The Value of A Good Mirror

by Anne Yurasek on February 19, 2008


Scott, one of the contract consultants who works with us, is home from New Orleans.  He was there to do an assessment of lessons learned in a project we have helped to support for the last three years.  It is a Success by 6 initiative of the Greater New Orleans United Way that began three years ago to track the process of achieving NAECY accreditation by three day care centers.   At the time, New Orleans had very few accredited centers.  Increasing the quality of child care was chosen as a that would reach a large number of children with an intervention that is well supported by evidence to increase the likelihood that children will succeed in school.   The intervention with the three child care centers consisted of two parts:  (1) helping them work directly on the children care accreditation standards; and (2) participating in an assessment of organizational development stage and identification of a strategy to build each organization’s internal infrastructure.    The idea was to make sure that these centers were as strong from a business and organizational perspective as they were programmatically and to observe the process in three organizations at very different developmental stages.

We were just about 9 months into the project when Katrina hit.  We were handling the organizational development piece, of course, had completed the assessment process and conducted one round of counseling based on the assessment.  Katrina flooded all three of the day care centers with 8 feet of water.  One was hit so hard by the rushing floodwaters that it shifted off its foundation.  But this is a Katrina story with a happy ending.  In each case, the Directors of these centers tackled the rebuilding of their centers with amazing energy and commitment and used this tragedy as an opportunity to rebuild better than before.  In fact, all three had had significant barriers in terms of the configuration of classrooms and other physical plant challenges that would have impeded their chances of being accredited.   They used the devastation and its aftermath to address these issues as they rebuilt.  All three are open and currently serving children.  All three still intend to pursue accreditation.  I was only able to meet with each of them again once before the three year grant ended. With all they had to do (rebuilding their buildings, hiring and training all new staff,  identifying an entirely new census of children) there was not enough time left in the grant to deliver the supports around organizational development that were planned.

So what surprised me most when I read Scott’s report?   All three Directors report that our initial assessment and tiny bit of support was a truly valuable part of the project and expressed real disappointment that they hadn’t been able to follow through on the OD aspects of the work.  With all that had happened, I am astonished they even remember what we discussed!   It reminds me of the value of true mirrors.  The assessment process did no more than showing them where they are developmentally and laid out where they could go.  Here you are, here is what is possible.  This is a way to think about it.  It changed the way they thought about their organizations; it changed how they want to grow them.

If you would like to see what they found so valuable, you can download the first phase of the assessment process for free from our website.

Photo provided by: Eda Strauch via Flickr

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