NLN11: Adaptive Approaches to Nonprofit Change with Mark Clark

Mark ClarkOur guest this episode of the Leaders Network Podcast series is Mark Clark, CEO of Generations for Peace, the leading global non-profit peace building organization, which he joined in 2011. Mark has been a corporate lawyer and served as a British Army Officer, and his diverse experience includes humanitarian and emergency relief work, sustainable development, youth , post conflict transition and democratic governance.

Generations for Peace is dedicated to sustainable conflict transformation at the grassroots level, and empowers volunteer leaders of youth to promote active tolerance and responsible citizenship in communities experiencing different forms of conflict and violence across the Middle East, Africa, Asia and Europe.

Here are some of the highlights from our wide ranging discussion –

Permanent Change Requires Long-Term Commitment

Peace building is a long-term process. It needs long-term commitment by us to the volunteers we are supporting and to their communities.  Over the last eight years we have trained just under 8,900 volunteers with an average age of between 25 and 35. We want to be working in communities with them for many years, and to really see a deep transformation of the conflict dynamics in any particular case, and be able to seize emergent opportunities for progress as they arise, year-by-year.

The Adaptive Change Process 

We focus is on where we can start to build relationships via our youth leaders, knowing that their influence may be small at the beginning. Starting with a focus of just moving from A to B, then B to C and so on, adapting to change as we go.

We use the adaptive process of gaining trust, gaining acceptance, and gradually rolling out different forms of activities to allow our volunteers to really gain access to people throughout the chain of influence in their locations.

Finding Funding for Non-Definite Processes Requires Education

Our adaptive, step-by-step approach means that we have to make a big effort to educate our donors. We have to have evidence of the impact our actions are having. Are they sustainable, are they cost effective? With those big questions in mind, we devote a lot of energy into our monitoring and evaluation; of the people running programs, direct participants and also the wider community who are touched or impacted by those directly involved. That depth and breadth of review gives much richer, more compelling data and evidence.

Being Adaptable Means No Mistakes (Just Learning Experiences)

We have an organizational culture where making mistakes is okay. To learn from those mistakes we include in our program cycles space for learning and reflection. If you can build that into your routines and the way your teams work, then you have the opportunity to turn what may seem to be mistakes into, probably, the most valuable learning that will drive your innovation and implementation.

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