3 Quick Tips for Starting a Change Initiative

You have an idea to make a change in your community or organization. Change initiatives require planning and managing a lot of work along the way. Here are three tips to consider prior to starting a change initiative.

1. What is your destination?
Is it known, unknown or semi-transparent? Or even something else? It is okay to proceed without a very clear destination but your destination defines your process. A process can be designed for anything. In your case, your destination must guide your process so you need to know the destination prior to choosing a process.

2. Start small by winning.
Unless you are the person leading the change process the initiative probably feels likes the same old same old, is confusing or is a reason to be fearful. You want to obtain the support from a core group of influential people quickly and you want to have evidence that what you are doing is working. Start with something small and share it as evidence of success for the work you are doing.

Evidence might include a process design with a beautiful process map, a list of participants (truly committed ones) or minutes from a meeting. As things move along the evidence needs to remain a constant. Keep the group to size that can eat two pizzas. Also, if you don’t see evidence of progress within two weeks, kill the initiative, at least for now. You need to analyze what is going on if it’s going nowhere within a two week time frame.

3. Determine your persistence sooner rather than later.
Change takes time. Although some obstacles can be anticipated, you have be persistent to overcome obstacles and keep going. You might find it rare that other people have your same level of persistence, keep going. At the same time, you have to remain flexible to learning new knowledge along the way and adjusting accordingly. Centering yourself in why you are involved in or leading change will help you remain persistent.

I recommend creating a personal process map. In the map include things that people might say or do along the way that will prove to you something is happening. Also, deliberate on what you are doing to learn along the way and develop learning goals for yourself. Write everything down and choose when you will review it. I recommend weekly for a personal process map and quarterly for the initiative process map.

Bamboo is known for its qualities of strength, sustainability and regeneration.  Key qualities for a well designed change process.
Bamboo is known for its qualities of strength, sustainability and regeneration. Key qualities for a well designed change process.

Students United

Students United was a youth lead social change project that I facilitated in Lancaster, PA. The project was funded by Lancaster County Community Foundation via the Lancaster County Workforce Development Board. This WIB is unique because it has a long standing strategy of supporting youth via community-based projects for decades.

My role was to create a space for the students to lead and create a community-based project.

Participants: Students age 13 – 17 from Lancaster Mennonite, School District of Lancaster, Conestoga Valley School District, Penn Manor School District, Lancaster Country Day and the home school community. Not all students participated in all meetings.

Meeting locations: Clipper (Baseball) Stadium, Lancaster Marriott lobby, Millersville University’s Ware Center, South Market Business Center

The students didn’t believe me, at first, that they were going to think through and launch a social change project. They couldn’t believe they were being given this must free reign. They thought that they were there to give input, not run things. I started by facilitating an exercise using cards that had 45 different social issues written on them. We stood in a circle, with the cards in the middle and the students got to pick a card and speak to the group. First they read the social issue, said if they knew anything about it, if they did, share what they knew about it then they had to recommend to the group whether or not they thought it was something important and why. After a 2-3 minute discussion, each card was sorted into a pile, which had to be agreed upon by consensus. The piles were 1. yes, explore more, 2. maybe and 3. no, no important to us. One of the topics, racial profiling ended up on the yes pile.

At the second meeting I demonstrated how to facilitate action planning. Each student had an opportunity to practice at that meeting. At the end, I asked for a volunteer to facilitate the next meeting. From this point, I would only step in where asked and would help get the meetings started with short exercises to give some structure for the collaborative time. At a certain point, they decided to meet on their own and the parents involved agreed to it. It appeared they had a productive meeting because they came back deciding that they would train other students to use the program they were going to develop.

Racial profiling turned into the group creating a program to teach other students about diversity. There was research and plenty of discussion in between the first meeting and the development of the program.

The students really thought about the program that they developed including the need for students to teach it, not adults. They thought it would have more impact.

The project was launched at a local conference attended by 120 students from Eastern PA. The students designed a process to teach the conference attendees about stereotypes and ethnicity. They facilitated the group and gained leadership experience. It was very well received and the Students United students expressed their surprise at being successful. They had tackled a tough issue and created something good and useful.

As I reflected on the project, I was honored that the students stepped up to create change. The students approached the local YWCA to sustain the program but it never worked out. Instead, two of the students worked with a teacher and implemented the program at their school. The important lesson for me was as a facilitator. I do different types of facilitation projects and some require more leadership than others. Students United required really stepping back and allowing the conversation to grow organically.


