanie and some soup, then told you to be on your way, it is unlikely you would be happy with that. Sure, it’s nice, and thank you for the sentiment and effort, but it would be great if you could fix my broken leg please. That is the most pressing problem for me right now.
If the broken leg was fixed (requiring the time, effort and resources of multiple professionals, a multi-billion dollar healthcare infrastructure and the means to pay for it all), and the person remained hungry and cold, that would be the perfect time to step in and give them soup and a beanie. The ‘But then what?’ question would be satisfied.
The leg is fixed, hunger resolved, they’re no longer cold and can go home now. (Assuming this person has a home to go to).
If we don’t emphasise solving problems for people in need before looking for short-term participation opportunities for people looking to do something, then we will continue to waste time and resources that could be used to great effect, simply through mismanagement.
Being nice is important, and it revolves around what you do and how you act.
Doing good is about the people you are helping. Doing good revolves around what happens for the person/s who need help.
At the Just Be Nice Project we identify opportunities for impact and manage those resources into long term outcomes for people and communities who are experiencing disadvantage. Believing that people are capable of more than simply popping in for a moment to do some token activity under the guise of ‘doing good’, we believe in integrating solutions that allow people and organisations to benefit in a variety of ways from continued engagement with systems of assistance that are focused on outcomes for people in need.
Your beanie and soup might be a wonderful help, at the right moment, for the right people. In another context it might be a shameful waste and an inefficient, donor-centric intervention. It’s simply a matter of timing and management, of both at-risk communities and donor resources. If you are a professional with skills in any industry, a talented hobbyist or an interested, intelligent and engaged individual, it is likely that the most good you can do will be utilising those skills. Not simply spooning soup into a cup or planting a tree. Those jobs are important, but skilled, effective help also requires skilled effective humans, doing what they are best at.
Keep on asking, keep on improving and as always, Just Be Nice.
In response to yesterdays article Transactional Vs Transformational Impact, we received some excellent questions about why the NFP sector has a heavy focus on transactional altruism and transactional impact opportunities, so we thought we would take a moment to address some of these questions today.
“Why does the NFP sector do this? In my limited experience, very few of them seem to want your "help", just the transaction or series of transactions. And this raises questions about the money, where it goes, how much gets to the cause itself, etc.
And when they want to engage with me, getting the usual phone call thanking me for my patronage, what my money has achieved and then asking for more money does not really do it for me.
Guess the question is how you turn your donor base into an engaged and usable base of people that will get their hands dirty and really want to see the particular issue disappear.”
While this is a complicated and multi-faceted question, we thought we would address some of the main reasons for the current state of affairs.
Firstly, there are approximately 600,000 non profits in the country right now, which works out to roughly one NFP for every 40 people. Of those ~600,000, 56,377 are registered with the ACNC (Australian Charities and NFP Commission)*. This equates to one registered NFP for every 440 people. An entire organisation for every 40 people in the country. This doesn’t include all the individual Go-Fund Me, Crowd funding or private Paypal pages for various individual causes or fundraising opportunities.
For fundraising purposes, if we divide the number of NFP’s by the number of Australians aged 15-80 we end up with an organisation for every 31 people. We aren't saying that people in the ages of 0-15 and 80+ are unable to contribute, but in the most active demographic of the population the ratio of people to organisations gets even more extreme.
We will dive deeper into the nature and challenges of the concept of Non-Profits at another time, but for these questions it helps to give an idea of the scale of competition. For further reading on why non-profits aren’t the answer to solving problems as they operate currently, read this article The Problem With Transactional Altruism.
The number of charities and the fact that 1% of non-profits take up over 50% of the available sector revenue means that the marketing of the remaining organisations must produce ‘bang for buck’. Unfortunately, after decades of chasing this ROI for marketing dollars, the overwhelming emphasis inside these organisations has gone from effective ‘help’ to effective ‘emotional activation resulting in donations’.
