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Published in U.S. 1 Newspaper on February 23, 2000. All rights
Force Field Analysis: Marge Smith
To analyze a knotty problem, don’t start by letting
everybody voice their opinions on one side or the other. Instead,
require everyone to weigh in on both sides of the question. Ask those
on one side of the question — perhaps whether to merge with
division — to come up with justifications both pro and con for
that idea. Then do a force field analysis, suggests Marge Smith
"Using the force field analysis technique depersonalizes the
says Smith. "When everyone has to take both sides, and consider
the negatives on both sides, it creates cohesiveness. Everyone
and no one is tagged as being on one side or the other."
Smith gave a workshop in consensus building at last month’s big
convocation, sponsored by the Princeton Rotary at the Woodrow Wilson
School. The former executive director of the Princeton YWCA is a
consultant who gives corporate training workshops and also provides
consulting services to nonprofits. She is responsible for a new series
of courses on nonprofit profit management at Mercer County College,
and those who take the series can earn a certificate.
The courses could be useful for staff, program administrators,
directors, board members, philanthropists, volunteers, and those
jobs in nonprofit agencies. Fundamentals in Nonprofit Management,
a five-session course, costs $100 and starts Monday, February 28,
at 7:10 p.m. and is followed by Financial Management and Fundraising,
an $80 four-session course, on Monday, April 10. Other courses
for the fall are in management skills, human resources development,
and public relations.
The first step in the force field analysis is to identify the problem,
then state the goal in the direction of change you desire, says Smith:
"Most problem situations can be understood in terms of the forces
which push toward improvement and the forces which resist
If you want the group to accept merger with another division, ask
everyone to brainstorm about what the "driving forces" are,
and then cover the "restraining forces."
The brainstorming rules: Don’t censor any ideas. List them all. Do
not discuss any ideas. Do not judge. Repetition is fine.
Then review the lists and underline the forces that seem most
Take the strongest negative force and brainstorm again, this time
about all the things you could do to diminish or demolish it.
of the commitment is the understanding that we would look at the
forces and try to find solutions," says Smith.
How to choose which actions to take? At the workshop Smith distributed
sheets of colored dots. Take three of your dots, she instructed, and
choose your favorite solutions among the options listed. You can use
all three of your dots for one choice or distribute them.
All those present clustered around the easel to register their
This method of voting, Smith points out, gives even the silent person
an excellent chance to participate. And seeing the pattern of dots
on the page gives everyone a good picture of what the group really
thinks about the choices.
— Barbara Fox
Non-profit organizations are hard-pressed for PCs and
basic software, and as a result, they are dreadfully behind the curve,
says Leslie Hoffman,
Pledge Foundation, an organization that has helped channel nearly
$100 million in new software to non-profits in the tri-state area.
"In general, the foundation world has not been very supportive
of technology purchases," she says. "They usually like
grants and not basic infrastructure, so technology has to come out
of general operating expenses. How non-profits raise this money is
always a tight game."
Hoffman will be one of the speakers at this year’s Non-profit and
Technology Conference on Tuesday, February 29, at the Somerset
which will help leaders in the non-profit arena discover avenues for
getting technology to using the Web. Workshop leaders include Ed
Madera of Self-help Clearinghouse,
The Technology, Marilyn Gross
of the New Jersey Library Association. The conference is sponsored
by the Center for Non-Profit Corporations at 1501 Livingston Avenue
in North Brunswick. Cost $50. Call 732-227-0800.
In her former life, Hoffman was a carpenter and contractor in Maine.
She has a BA in architecture from Colorado College, Class of 1979,
and helped start Earth Pledge’s program to partner with big
to get technology, specifically software, in the hands of
non-profits. Microsoft is the organization’s principal technology
partner, and has given over $1 million in software already. "The
director of marketing at Microsoft immediately saw that it would be
beneficial," she says. "Being based in Seattle, they didn’t
have a high public profile in the New York/New Jersey community —
no one knew they were even here."
Since the program was launched in 1998, Earth Pledge has provided
technology, ranging in value from a couple hundred dollars to tens
of thousands of dollars, to over 150 organizations in the tri-state
area. The largest technology donation so far went to the New York
Botanical Garden, which received $80,000 worth of software from
It effectively put 400 scientists all over the world on the same
Earth Pledge is the brain-child of Theodore Kheel
New York labor mediator who created the organization in 1991 to
sustainable development. The organization’s pilot projects include
Workspace 2000, an environmental and communications showcase with
a computer training lab, conference facility, offices, and residential
area, and the Center for Sustainable Cuisine, which focuses on issues
that relate to the environment, health, and feeding a growing world
The New Jersey State Aquarium is one of the beneficiaries of Earth
Pledge’s work on behalf of non-profits. Organizations can apply for
technology donations at www.showcasenynjct.org, or call 212-573-6968.
Once an organization receives the software, upgrades are free.
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