This month’s election results were hyped up in a lot of ways – a tsunami, a landslide, a bloodbath, a tidal-wave. Throughout the country, power dynamics shifted and Republicans replaced many Democratic incumbents, protected their own seats, and won open seats. Here in Colorado, where Spark is based, we may have had more of a tropical storm than a hurricane, but we have plenty of political changes to contend with as well.
When the political environment shifts, the changes that happen aren’t just about the party in control – they are changes in the individuals who have power, the influencers over those individuals, and the stories and issues that will resonate with them.
Many of the social innovators we partner with around Colorado and the nation are now in the process of assessing what the political changes mean for their work. What are the new opportunities? What opportunities are now lost? Who do we need to engage and what does it mean for our strategies and tactics?
The work we do after elections change the players in the system is part of our “adaptive capacity.” Adaptive capacity is a critical element of being an effective advocate for any type of change, from local community changes to statewide policy to moving the needle at the federal and international level.
- A culture of “inquisitiveness” with the skills to assess the environment and make decisions in response.
- Flexibility in resources, allowing for adaptation of strategies in response to external changes.
- Permission to adapt from leadership, including non-profit boards.
- Experience with innovation and risk-taking and willingness to fail.
- Partnerships with organizations who have all of the above: adapting together is often more effective than adapting in a silo.
Which of these does your organization have?
We’ve worked with organizations over the years that have some of these characteristics, but few of us have all of them. However, building theme into your organization’s DNA will allow you to respond quickly and thoughtfully when shifts in the environment occur.
We have a couple resources in mind if you’re looking for more about this critical capacity and how you can build it and assess how to improve it:
- Assessing and Evaluating Change in Advocacy Fields, prepared by Jewlya Lynn on behalf of the Center for Evaluation Innovation
- Toward a characterization of adaptive capacity: A framework for analyzing adaptive capacity at the local level from the Overseas Development Institute