If one organisation says, “Hey guys, we are doing a great job here, but we need lots of funding, we need it for a long time, require heaps of multi-level engagement and we can change lives but we won’t solve this complex problem for 10 years…” In the current climate, it makes it hard to get funding.
Instead a typical campaign looks like this;
Here is a picture, graphic, video or story about someone who has a very visible kind of disadvantage. Very visible is important because a guilt response needs to be activated right away in order to get a funding outcome. Queue – sick children in hospital, animals with very visible signs of abuse, shocking images of the outcomes of domestic violence, rough sleeping homeless people etc… The use of visible disadvantage plays to the short attention span of the audience, and seeks to get an emotional response on the spot in order to get them to donate.
See Image – Feel Bad (Emotional/Empathetic/Guilt Response) – Get told that this organisation helps – Donate – Feel better… Repeat.
There are several downsides to this kind of promotion, which has been going on for decades. Firstly, the emphasis on visible disadvantage has disrupted the education of the greater public regarding all kinds of disadvantage. It skews this understanding on many levels, including; selling the idea that, if you can see it, you understand the disadvantage.
Organisations use this tactic to drive donations in every NFP sector.
By telling you that “Your $5 changes someone’s whole life for the better.”. You are not only being encouraged to believe that you are getting great bang for buck, you are also learning that people who are doing it tough can be fixed for only $5. This ignorance of the real complexity of causes of disadvantage prevents the understanding, investment and investigation into long-term interventions to help all people who need help.
A further downside of this misunderstanding of real disadvantage, the focus on short-term easy to understand interventions and the marketing of visible disadvantage, is that the government engages with the community in the same way.
With only three-year state and federal terms, Governments are largely interested in ‘handshake’ moments and short-term interventions as part of the strategy for re-election. The government focus on good news stories and short-term outcomes has significant implications for the structural operation of the NFP space, as Government funding provides over 40% of total NFP funding.
The two final, and perhaps most significant barriers to the efficacy of the NFP sector in Transformational Impact are;
The focus on What they do rather than What happens to the person getting help.
The focus on ‘Particular Issues Disappearing.’
We will touch on those issues over the coming days to prevent this being 10,000 words long.
You can see when the vast majority of the funding of an industry comes from parties that doesn’t want actual engagement, there is little interest in making transformational change. The unfortunate downside of operating in that fashion is that now people are fatigued by visible disadvantage, aware of the inefficiencies of the sector, looking for more to do themselves and operating in an environment that hasn’t educated them sufficiently on the actual causes and realities of disadvantage in all its forms.
The Just Be Nice Project was started in response to these inefficiencies. Creating an eco-system where transformational impact is the mandatory style of engagement. Focusing on getting people the help they need, when they need it, for as long as they need it, regardless of how they come to experience difficulty. We embrace the complexity by working in a dynamic way towards an outcome for the people and communities in need.
If you were building a house, you wouldn’t give all the money only to the carpenter and hope for the best. You would let the builder manage the resources to all the trades and suppliers, having them come in and out, as required, until the job is done properly.
We operate in a similar way, managing resources to keep the best resources coming in and out until people in need are housed, employed and have good mental health.
It’s not always simple, but if you don’t demand a short time frame, it is nearly always possible. With a clear outcome for the people in need, efficient utilisation of skills, engagement and resources, and an acknowledgement that no one person or intervention is the complete answer, we are able to build dynamic, relevant and effective solutions to solve complex problems. Problems that need solving, create transformative experiences for those helping and those receiving help while educating everyone along the way.
Thanks for the questions! Stay tuned for more discussion during the week. If you would like to ask more questions or get involved, sign up below. We'd love to have you on board.
*As of 12/08/2018
Transactional Impact is the process of engaging in a simple transaction in order to have, or participate in an attempt at positive impact.
Transformational Impact is the process of changing the way that you do things in to order to have, or participate in an attempt at positive impact.
Transactional impact is short term, while Transformational impact is long-term.
