Monday, May 21, 2018

Results Based Accountability

Several weeks ago I experienced a great training with a fantastic facilitator that turned my world around and provided me with the right tools needed to help organizations be successful and participate at the same time. The training was called Results Based Accountability or RBA. Over the years I heard colleagues refer to RBA in their presentations but I had no idea what it meant and nor did the community leaders sitting in the room, but we pretended to know. Results Based Accountability is a disciplined way of thinking and taking action used by communities to improve the community as a whole. RBA is also used by agencies to improve the performance of their programs.

So what's so important about Results Based Accountability? It's actually something that many of us do naturally without even thinking about it. RBA starts with ends or projected outcomes and works backward, step by step, towards means, according to Deitre Epps, Partner and Senior Consultant with Clear Impact. For communities, the ends are conditions of well-being for children, families or the community as a whole. Examples that Epps shared with us included: Residents with good jobs, children ready for school, healthy communities, or having a safe and clean neighborhood. For many community programs, the outcome or the end is how better off it is when the program works the way it should.

I fell in love instantly with the teachings of Results Based Accountability because:
  • It moves from talking to action very quickly.
  • It's an easy and common sense process that most people can understand.
  • It drives groups to participate and challenge assumptions that can be barriers to improving circumstances or conditions.
  • It builds strong collaboration and consensus among team or community members.
  • It uses data and transparency to ensure accountability for the overall community and the performance of programs.
In the beginning, I struggled with changing my way of thinking. I was familiar with the methods but it took me a bit to grab hold of the terminology that was foreign to me. The facilitator never gave up on me or any of the others in the room. Her support was a great value to each of us. Her discussion of the Results Based Accountability "Turn the Curve" template pulled us into the process with eyes wide open with excitement.

The Turn Curve Template is an overview of the step by step RBA turns the curve decision-making process. The following are 6 steps from the template to help turn the curve:
  • What is the end? 
    • Choose a result and an indicator or a performance measure
  • How are we doing?
  • What is the story behind the curve of the baseline?
    • Briefly explain the story behind the baseline: the factors (positive & negative, internal and external) that are most strongly influencing the curve of the baseline.
  • Who are partners who have a role to play in turning the curve?
    • Identify partners who may have a role to play in turning the curve of the baseline.
  • What works to turn the curve?
    • Determine what would work to turn the curve of the baseline. Include no cost or low-cost strategies.
  • What do we propose to do to turn the curve?
    • Determine what you and your partners propose to do to turn the curve of the baseline.
What Are BaselinesA baseline is a multi-year display of data with two parts: a historical part which shows where we’ve been, and a forecast part that shows where we are headed if we stay on our current course. Baselines allow us to define success as doing better than the baseline or “turning the curve.” Adding a comparison baseline from a different location or program can also be helpful in creating your baseline.

My first question was, What is an Indicator? An indicator is a specific, observable and measurable characteristic that can be used to show changes or progress a program is making toward achieving a specific outcome or end. There should be at least one indicator for each outcome. You probably know my second question, what is a Performance Measure? A good performance measure gives you and your staff the ability to make changes and see whether those changes improve the agency/division/program's performance, that is, its ability to improve customers/clients' quality of life.
Performance Accountability
For programs and organizations, the performance measures focus on whether customers are better off as a result of your services.  These performance measures also look at the quality and efficiency of these services.  RBA asks three simple questions to get at the most important performance measures:
  • How much did we do?
  • How well did we do it?
  • Is anyone any better off?

Organizations and programs can only be held accountable for the customers they serve.  RBA helps organizations identify the role they play in community-wide impact by identifying specific customers who benefit from the services the organization provides.

Tell me, have I peaked your interest yet? Trust me, this was the best training I have encountered in many, many years and I praise Deitre Epps of Clear Impact. Check her out and their web page today and attend the next Clear Impact training. You will love the results.
To download a free Results Based Accountability Guide e-book to learn how this framework can help you in your work, click the link.