Cleaning Robots in Schools

Did you ever speak with the janitor when you were in school? I did.

When my local school district needed to cut costs they looked to the unionized service staff, including the janitors. This local change combined with this Fast Company article about cleaning robots got me thinking…

What if robots cleaned schools?

As schools attempt to cut costs, are robots being considered?

I read the article and thought to myself, yes, load those robots into schools please. Most schools have hallways, long hallways that need cleaned every nights, sometimes twice a day depending on the weather.

Although, I don’t love the article’s focus on replacing people, real people in jobs, I do think robots cleaning schools is a feasible cost savings measure.

It’s relatively easy to implement. Purchase/rent robots, place in hallways and you get a clean school. Most schools and school districts are already cutting back on the amount of cleaning staff. Unfortunately this means there is more work to be accomplished and not enough staff to get the job done.

More collaboration in schools means moving more things around. Kids should be able to learn in different ways and that requires reconfiguring and adapting existing school buildings. There are more events with people in and out of the school. Changes in weather mean more jobs dealing with the after math of hard rains, flooding, more snow and overwhelmed heating and cooling systems. A janitor is more than a janitor these days.

That’s right, the teaching profession has changed and so has the job to maintain clean and safe schools.

Bring on the rise of the cleaning robots!

Note: I have nothing to do with Avidbots, the company featured in the Fast Company article. I also have no association with Fast Company or the author of the article. I’m simply inspired!


You Now

Now is the time for you to be you.

If you don’t do it now, you will do it later.

What happens between now and then is learning.

If you do it now, you will do it and you will learn.

Skip ahead.

Skip ahead to the life you are meant to lead.

Take a small step.

Make the leap.

Do a little dance.

Do what feels infinite to you.

Do what scares you.

It is scary because you have felt fear before. You know the feeling.

You are still here. You are okay. You will be okay.

Do it now, for the time is now and there is nothing else.

There is you. There is now.

"Do it now, for the time is now and there is nothing else. There is you.  There is now." -Shanon Solava-Reid
“Do it now, for the time is now and there is nothing else. There is you. There is now.” -Shanon Solava-Reid

The Future of Education

I believe the future of education is:


Beautiful learning environments

Student created pathways

Teachers as 1. Facilitators and 2. Content Experts



To get from here to there WE need:

Teacher led transformation

A move from professional development to personal development


Public input into future design

Determination of where the future is being created from

Freedom from self imposed systemic barriers

“I acknowledge it is a transformation and feels like a revolution.” – Shanon Solava-Reid

This statement is powerful because the end result of change is transformation. A transformation results in something unrecognizable. A revolution is a modification. I desire more than a modification of existing systems and structures. More people need to aim for transformation. As more people do so, our innate inter-connectivity will support the inevitable changes.

Lotus flowers represent transformational change. “I acknowledge it is a transformation and feels like a revolution.” – Shanon Solava-Reid
Lotus flowers represent transformational change. “I acknowledge it is a transformation and feels like a revolution.” – Shanon Solava-Reid

Pathway of Courage and Trust

Mary Anne Radmacher’s quote is, “courage does not always roar. Sometimes courage is the quiet voice at the end of the day saying, ‘I will try again tomorrow’.”


Pause and think about that for a moment……….breath in the light and breath out letting go……..


I had this quote posted on my refrigerator when I was going through a difficult time in my career.

I would stare at the quote wondering what it meant.

At the time, it motivated me to keep trying. I took several actions, none of which worked at first.

It was only when I let go, that things started to work for me.

They spun out of control, I felt like a tornado. Rushed, never calm.

Then one day I realized – trying, starting and creating are what I like to do. I have no tolerance for negative people. Complaints should be registered else where. I like to try to make things work. I’ve said, “we can try that,” on many occasions.

I stared at the quote today. I wondered what this quote meant for me now. I’ve changed, has it?

My dog distracted me. He couldn’t quite get to his food ball (a large ball you put food in for your dog to slow down his vacuum-like eating habit.) I smiled at him and said, “you can do it.” He tried, it didn’t work, he stared at me, I smiled back at him. He tried again, squatting deep under the TV stand. He wrapped his teeth around the ball and dragged it, just far enough to give it a push with his nose. “Your did it!” I said.

