Thursday, May 9, 2013

The Tipping Point

I'm aware it's been awhile. To be frank, aside from the busyness excuse, aside from further cultivation of development skills, there hasn't been a whole lot to blog about with next steps being uncertain. But after a complimentary registration of the League conference and some wonderful conversations with colleagues,  life is going to happen regardless of if I plan it or not so I'm riding with it and not overanalyzing the possibilities, but rather actively pursuing the options. Here's a book that I thought worthwhile.


Perhaps some of you will recognize the title of this blog from Malcolm Gladwell's bestseller The Tipping Point. If you haven't read it, regardless of your field (but especially if you're in the Sistema world), I HIGHLY recommend it. Psychology is a subject I did not take in school and something that fascinates me and to which I have learned a great deal this year. The book talks about a lot of different instances, but let me choose two and apply them to the Sistema field and why I feel they are so relevant. All information is accredited to the aforementioned book. As always comments are welcome!

1. Contagiousness vs. Stickiness
The former term is a factor of who receives the message and how many different groups of people that person knows; notice I did not say how many people that person knows because if all those people are in the same circle, it will not spread. The latter term has to do with the product itself. How impressionable is it? There's a Law of Few meaning it doesn't take a large group of people to spread something. Find those passionate people and invest time in them!

The stickiness factor will have to do with the impression you leave on people at events, your website, and the difference your program makes (the reason why logic models, assessment/evaluation are so important. Stay tuned for a paper on this from our cohort!). Some people may not have a lot of friends, but they're incredibly persuasive and when these people tell others about an idea, they're sold.

The combination of these two types of people is what the Sistema field needs! I learned from the book there was a guy that did the same thing as Paul Revere, but he didn't know people outside his social circle so riding outside of Boston was pointless.

2. Nature vs. Nurture
The book also discusses the fact that children who are from troubled neighborhoods, but good families are worse off than troubled families and good neighborhoods. The studies discussed show that in fact, it's not parents who have a large influence on the kids (done through comparing adopted children with their adopted parents and finding no resemblance whatsoever). It's rather the peer environment that influences children significantly.

Expanding this thought, it's also not what you do in the environment ("the convictions of your heart and the actual contents of your thoughts are less important in guiding your actions than the immediate context of your behavior" (165), but rather creating that environment. This is to say that it is more important psychologically speaking to create a safe, nurturing, supportive environment than produce musical excellence, stimulation or concentration on X skill. In my mind, THIS is why nucleos are effective.

I just heard an anecdote from ACME pertaining to this. ACME students are the only ones saying thank you for their snacks out of all the afterschool program children (that's 13 out of 100+). Some could say this is just a correlation, but the fact that it is such a small number tells me otherwise or that it is in fact a strong correlation. In my mind, this is producing the nebulous "social change" everyone discusses, one baby step at a time. And it's because the environment to do so is created, not the fact that they're playing musical instruments.

I also just read ACME's first Evaluation report that showed ACME kids were more creative and showed more empathy than the control group. And this is in under a year with a mere thirteen first graders! I can only imagine the long-term outcomes a program like ACME can have in vast communities all across the world!!


As I end this year, my next steps are still uncertain, but the immense amount of skills I have begun to develop and the connections that have been built give me the confidence to go out into this world and do the work. I've also decided that as I learned this year in group discussions, an objective must be set before every meeting to be as efficient as possible. I now actively use this same principle in life. Just think if we set out each day with a Purpose in mind (the P is upper case on purpose). Instead of going to a job with the purpose of "making a living," think if we went to that job for the purpose of making a difference, and in turn MADE A LIFE! What does it really mean to make a living? Perhaps I am among few who think this and I'm sure I can be called unrealistic, a dreamer, stuck in a bubble and not in the "real world," but after the recent Boston marathon events I am continually reminded that each day is a blessing and an opportunity. An opportunity to do what YOU want. For me, that is to make this world a better place in the best way I know how. In the words of Switchfoot, "This is your life. Are you who you want to be?"

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