Sunday, April 29, 2018

Stop Killing Black Boys and Men

It doesn’t matter what age you are or if you are poor or rich when you are a black man. We are all seen as a criminal, a thief, a drug addict or just worthless. Even if you are a doctor, a lawyer, a minister, an actor, a teacher or a Communications Project Manager like me. We are all seen the same whether or not you believe it or not.
This week, I decided to wear a sweatshirt hoodie that says Don’t Shoot every single day to encourage discussions with other Black people. My partner created it several years ago as a way to keep me alive whenever I leave the house and may be killed. It’s not about making money to sell the sweatshirt, but about saving lives.
To my surprise, people have stopped me on the streets, especially Black women, to share their feelings and concern about our black boys and girls. Soon, it will include young Latino boys too. Mothers are approaching me and crying asking what they should say to their 13 and 14-year-old sons. 
Tough looking skinheads are approaching me and giving me the thumbs up or a pat on my back expressing concern for my life. The latest actions and murders by police officers in this country are devastating and bring tears to my eyes and also anger. 
The shooting of a young man in Sacramento has caused me a tremendous amount of anxiety. Without totally understanding it all, I find myself slipping into a state of anger. Firing at an unarmed man 20 times is really unnecessary.
The killing of black and brown people in America seems to go unpunished, especially if it's by the so-called frightened cops with guns. Usually there is no jail sentence for the killers, but instead a bonus of time off with pay as the punishment. Hooray!
From the time I was able to attend school, around 5 years old, I was harassed by police even while walking to school or waiting to take a bus to school. It was always the same comment that I looked like someone that had just robbed a liquor store or a local convenience store. The day always ended with detention for being late and then the drama would start again on the way home. Unfortunately, the saga continues in America.
Will this ever stop, probably not? It has been going on as long as this country has been a country. Having a racist and incompetent President as we have today has given people the right to be racist, to hate immigrants or anyone who is not white. 
According to the Washington Post in 2017, over 987 people were killed by police officers in the United States. Of that number, 223 were African American and 179 were Latino/Hispanic. Fifteen were killed in California. (
In 2018, the Washington Post also stated that 351 people were killed by police officers in the United States. Of that number, 68 were African American and 38 were Latino/Hispanic. Thus far, 38 of those were in California. It's still early yet. (
My goal is to start conversations in communities of color on the topic of what to say to our black and brown boys to keep them alive. I am starting with community-based organizations, hair salons, barber shops, and faith-based institutions. I am willing to go wherever people congregate together. 
As a result of the push from community members, I am in the process of developing a training design to help parents and grandparents to talk to their children about being safe on the streets, in their cars, and on public transportation. 
I would love to connect with others to strategize and set up a forum for families to talk about their concerns and then organize to create change.
Please take a short survey titled "Protect Our Black and Latino Children". Your feedback is important and will help me to empower communities that need it the most.
 I really want to hear your creative ideas. Interested, let’s connect. Thank you.

Friday, March 16, 2018

How To Create a Public Relations Plan

You may ask yourself why does my business need a public relations plan?

A formal public relations plan is usually part of a company's broader marketing plan, or a smaller document that outlines the PR component of the marketing plan. Advertising and promotions are other common inclusions in a full marketing plan. Public relations is unique from advertising in that you don't pay for the media time or space. Promotion comes from news coverage, press releases, press conferences or other public events.

The primary purpose of the PR plan is to outline the company's objectives. Public relations is generally intended to support marketing efforts by promoting goodwill, reinforcing brand and product messages presented in advertising, informing the public and overcoming negative publicity. While companies often include some level of emphasis on each of these objectives, the PR plan states more specific details, such as increased popularity in the marketplace, better market awareness and improved customer retention.

The other side of public relations is damage control. A formal PR plan helps a company avoid being caught off guard by anything that comes up. Top companies usually know their weaknesses and the areas most scrutinized by competitors and customers. Discussing these areas of vulnerability helps company leaders present press releases and get feature coverage that counters them. The more difficult areas of this reactive strategy involve those unforeseen events. Major product issues or employee scandals are hard to predict. However, a good reactive strategy still includes a plan for how to approach these things. Whether to respond immediately or wait a period of time, and what tools to use, are central to a good strategy. It's also great to work with your team and board of directors to have a phenomena crisis plan ready to go. It's not if a crisis will occur but when. It's always better to be prepared.

