Non-Profit Leadership: How to take Program Development from Design to Implementation

For those of us that are continually attempting to improve certain aspects of our society, we recognize that when needs surface that are within our mission to address there is quite a process to make that happen. We usually begin with an idea and over time we turn it into a program or process that reaches to those in need with a hopeful outcome.

I was reminded today of how tedious and extensive that process is as one of my Directors filled three display boards with the entire process. We were reflecting on the needs of our very depleted early childhood systems to be trauma-aware and trauma-informed. There are a number of variables in how children are treated in general and how early childhood centers have little access to trauma training and mentorship in how to deal with trauma-impacted children. These are children who come into care feeling unsafe and are often acting out.

From a non-profit point of view there are so many considerations. There is a clear articulation of the genuine needs which takes relationships with caregivers to get accurate assessments of those needs. It takes a training design with curriculum and in today’s world filming, editing and course development. There needs to be some form of training, coaching and mentorship which means there needs to be design for that part of the program. There is the development expense to include all the pre-work to complete the design. For most non-profits there is then a fundraising effort which takes a great deal of work and connections. Then there is the program development phase which creates the working model with some pilots to follow. Then, the actual implementation and research to follow and validate the program that is developed. We also get feedback around the efficacy of the program and correspondingly adapt and make changes that will develop the programs even more.

This is quite a process, but a successful program needs the strengths and connections of people who are committed to the final results. One person typically cannot do an effective job of creating a complete process of program development. It takes a strong mental model of how the program works. It takes curriculum writers, trainers and coaches. There are fundraising staff members who work diligently to connect with funding sources. It takes public relations, graphics, proposals, meetings  and many emails. Finally, it takes individuals who are willing to take the risk to be a part of the pilots and to deliver the program for the first time. Then it will take a whole team of staff to implement the model to early childhood centers.

Since I have watched this process many times over from beginning to end, I stand in great admiration of the commitment and diligence of compassionate, dedicated and talented staff members. It takes a great deal of tenacity and genuine hard work to create effective programs that are contextual and well-developed. Professionals all over the country create these wonderful programs and processes which bring hope and healing to those who have significant needs. It is truly a beautiful thing to watch from beginning to end. I feel very privileged to be on the front row of watching programs like this emerge that have such amazing impact.

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