You don’t need me to detail the sad state of our educational system.
As an article in the Stanford Social Innovation Review (a must-read for me) recently noted, “Once the global leader—after World War II the United States had the highest high school graduation rate in the world—the country now ranks 18th among the top 24 industrialized nations, with more than a million secondary students dropping out every year. The heroic efforts of countless teachers, administrators, and nonprofits, together with billions of dollars in charitable contributions, may have led to important improvements in individual schools and classrooms, yet system-wide progress has seemed virtually unobtainable.”
Reading that summary, I was struck by the similarities between the challenges facing public education and those that continue to confront the meat production industry. Both are hugely complex, multi-faceted institutions fraught with as many internecine rivalries as they are blessed with convergent alliances.
In education, it’s teachers vs. administrators, parents vs. teachers, and students vs. administrators. In meat production, it’s producers vs. packers, packers vs. retailers, and sometimes the entire industry vs. government.
In either case, where constituencies should be cooperating, they’re too busy with conflict to recognize their common objectives.
Yet both public schools and the meat industry have serious issues to address, from the scourge of low performance in the former to the withering attacks directed against it with the latter.
What’s the solution? Of course, there’s no single tactic that solves the problems in either case, but a relatively new process is gaining momentum in the social change sector, and I believe it has merit for the larger meat industry, as well.
It’s called “collective impact” and it’s an innovative strategy adopted from the business world, which has embraced the process as a way to deal with the organizational challenges endemic to large, multi-national corporations operating in many different markets.
Here’s how the SSIR authors, Mark Kramer, founder, and John Kania, managing director of FSG consulting group, defined it: “Complex social problems cannot be solved by a single organization or by a simple recipe. [Instead], the conditions defined in a collective impact process put participants on a journey embracing collective vigilance, learning, and action.”