Recoding Organizational DNA to solidify a road map for progress

Recoding Organizational DNA to solidify a road map for progress

Posted on June 09, 2014 by Michael Corley

A couple of weeks ago, the Sarasota Herald Tribune announced a new initiative of The Patterson Foundation:  Recoding Organizational DNA. The initiative was born out of the understanding that organizational change is extremely difficult, and left to chance, is unlikely to be sustained over the long term.

This is important to recognize because Dr. Robert Marbut’s 12-point plan to reduce homelessness in Sarasota is the road map guiding many of the agencies serving this population.  His roadmap leads to a destination, and the destination is one of change, including:

Enablement to engagement

Agency-centric to system-centric

Output measurements to outcome measurements

Enablement to Engagement.  This seems logical, right? After all, who would logically enable someone to remain homeless? But logic gets trumped by emotion. Providing for someone in need, in the moment of need, is emotionally gratifying; it feels good. So, we help by giving money to the homeless, and we unintentionally enable. (This emotion applies to individuals as well as organizations.)  Moving from enabling to engaging will be a significant change for many individuals and organizations.

Agency-Centric to System-Centric Nonprofit agencies are created out of a desire to address a specific issue, which is often a component of a much broader need. As a result, agencies are structured and funded to provide a solution for one aspect of an overall problem.  This results in an agency-centric view of the solution and the continuum.

Output measurements to outcome measurements.  Number of meals served.  Number of beds provided. Number of shots. These are all examples of output measurements that agencies use to monitor their work. These outputs are necessary, but they do not always indicate the effectiveness of the overall program. Measuring outcomes, on the other hand, begin to measure the progress being made on the issue as a whole.

The operational changes necessary to effectively implement the Marbut 12-point plan are significant and will likely conflict, at some level, with each organization’s culture. These changes are unlikely to occur naturally, which is why TPF developed the Recoding Organizational DNA initiative.

This initiative will give organizational leaders (CEOs, board chairs, board members, communications executives, etc.) the training and tools necessary to embed systemic change in their organizations. From senior executives to management to staff to volunteers to donors --- change must be strategically approached and intentionally implemented in order to be realized.


  • Learn about these and other concepts used in TPF's approach to philanthropy.


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