Last week, United Way of Salt Lake partners gathered to hear Dan Heath, co-author of the New York Times Bestseller, Switch, discuss the components needed to effect large scale social change. Partners also heard updates about ongoing Collective Impact work and had the opportunity to attend breakout sessions on topics such as Behavioral Health for Students and Families, Elementary Literacy, Kindergarten Readiness through Pre-School, and Closing Utah’s Skills Gap.
Dan Heath presented on several key ideas including: “rider vs. the elephant,” change is difficult but not impossible, and to expect to fail – but fail forward. He explains that when you’re contemplating change, the “elephant” is the passion and emotion that bring people to the table — it is the motivator to push through the “weeds” of the process. Likewise, the “rider” provides that process and direction. Both are necessary for change!
“It was a really great presentation for me because I’ve been trying to implement a lot of the strategies he discusses,” said Chris Ellis, United Way Director of Early Learning, “and I attempted to demonstrate that in my breakout session afterwards.”
“A lot of participants in my breakout session brought up Dan Heath in our discussion about Elementary Literacy, which was really cool to hear,” said Stephanie Rokich, Director of Elementary Learning.
During the “Closing the Skills Gap” breakout session, Karen Gunn from Salt Lake Community College, talked about how timely and useful the presentation with Dan Heath was, as members of her own staff have been implementing his suggested strategies for change over the past three years. The discussion turned to how the individuals in the room could work together to make sure all “opportunity youth,” ages 15-25 who are unemployed and/or not enrolled in some sort of certificate or degree program, could be identified and supported towards enrollment and job placement. This conversation is a vital piece to supporting the Governor’s 66% by 2020 goal and we look forward to continuing to shape the path in partnership with Salt Lake Community College and others.
The fourth breakout session on Behavioral Health for Students and Families brought professionals into the room to discuss family stability and how to “motivate the elephant” toward large scale access to vital resources. “The event was a nice springboard for this discussion and I’m excited moving forward,” said Caroline Moreno, Director of Health and Income.
We look forward to continuing to bring government agencies, nonprofit organizations, businesses, and schools together to continue this important work and “motivate the elephant” to long-lasting, widespread change.