A compelling public relations plan can go a long way towards helping a business spread its message, reach more customers and strengthen its brand. Here are a few steps to remember when building your public relations plan:
  • Define the goals and objectives of your public relations plan. Consider what you want your main objective to be, which varies from business to business. For some the focus is on increasing sales and making money.  For my business, my objective has always been a bit different. I am interested in increasing knowledge in a community, educating them how they can be more successful by using different techniques and skills to reach their clients, customers and partners.
  • Decide who is your target audience or the community you are interested in reaching. Ask the hard questions, why are you trying to reach them and what are the benefits for them. Also remember to consider the media that you desire to reach and why. Choosing the appropriate media outlets can help you to promote your brand and spread the word about your business and the great work you are doing.

  • Develop the strategies and tactics of your public relations plan, understanding that the two are very different although the terms often get used interchangeable. About 2,500 years ago, Chinese military strategist Sun Tzu wrote “The Art of War.” In it, he said, Strategy without tactics is the slowest route to victory. Tactics without strategy is the noise before defeat.” Tactics and strategy are not at odds with one another—they’re on the same team. 
  • Strategy defines your long-term goals and how you are planning to achieve them. It gives you the path you need toward achieving your organization's mission. Tactics are much more concrete and are often oriented toward smaller steps and shorter timeframes along the way. They involve best practices, specific plans, resources, etc. They are also called initiatives.
  • Draft the key messages of your public relations plan.
  • Prepare a budget for your public relations plan. Be realistic and side aside funds for potential unforeseen occurrences.
  • Develop a detailed timeline to help you to implement your public relations tactics with maximum efficiency. Staying focused on your deadlines will help you to gain success. 
  • Engage in crisis planning. Consider a contingency plan in case of a potential emergency.

  • Always review your timeline and timetable throughout the campaign, making adjustments when necessary. Public relations is fluid. It's not a plan made in concrete but can be changed and improved as needed in order to become even more successful in reaching your audience.

The most important part of creating your public relations plan is to have FUN!

Saturday, February 3, 2018

Do You Have Bad Manners?

If I had one wish today it would be for every person that looks at their mobile device 4 or 500 times per day to really stop for a moment to get a glimpse of themselves.The average person with a conscience would be appalled how they really look when interacting with people who are not, well, rude to anyone else. When asked, most people can't even understand the words, bad manners, because we all have great manners.  Might be time to check that phone again for more accuracy.

Poor or bad manners occur 24-hours per day, no matter who you are, male or female, short or tall, black green, yellow blue or orange.  If you just take an hour, okay, 30 minutes away from your mobile device to observe human interaction -- you would be sick in your stomach. That's what most people with decent or good manners think about those with no manners or who are just plain rude.

Bad manners occur where we live, in the workforce, on public transportation, in hospitals, in restaurants, in our schools, in clubs and bars, in Whole Food or other food stores, while driving, while biking, while jogging or walking, while shopping for beautiful outfits and especially on the streets of San Francisco and every major city.

Case in point, this afternoon, I left out of my condo unit and looked dead in the eyes of a neighbor who lives 2 doors down. As usual, I said hello. He made a point to look at me and put his head down. By the way, that's being rude or just plain stupid. And just in case you are wondering, English is his first language and mine too. When such idiotic events happen, I usually smile and make a note to delete that person from my view forever. To be quite honest, if there was a major catastrophe I wouldn't bother to lift a hand to help or to alert him. Listen up people, when someone says hello to you, respond with a hello or hi or just give a fake smile and nod your head to acknowledge the other person. My dad taught me to be nice to everyone once. It doesn't matter if they are the President of a Fortune 500 company or the janitor cleaning toilets or the busboy in one of your favorite restaurants that most refuse to acknowledge. Everyone is important. Ever thought about what they could do to your food -- Yum!