Transactional impact is easy to bolt onto someone’s life or organisation, while Transformational impact becomes a part of someone’s life or organisation.
There is often confusion between regular-transactions and transformation.
Transformational impact changes not only what you do, but how you do things.
Transactional impact is doing your job and then handing a cheque to an organisation.
Regular transactional impact is doing this on a regular or semi-regular basis.
Transformational impact is participating in impact through your job and using those same cheques to support that impact, and the transformations of others.
In transactional impact you are abdicating the responsibility of the ‘doing good’ to somewhere else, whereas in transformational impact you are becoming an active part of the ‘doing good’.
The difficulties in funding, long-term outcome generation and educating people on the real and pervasive causes of disadvantage are amplified by the NFP sectors insistence on promoting transactional impact as the best way for people to help.
Understanding the importance of long-term interventions, education regarding the real barriers to equality of opportunity and continuity of engagement are amplified by transformational impact management.
Rather than simply telling people that their transaction is changing the world, and that they should hand over the responsibility for improving the lives of others to us. We believe in transforming organisations and individuals into forces for contributing to the ongoing development of equality of opportunity for those in need. Partnerships rather than simple purchases.
Don’t let anyone tell you that there is no way to combine the work you do, the skills you have and the resources at your disposal into impact in real time, over the long term. Our transformational impact management strategies mean that the better you are at your job, the more good you can do, and the easier and more rewarding it is to do it in the long term. We think that’s pretty awesome.
In Italy, as of 2016, stealing a small amount of food in a moment of necessity is not a crime.
This came off the back of a case involving a man at a supermarket who paid for breadsticks and attempted to leave with cheese and sausages in his pocket, to the value of €4.07. He was initially sentenced to a €100 fine and 6 months imprisonment.
The court found that the food was taken "in the face of the immediate and essential need for nourishment", ruling that in this case "humanity is more important than punishment, that the right to survival prevails over property". The Italian Court of Cassation judgement "reminds everyone that in a civilised country not even the worst of men should starve".
In how many other instances can we argue for the right for survival over property? What would be the implications for taking this view further, and would they be positive? Considering this, How might we be able to address the issue of empty investment properties, squatting, unaffordable medications and waiting lists for essential services that are months long? Rather than an adversarial, legislative imperative created in courtrooms, is it possible to create a culture in the community that see's the right to survival as an important right for all of us? If we had a cultural imperative to look after one another, how might we then manage our resources for the good of us all, taking into account the needs, desires and expectations of both property owners and those in need.
Given the strength of each person’s sense of self-preservation, is six months in prison and a €100 fine really a deterrent to a starving man? Does the cost of arrest, prosecution and holding this man in remand & prison really justify not simply having mechanisms in place to ensure he never has to steal €4 of food in the first place? Do situations like this encourage us to look for prevention and support systems over and above intervention and punishment systems?
1 in 10 people in Italy are unemployed, if there aren’t enough jobs for 10% of the population to work, should it be the responsibility of the remainder of the employed population to contribute to their upkeep while the economy rallies? We believe that it makes sense, not only morally, but fiscally. By engaging and effectively managing resources, we are able to provide for people in need without it necessarily costing more than prison, courts, policing, hospitalisations or late-stage interventions. Consider even the cost to the supermarket to pursue this man for a crime. If it takes a few moments of their time to answer questions, surely that costs more in wages than the €4 of food in his pocket. Perhaps even the margins on the food he paid for, contributes to the cost of the food he was unable to pay for.
At the Just Be Nice Project, we create innovative ways to assist in the management of property and distribution of excess and available resources to those in need. With voluntary contributions and engagement from our partners, we are working towards a day when people in need, get the help they need, when they need it, for as long as they need it. Regardless of how they come into hardship in the first place.
We agree. “In a civilised country, not even the worst of men should starve.”
