Andrew Maxfield is director of the Influencer Institute.
If you’ve been connected to VitalSmarts for even a few minutes, you know the company often makes some audacious claims, not the least of which is that you and I, just ordinary people, can develop the capacity to “change anything.”
Wait a minute—anything?
Sure, we might be able to design a strategy to quit smoking or perhaps maintain a new exercise routine. And maybe we can even ensure the success of an important initiative at work by flexing our Influencer muscles.
But what about bigger, stickier social issues, problems, and opportunities?
The newly organized Influencer Institute, a private operating foundation funded primarily by a percentage of VitalSmarts profits, is an emerging answer to the question of how we’ll leave the world a little better than we found it. It’s our attempt to put our money where our mouths are. And here is a snapshot of some of the initiatives we’ve been working on this past year.
Helping Families Escape Dire Poverty
Poverty flows from myriad causes, particularly poverty that reaches through many generations within families, communities, and nations. And while it’s trite and inadequate to say “poor people have poor ways,” it is true that in many cases, individuals remain in poverty for reasons attributable to behavior as much as to genes or circumstance.
In partnership with Fundacíon Paraguaya, Influencer Institute co-designed a program that helped participating families enact vital behaviors related to growing their monthly incomes and increasing their savings. Fundacíon Paraguaya estimates that 6,200 families have lifted themselves above the poverty threshold through these efforts.
Meanwhile, the Institute has partnered with Cause For Hope, another fine Latin American development organization, to pilot a new form of poverty alleviation intervention based on Influencer principles. We’re in the thick of the experiments now: creating strong peer mentoring entrepreneurship groups, teaching the basics of self-directed behavior change, and designing lean, scalable support systems. Early results are promising, and we anticipate that many individuals and families will be enabled to lift themselves from longstanding poverty.
Improving Educational Outcomes for At-Risk Youth
Influencer Institute has also partnered with KIPP (Knowledge is Power Program), a leading USA-based public charter school system that has shown tremendous results in helping inner-city, at-risk youth prepare for, enter, and graduate from college. We’ve been working with KIPP to reduce turnover among their key administrators, a factor that impacts the day-to-day educational experience of their students. Early indicators are good, and we look forward to helping KIPP help tens of thousands of our nation’s youth.
A Call to Action for Certified Trainers
How would you like to make a difference in your own community by training the leaders or members of a worthy nonprofit organization? You choose an organization that aligns with your values and serves people you care about. You donate your training time and we donate up to twenty-five toolkits through the “Not For Profit Training Grants Program.” (See the one-page application on the Trainer Zone website for details.)
Certified Trainers from around the globe have reported personal, moving experiences related to giving freely of their time and talents. How might you make a difference in your own context?
I invite you to stay tuned to Influencer Institute updates, and to join us in the great adventure of transferring the VitalSmarts tools and ideas from the training room to the trenches, and helping to change our communities for good.