Dedicated to my pal Andy Burns who started a rather hilarious Facebook chat on how the next person who used the phrase “take it to the next level” was going to get punched in the taco.

Once communities started the job of organizing homeless and housing programs to operate services like a system instead of a collection of projects/programs, it has invited business jargon into human services unlike anything I have ever seen.  What am I talking about?

I’m talking about a data-driven paradigm shift to create a win-win in the interface between the service users and providers. After some blue skying about how to make the process run smoother, what most communities found is that they had to double back to the parking lot to take another look for the obvious – assuming they still had the bandwidth to do so and leaving the kimono open didn’t reveal that the Emperor had no clothes.

Change initiatives like this are really about squaring the circle. It’s a fact that most CoC’s came to the realization that if they didn’t step up by the time the rubber hit the road they’d be facing a perfect storm. And anybody worth their salt knows that when you are facing stiff headwinds it is best to put the mirror shoulder high, focus on core competencies and stick to knitting. All of this may sound like a broken record to you, but this is the only way known to move the needle.

When that needle starts to move, hold onto your cookies. Coloring outside the lines is the only strategy that makes sense if you want to get the ROI you know that everyone deserves. Hard to know if that means more boots on the ground, but it does mean more synergies – and let’s just embrace that sometimes 1+1 has to equal 3. Who steps up to the plate in the community to make that happen, though, is really the $64,000 question. But let’s not confuse putting a stake in the ground with putting lipstick on a pig. If we don’t take a “ready, fire, aim” approach, “hope” will be confused with “strategy”.

You may feel like a hamster on the wheel in the early days, but before you know it, our hard work will make it feel like we’re drinking from a fire hose. If we do this right – and I know we will – we have to be prepared for this whole thing to go viral. Sure, we have to be prepared for some pushback – but let’s take it as a sign that people are just resisting change. Our juggernaut is going to take some basic blocking and tackling, but we have left no stone unturned in the idea department, and we have to believe from soup to nuts there’s nothing we aren’t ready for. Look into your heart of hearts and you can feel we have a winner here…once the loop is closed we can hang our hats on this important moment in our careers, and if we want to take it to the next level, everyone knows this is completely scalable.

Yup. Good luck with that. Whatever that is. 

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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