 Go ahead and deny it, but here are a few tips that may indicate you may be RUDE: 

Flat Out Rudeness

Some people pretend no one else in the world is affected by their bad behavior, actions, and words. Don't ask rude questions that are none of your business. And if someone does something nice for you, say, Thank you, to show your appreciation. Or Excuse me, if you step on someone's foot.That shouldn't be too difficult to say -- Just 2 small words even if you don't mean it.

Cell Phone Conversations in Public
When you're talking on your cell phone in public, remember where you are. Don't discuss anything that the rest of the world has no business knowing nor do they want to know, like what your doctor said about your infection, your Brazilian waxing appointment, your baby's daddy in prison argument about money, in an Uber of Lyft auto, or the argument you had with your boss after you didn't finish your work. Wait until you get home – or at least in your car or on a street corner with no people around – before discussing such private stuff.

Barely Tipping in Restaurants
Remember that many people who rely on tips make below minimum wage, and they often have families to support. Tip according to the type and quality of service rendered. The latest bills also add it up for you whether you want to give 10%, 15%, 20% or more. Check the box and sign your name.

Taking Your Phone to Dinner to See Friends
What did these people ever do before texting and social media existed? I am sure we all notice couples sitting at dinner and both are on their cell phones and not looking at each other. Are you dating the phone? They probably had "real" relationships with "in person" people. If you are physical with someone, don't ignore him or her to text someone who isn't even with you.

Breathing Down the Back of Necks
When you're waiting for someone to finish his or her transaction with a cashier, give the person room to breathe. We are not in an overcrowded country. Everyone needs personal space when dealing with anything financial – even if it's the purchase of a burrito or Cosmo. Pretty sure you would hate it.

Unkind to Disabled People
When you spot a wheelchair-bound person in a grocery store, ask if you can help get something off a top shelf. That should take you about a second, and it will be good for everyone. Never park in a spot designated for a disabled person with the reasoning that, " I will only be a minute", unless you are disabled.

Respecting the Elderly
A big sore point for me is to see young or middle aged people sitting on their butts on public transit, looking at their phones and refusing to move over so that someone can at least take a seat on a crowded bus or subway. Many people pretend that they don't see older people struggling to hold on while standing on a crowded bus. Or my latest observation is when women are 6 to 8 months pregnant and no man or woman could consider offering them a seat. My only wish is if someone who is rude lives to become elderly, disabled or pregnant and that you be treated the same.

Screaming Children = Poor Parenting Skills
You know how frustrating and annoying it can be when someone lets their children misbehave in public or on public transportation while the parent is on his or her cell phone. Whether they're throwing a temper tantrum or running around and disrupting others, they get on other people's nerves. Before you bring your children to any public place, talk to them about their manners. If the child does not understand, perhaps you should not be in a restaurant disturbing everyone and ruining a great date.

Smart Grooming
Dress for the place and occasion. Follow the dress code at work and other places where people typically wear nicer clothing. Remember that casual Friday at the office isn't an excuse to be untidy. Regardless if you work for a high tech company, a startup or for a non-profit agency please take a shower, brush your teeth, comb your hair and for goodness sake wash your feet if you are going to wear flip-flops and prop your dogs on top of your desk because it's cool. Trust me, it's not.

After you receive a gift, send a thank you note. No need to write an essay, just simply thank the person, address the envelope, put a stamp on it, and stick it in the mailbox. Wait, you do know what a stamp is right? And a mailbox - It's that big blue box on most corners in most cities.There is an app for it. If you absolutely don't have the two minutes to spare, send an email. Email isn't the best , but it's better than nothing.

Using Profanity in Public
There is no reason to let loud foul language pass your lips when you are in a public space, especially when there are elderly folks and children around you. Losing control of your language is considered a weakness and screams insecurity,

Don't Touch Me
Get real people. If you ever been on public transportation during rush hour, everyone touches each other. The other day a young woman threatened to call the police if a woman touched her again. I couldn't help it, I just laughed out loud at the stupidity. As a result, everyone on the subway laughed too. Let's get real, if you don't like crowded buses or trains, drive on a crowded freeway. What! no car? Maybe you should never leave your house or apartment.

Mikael Wagner is a Communications Project Manager. For more information, visit us at