2017 – What Will it Bring?

Welcome to the first blog of 2017. As I do every year, I want to kick off the first blog of the year with things that concern me and some hope for the year ahead.


Three things that concern me – and may concern you too…

That resistance to change means not doing the right thing.

Resistance is real. Star Trek would tell us it is futile. But that doesn’t seem to be true. On the one hand, people love the hypothetical of change, but go to great lengths to avoid the actions of getting there. On the other hand, there are those that – even with overwhelming data to the contrary – hold on to their views and diligently practice cognitive dissonance. When it comes down to measuring the amount of pain to the amount to be gained, person after person and organization after organization seems to struggle with working through the conflict and turmoil that can come with making change. I get that. Change sucks.

What pains me is when the resistance to change results in meetings rather than action. What pains me is when people want guarantees of success without even putting forth an effort to achieve change. What pains me is that those that are impacted most by our reluctance to change is an absent voice in discerning whether to change in the first place.

When the resistance to change means that we do not do the right things – as hard as it may be to implement those things – it is our selfishness that trumps our capacity to see the greater good.


That the unknown in politics distracts us from doing the right thing.

No one has a crystal ball to know how the political arena is going to fully impact the work that happens on the frontline. It seems wasted energy to me to guess how Ben Carson as HUD Secretary will change the homelessness landscape. People talk of “preparing” for what is to come, but that sounds like a lot of guess work when there is no way to know what we are actually preparing for, and what it will mean.

Once we have information and know how policy and programs and funding may change, then there is the opportunity for organization and mobilization IF it is warranted. I am at a loss to console or even help those that I know have been losing sleep and fretting about the changes that MAY be ahead – even when they are many steps removed from the decision-making and immediate impacts. Anxiety at this level is not going to make us more effective advocates.


That we focus too much on what seems to be barriers and become paralyzed by it.

We have problems. Everyone. I have never been to any place in the world that claims to have enough affordable housing or enough supportive housing. I have never been to a place that claims to have the right amount of money or staff. I have never been to a place that has the perfect politics or the perfect leadership. I have never been to a place that claims assistance rates are excellent or that other systems like health or justice are amazing at integrating with the homeless service delivery system.

What I have seen it community after community that uses these as reasons to not take action.

Work the problem. Coming around tables to talk about what cannot be done solves nothing. Repeatedly naming barriers without the courage to take risks to overcome the barriers is painful to watch. Too often we are long on excuses and short on a desire to try to make change happen.

We need to spend more time figuring out how to do the best possible work with the resources we do have in the environment we do work in rather than wasting time wishing someone else will create a utopia at some point.


Three things that give me hope – and maybe provide you hope too…

That we take time and invest in learning.

I see 2017 as the year for learning. It is dominating a huge amount of my time to read more, learn more and analyze our practices and training. But it is also a huge part of what we are trying to engage communities in for 2017. That is why we established the OrgCode Learning Clinics for this year, and are partnering with the likes of Community Solutions and the National Alliance to End Homelessness to deliver different parts of the content at some of the sessions.

If you do what you have always done, you will get what you have always got. If you do the same thing over and over again but expect different results, well Einstein himself would tell you that is insanity. But we cannot just flip an imaginary switch and assume we will change our practice and get different results without committing to learning how to do things differently.

I know some organizations and communities see training as a luxury. In this age of considerable change, the investment is a necessity.


That big change is possible and yields results.

When change is happening on a large scale and yielding results, I think we need to see these as hopeful developments – even when they occur in places other than where you might live and practice. So, when places like Los Angeles pass proposition HHH, don’t be jealous that your community has not passed (or even had) a ballot measure for housing. Learn from it and replicate in a way that is appropriate for where you live. When organizations and communities – like those I have highlighted in previous blogs – see decreases in homelessness that are sustainable and a direct result of the hard work in making change happen, don’t be jealous or say “that will never happen here”. Instead ask yourself how you can feel some of the warmth of their light from their beacon of hope. Anytime a person or organization would want me to believe that change is impossible, I think of those places that have put forth the Herculean effort to work problems, realign resources and get results – and I know that big change is possible.



For a couple years this has been a focus of my attention – how do we create leaders within the homelessness and housing services sector? What I am really hopeful for in 2017 is that I increasingly witness the impact of those people and communities that have taken the time to invest in leadership. Why? Because I see brave change and results. Why? Because I see changed conversations and reframing of issues that have plagued some groups for decades. Why? Because we are tangibly seeing the difference between managing contracts and leading an end to homelessness.

I think 2017 will be the year of more people stepping up into leadership. I am looking forward to holding another Leadership Academy (this time in Grand Bend, Ontario, Canada at the end of March) and conducting another Master Class in Leadership (a return to Scottsdale, Arizona in the fall). I am looking forward to some already planned work with Boards of Directors and Executive Leadership teams. I am looking forward to some already booked staff retreats and reinvigorating a work force to achieve excellence. I am looking forward to the Executive Coaching I do for leaders this year, and helping them achieve personal growth and lead change in their organization and community.

To me, leadership is about being awesome. That means we embrace the privilege of inspiring awe in others. May 2017 be the year where the risks we take to achieve greater results in ending homelessness are worthy of the highest esteem of those we have the privilege to serve.


See you around this year.


About Iain De Jong

Leader. Edutainer. Coach. Consultant. Professor. Researcher. Blogger. Do-gooder. Potty mouth. Positive disruptor. Relentless advocate for social justice. Comedian. Dad. Minimalist. Recovering musician. Canadian citizen. International jetsetter. Living life in jeans and a t-shirt. Trying really hard to end homelessness in developed countries around the world, expand harm reduction practices, make housing happen, and reform the justice system. Driven by change, fuelled by passion. Winner of a shit ton of prestigious awards, none of which matter unless change happens in how we think about vulnerability, marginality, and inclusion.

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