How Nonprofits Can Identify Leverage Points for Change

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In the category of “be careful what you ask for” is the “theater of the absurd” – like town hall meetings related to health care reform. How public discourse gets quite that far off track is up for interpretation but I had to appreciate this exchange from Barney Frank’s recent meeting in my own home state.

There’s just something about a plain talkin’ stand-up mensch of a man….

In any case, the point is that we all have some level of responsibility for trying to make this – among a number of other critical public dialogues – make some semblance of sense, so positive action can be taken, but, it would be naïve to imagine that we are participating on an even playing field. On every flash point political issue, like health care reform, immigration reform, and tax reform, there are players behind the scenes with relationships who may be trying to lock up or so confuse a situation that a truly effective intervention begins to look impossible.

But it is often these types of large scale issues that generate a cascade of inequities that are, after all, the business of nonprofits.

However complex or far flung the playing field, studying the system of relationships, vested interests and funding behind an inhumane, unjust or unproductive state of affairs allows us to focus strategically on leverage points for change.

This article, Tactical Mapping, How Nonprofits Can Identify Leverage Points for Change, comes to the Nonprofit Quarterly from the highly regarded Center for Victims of Torture. It describes in some detail this diagnostic tool they developed for local organizers to understand and influence the complex political systems that support or tolerate torture. The mapping process, of course is transferable to other complex “stuck” political issues like the dynamics beneath and behind the turnouts at the health care town hall meetings.

I encourage everyone to read this important article and consider how you might apply it to your own work.