Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Bonus incentives to states for No Kid Hungry gains?

Yesterday’s NY Times included this story: (http://www.nytimes.com/2010/12/27/health/policy/27medicaid.html?_r=1&scp=1&sq=medicaid%20bonus&st=cse) which I think both affirms the strategic wisdom of Share Our Strength's approach to ending childhood hunger, and suggests a tactic we may want to adopt as an effective incentive.

“The Obama administration plans to announce Monday that it will make $206 million in bonus Medicaid payments to 15 states — with more than a fourth of the total going to Alabama — for signing up children who are eligible for public health insurance but had previously failed to enroll.”

The article explains that these payments are “aimed at one of the most persistent frustrations in government health care: the inability to enroll an estimated 4.7 million children who would be eligible for subsidized coverage if their families could be found and alerted. Two of every three uninsured children are thought to meet the income criteria for government insurance programs. … Kathleen Sebelius, the secretary of health and human services, has called the matter “a moral obligation” and has challenged health care providers, state and local governments and community groups to seek out eligible children.”

The parallels with the access issues we see around food and nutrition programs are pretty obvious. We will be eager to explore the feasibility of such an approach in addition to our current leguislative initiative proposing challenge grants to states to enroll more kids in exisiting anti-hunger programs.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

My list of Top Ten Lessons of 2010

It’s been an amazing year for Share Our Strength, and worth reflecting on any learning’s to be taken from our growth and experience. Here’s my list of the top 10 lessons learned in 2010 – based on nothing more than my own personal opinion. There aren’t many “aha” surprises, just some common sense that merits reinforcement. It is by no means all inclusive. But some of what we learned may be applicable to your favorite nonprofit! Feel free to add your own two cents!

1. Talent tops all. Our investment in ensuring that the right people are in the right positions has strengthened every facet of our work from strategy to development to communications, etc.

2. Surpluses are more fun than debt. After years of debilitating and distracting discussions about whether we would be able to make our budget, the discipline to deliver a surplus created a liberating result: our ability to focus on strategy and substance, rather than shifting around small pots of money to cover bets gone bad.

3. Speed makes up for size. Our early and decisive action on matters ranging from Haiti to support for the Child Nutrition Bill when others waivered, enabled us to “punch above our weight” and have disproportionate influence and impact on important issues.

4. Celebrity counts, and if authentic, counts a lot. The fact that Jeff Bridges had a 25 year record of activism on hunger issues, and really does care, made him an asset worth waiting for over all of these years that we have otherwise eschewed celebrity involvement.

5. Simplicity and accountability are an inspiring combination. The No Kid Hungry campaign and the state strategy offer a promise nearly unique in the social change world, which is a commitment to actually measure progress based on increases or decreased in participation among children who are eligible but not yet enrolled in food and nutrition programs.

6. Entrepreneurship and policy are a powerful combination. Most of the organizations started by social entrepreneurs – whether Teach For America, Venture Philanthropy Partners, City Year, College Summit, et al – have innovated in ways government never could, but also embraced a role in advocating for improved public policy to scale their innovations – just as we more recently have done.

7. Blue oceans offer smoother sailing that red oceans. Our state strategy is an affirmation of the business strategy book of 2005 called Blue Ocean Strategy which makes the case for “the high growth and profits an organization can generate by creating new demand in an uncontested marketplace.” We have found ourselves virtually along in focusing on the role of governors and state governments in ending childhood hunger.

8. Most failures are failures of imagination. I’ve beat this one to death – mostly via my new book, The Imaginations of Unreasonable Men, so enough for now but suffice it to say that I hope our culture remains one in which we always challenge the conventional wisdom, remain undeterred by the difficult and impractical, and committed to achieving the best possible version of ourselves. As Chuck Scofield shared with me over the weekend, from the HBO special on legendary Green Bay Packers coach Vince Lombardi "We are going to relentlessly chase perfection, knowing full well we will not catch it, because nothing is perfect. But we are going to relentlessly chase it, because in the process we will catch excellence."

9. Capacity equals impact. Investing in building and strengthening internal capacity, while often mis-interpreted as increasing overhead, and disparaged by formula-based ratings systems, can be the most direct and effective way of increasing impact against mission.

10. Even our best year is not sufficient in an economy that keeps 44 million Americans below the poverty line. 2010 was a great year but we have to make 2011 an even better one. Too many Americans are hurting – especially kids. We probably can’t work much harder but we have to work smarter and continue to bring new allies, new resources, and new partners into the battle.

 I consider myself extremely fortunate to get to do this work, and especially to do it with the amazing team at Share Our Strength. My best for the holidays and for a happy New Year.


Monday, December 20, 2010

The military's green revolution and the imaginations of unreasonable men

Tom Friedman’s recent column in the NY Times (http://www.nytimes.com/2010/12/19/opinion/19friedman.html?_r=1&src=me&ref=homepage) about how the U.S. Navy is reducing its dependence on foreign oil by flying jets powered by a blend of conventional jet fuel and camelina aviation biofuel made from pressed mustard seeds is a great current example of “the imaginations of unreasonable men”.

When the Pentagon realized it was losing one of its military personnel for every fuel 24 convoys it runs in Afghanistan, what previously seemed impractical if not impossible, suddenly became imaginable. It’s a fascinating column about how a green revolution in our military can help us save energy, money lives, and possible help us win or avoid the next war. And it is another example of kind of thinking I try to convey in my new book (http://www.amazon.com/Imaginations-Unreasonable-Men-Inspiration-Purpose/dp/1586487647/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1292267953&sr=8-1)