Cashmere Cares: a Suggested Approach
The seven recommended steps below describe a cohesive approach to realizing the full potential of Cashmere Cares.
1. Shape a narrative.
A narrative is a story in motion that people want to be a part of. In contrast to flat facts and figures and an ask, a narrative helps people feel and believe. They understand what must be done and see that they have a part to play.
Shaping a narrative involves defining a theme (a simple but powerful idea everybody can connect with), a mandate (a worthy mission that must be accomplished), and a compelling question (not a solution … yet). The key is to sell the problem, not the solution, because people gain ownership as they help to create the solution.
These central ideas can be augmented with supporting facts and messages from other sources—thought leaders, books, viral videos, documentaries, studies, and complementary efforts.
The storyline that brings the narrative together needs a beginning (where we are), middle (the challenge ahead), and end (where we believe we can—must—end up). It includes both obstacles and advantages. Most of all, it shows everyone how they have an essential role, should they choose to accept it. The story culminates with and centers around a single compelling question people should feel they need to answer.
Initially, we have found the best way to share a narrative is with a basic slide deck resembling a story board—with one simple message per slide, each building on the previous one.
2. Test the narrative.
Once a promising narrative has been formed, the next step is to test it with people who do not yet have exposure, to see how they respond. Think of the initial narrative as a hypothesis about what will rally people in common cause.
The moment for testing the narrative is also a great moment for connecting with leader partners—people who will be of great help in the future. Sharing the message with a few leaders at a time in a private setting makes it easy to listen for feedback and unpack aspects of the narrative that resonate.
The most important part of testing the narrative is testing the central compelling question that prompts people to think about what could be done and their role in doing it. This question leads to open discussion following the presentation of the story. What people say about what could be done is of high value.
It is beneficial at this stage to facilitate some early action steps if the leader partners at the table want to get to work in some way. Harvesting momentum is like picking fruit. It's green, then it's ripe, then it's spoiled.
3. Design and plan your grow-out.
It isn't practical to chart the entire path forward without first doing the testing in steps 1 and 2. This is the moment to check in and map out steps 4 and beyond, based on feedback, degree of momentum, and available opportunities.
The steps we suggest after step 3 are more "best practices" options, not a prescription. This design step is where those next steps come into clearer view.
This is the moment to refine the narrative, incorporating any feedback and learnings from early testing.
This is also the right moment to get commitment from key partners with whom the message has resonated and who want to have a role. One way this can happen is by forming a small leadership circle dedicated to acting as an informal committee.
Steps 4 to 7 below offer a good general outline of what a path forward could look like, as designed in this phase. The right path will be driven largely by what key players are highly motivated to do.
4. Build some buzz.
A good next step to gaining the necessary support for substantial action is to turn up the volume on the initial narrative by telling it using various forms of media and in various forums—all while asking people to join in.
A web presence (website and social media) can allow people to walk through the narrative themselves. It is a great way to share ongoing news and progress, and it makes it easy for people to take action in some way.
A video is a proven powerful way to introduce people to the movement. It can accomplish 80% of the emotional and ideological connection with people in just three minutes.
This is the time to refine the slide deck for leading group conversations. Improved graphics and a more snappy, streamlined script resembling a TED talk are worthy goals at this stage.
Equipped with the right media tools (website, video, slideshow), this is a good moment to expand the outreach to clubs, groups, non-profit boards, and ad-hoc gatherings. These speaking opportunities should be at least half group conversation. Speaking duties can (and often should) be shared among several leaders from the project's inner circle.
This is also a great time to begin writing blog posts, editorials and op-eds, letters to editors, Facebook posts, and the like.
Finally, while building buzz, the call for support and participation should remain strong and easy to respond to. (The intent of a cause like this one is that together we can do much more than a few people working in isolation.)
5. Get some sponsors.
By this point, it is likely that some concrete needs will emerge that need funding. The combination of a worthy vision and worthy needs should be potent enough to resonate with like-minded people.
Sponsors certainly vary, but a general shared characteristic is a preference for supporting tangible actions that will lead to predictable results. This is why it makes sense to wait until there's a clear path in place before seeking sponsorship in earnest.
The general flow for enrolling sponsors is to map out needs, connect those needs to the vision, and reach out directly to parties who have expressed interest during outreach efforts like those described above.
A crucial strategy for seeking sponsorship is to take the one-on-one time with each sponsor to explore their experience, interests, and vision. A great sponsor provides not only much needed funding but a great deal of influence, and it pays dividends to take the time to understand what they see, what they value most, and why.
6. Seek one or more grants.
The right moment for seeking a grant is similar to the right moment for seeking sponsors. The vision is in place, some tangible steps are underway, and an infusion of capital is what's needed to take success to the next level.
The keys to a successful grant effort will include describing the efforts to date in context of a larger vision, then drawing a clear connection between what needs to happen next (with funding help) and bringing that larger vision to eventual fruition.
An assortment of grants are available in the education space, and we recommend working with a skilled and experienced grant writer to identify opportunities and pursue them. This is a team effort, because telling the story is a big part of writing the grant.
7. Expand your base.
Eventually, every stakeholder has a role. This is what communities are all about. But the reality is that it takes time before it becomes clear what everyone's role needs to be. Once that becomes clear, it's time to expand.
The key to expanding the base of participants meaningfully is knowing what every stakeholder's role can be. And while by this time it has become much more clear what the "answers" are to the compelling central question that launched the effort, it is still crucial to allow people to play when determining just what their contribution can be.
A great way to enroll more people is through informational inquiry. Informational inquiry is a technique of requesting contributions from people (often in the form of input) in a way that requires the participant to first take in some information and broaden their perspective in order to provide informed input or take informed action. This two way exchange engages people faster and more effectively than general urgings or asks.
This is an important time to keep an eye on sustainability. We want stakeholders to begin participating in ongoing activities, not one-time events (although events can certainly have their place). Periodic activities, ongoing programs, and the like are what it takes to create a new normal and lead to the "happy ending" the narrative promises.