I looked back at the quote and smiled. It’s funny how lessons enter your life at just the right time. What did Salem and the quote teach me, today? A little inspiration, self reflection, healing and encouragement create a path for courage and trust.


Shanon Solava-Reid
“It’s funny how lessons enter your life at just the right time. And those lessons lead you right down the path of courage and trust.” – Shanon Solava-Reid

From Here to There

A declaration is made – I’m going to get there.


Where do I start?




Oh, no!

What if….?


It’s time for a leap

What will I do when I fall?

Be grounded.


It’s time for a leap

Jump high!



It’s time for a leap

Let’s rest some more.

Renew your soul.


What will happen when I go from here to there?


Where is there?

What is there?


I like here.

I’m wrapped in my warm comfy blanket.

Surrounded by the familiar.


But I want to be there.

I know I should be grateful for here.

I am grateful here.


But I want to be there.

I am going there.


And into the unknown I go,

from here to there.


The Chaos of Social Change

I’ve been involved in a social change project on and off for over ten years.  Recently, about 24 months ago, I got significantly more involved after a hiatus.  The most frustrating part of the process is the current point. 

It’s the point in the process where commitment has been confirmed.  There is a plan in hand.  It’s go time and nothing is moving.  If you spoke to me two months ago, I would have said, “We’re on track.  I think we’re moving in the right direction and the timing is perfect.” My comment would not have contained an ounce of idealism or hope.  Simply facts.

What changed?  This is the thing, I don’t know.  I’m in the middle of it.  I need to step back.

What I do know is stable ground has been created and this chaotic feeling; it will pass.  The work will go on.  The change I’m involved with will probably be stronger as a result of this current chaos.  Here is why:

1.  Change has cycles.  Much like the cycles of life, everything is going to be okay.

2.  Investment has been made in people.  People make the difference, especially in the type of work that takes passion and heart like social change.

3.  Good stuff always happens after the chaos.  I would have to study social change for many more decades because I can conclusively prove why.  Right now, I just know.  In the event you want to know now, check out this article by fellow Community Psychologist Neil Boyd.

4.  I have a plan.


"While in the middle of the chaos of social change, never give up, never forget that brighter skies are ahead." - Shanon Solava-Reid
“While in the middle of the chaos of social change, never give up, never forget that brighter skies are ahead.” – Shanon Solava-Reid

The Kind of Woman I Want to Be

I want to be the kind of woman that shows off my tattoos in her 80’s. I want to be the kind of woman that doesn’t look back. The master of letting go. A women with mild impatience for the little things and a fierce impatience for the big things.

The kind of woman that can shoot a look saying you’re wrong, go to hell or simply back off buddy;  while maintaining total grace in movement, thought and action.  The kind of woman you know not to cross because you’re sure she will make your life hell.  Yet, the first person you call for help because I bring the calm, caring perspective and love needed to get from the survival of a bad situation to the thriving of being alive.

Someone you share the level of comfort with to skip the small talk and jump to the grit that makes life exciting.  The woman who peaks your interest with equal parts mystery and curiosity.  The one who asks why.  Why are you doing that?  Is it serving you?  How? As if saying, you can do better, you’re right, be you, get over yourself while I convey a sincere sense of gratitude for sharing. I listen.

The woman whose very presences you welcome, you don’t know why yet you accept it as good.  The woman you don’t exactly want to be because I am one in infinity. There’s an acceptance and err of openness yet a line that you shouldn’t cross for fear of interrupting my bad ass universe.

A woman of practicality who takes on significant social change.  A person who acknowledges the soul journey and maximizes being alive.

I am, and I am going to be.


Why What People Say Doesn’t Matter

Sometimes people say things about you.  Sometimes positive and true.  Sometimes negative and down right ugly.  Maybe true too?  Here’s the thing.  What people say about you is your reputation.  You can’t control other people.  You certainly can’t control what they say about you as an individual.

You can be you, and control your character.  Your character is who you are and how you act.  People can sense when you’re not you.  Sometimes, when they’re cheering for you, which they usually are, they say wow, you’re meant to be doing this.  Or they pull you aside and give you pointers.  Are you open to this advice?

The most amazing thing about your character is that you control 100% of it.  Just you, no one else.  But that’s not amazing, right?  Here is the amazing part:

When you have such a strong character it will out shine your reputation in such a way that no matter what people say about you, your character is what people will remember.  Your character will become the reason people call you, recommend you and want to be around you.