Values alignment is a waste of time, what matters is how you execute your values, and whether you consistently do what is required to build character. If you have a lovely set of values and never action them, you might as well not have values in the first place. If you find values-alignment in a person or organisation you need to make sure that you express those values in the same way, or you are still going to find conflict.
Look for character in others, develop it in yourself and reap the benefit of building resilience, a greater sense of self and a more fulfilling environment around you than simply looking to align something as lightweight as values.
If you are looking to find ways to develop actionable principles and form character for you, other individuals or your organisation, get in touch and we will contact you regarding our Character-Led program.
You matter, We care and remember to Just Be Nice.
Character. It’s a complicated concept, one that we believe doesn’t get enough attention. It can be defined in several contexts, however character, in the definition we seek to bring to the forefront of business, political and social improvement is;
Moral excellence and firmness, earned through one’s actions.
Character, is a standard of excellence. An adherence to one’s values and principles, based on what you do each day. Every person has the opportunity to decide their values, but values leave a lot of room for interpretation. To live a life of character, your values must be attached to principles and those principles must be adhered to, in order to develop character.
Values – Your ideas about how things should be, and what matters to you.
Principles – The rules you follow to make sure you are living your values.
Character – The strength with which you adhere to your principles.
Unfortunately for people looking for a quick fix, due to the ‘doing’ nature of character development, one cannot develop it overnight. In fact, it is increasingly difficult to develop character if your values and principles are never tested. You can tell people your values, but you cannot tell people you have character, because you must live it to earn it.
Character is developed through being tested, especially in the face of adversity and difficulty. Simply going through a tough time, or being tested does not mean you develop character automatically, adherence to your principles when they tested is what defines character.
For example, being nice when everything is going well is easy. It is not so character building to be nice to strangers when you are in the middle of a wonderful day/week/year. If you are being nice when things aren’t going well, when it takes effort, you don’t feel like it and it’s harder to manage, that is when you develop character. Tough times develop character because they prove to you and to others that you can live your principles when it matters, when it is hard.
Focus on values, is focus on ideas. Ideas are malleable, they can change easily and quickly, you can tell people what they are. Ideas can be interpreted differently. Value-alignment, in practice, is largely useless for this very reason. It is easy to proclaim that you value something, without ever actually living any part of those values. We all know people that value health, but don’t look after theirs, businesses that say they value employees or customers, until it costs their time or money, people that value equality, but stay quiet as their bosses or colleagues practice bigotry.
Values are simply not as useful as principles and character. In the United States right now, we have a country that is virtually unanimous on the value that ‘Children should not get shot in school’, they Value the lives of children.
Beyond the agreement that children shouldn’t die in school (a value-alignment) the principles differ greatly. From arming teachers, to disarming a country, to metal detectors, security guards, bullet proof doors etc. The difference in principles is what causes the dissonance, not a difference in values. Principle-alignment, alignment of the rules you make to live your values, are more important than values alignment, which is simply agreeing on ideas.
If you claim that you value helping people, and that the follow-on principle for you is that you ‘will help someone when you see that they need a hand’, then you don’t have any character built around that principle until you actually encounter that scenario. If you see someone needing help, and you help, then you are building character. If you had to really go out of your way, and it was difficult for you to help that person, you are building stronger character, because it took even more commitment to live your principles. If you ignore the person who needs help and pretend you didn’t see it… that is a lack of character.
We see values without principles, principles without action and a scarcity of character everywhere we turn. We need to encourage and support character in our children, our schools, our workplaces and public institutions and hold them accountable to their actions, not simply the words they tout as values.
If you would like to become a character-led organisation, get in touch. We love to work with organisations and individuals that are looking for long term character development, building processes, principles and opportunities for character development that help the real-world application of values. Share, subscribe and let us know your ideas on character development, we'd love to hear them.
Keep assessing your principles, Keep building character and as always, Just Be Nice.
Just Be Nice
A collection of articles relevant to pursuing the effective execution of altruism in the search for equality of opportunity.