Stage 6.5.2  Recommitting Resources


Real change requires resource commitment, first from some temporary source, perhaps, but eventually from dependable continuing sources, usually local sources. "Resources" means money, certainly, but also it means people, space, and time. All of these items have a calculable price tag even if they are "donated" and there will always be some resistance to providing them. 

There is a very large difference in the way resources are viewed for short-term versus long-term commitments. The shorter the commitment, the easier the resources are to come by; the longer the commitment, the tougher the acquisition is going to be. Innovation, i.e., doing anything new, requires untethered, uncommitted resources, i.e., resources not committed to any other purpose. Consider the various ways in which such resources might come into being.

Resources could be donated from outside the system, either from a private foundation, a government, or even an individual. Such resources tend to be small; the donor typically has a short-term interest; requires that the activity supported be clearly new and innovative; and usually has an ulterior motive. Thus, they are most suitable for new start-ups, especially with high visibility, not for second generation efforts or attempts to transfer or install the change process as such. The ulterior motive is usually to demonstrate a principle or an ideology and to set an example for others to follow, i.e., "seed" money for the "pilot" project. If the external resources are money from a government source, there are likely to be all kinds of strings attached including a requirement that the project show success and demonstrate that it can be carried on later without more or continuing government resources.

Resources could be donated or volunteered from individuals or organizations within the community. Some of the same strictures apply to local support. They want to have impact quickly in a way that reflects well on themselves. They want to contribute to something that is new and that will later be picked up by others.  There is a crucial difference, however, between locally donated resources and remote external resources: the local donors care about you because you are part of their world, Stage 0, "Caring", and they will continue to be there and to care after the initial effort is over and done with.
 
Resources could be provided from the budget of the system. This is the toughest source of resources for innovation, especially for school districts, who are perennially pressed to tighten their budgets and to earmark all funds for the most "necessary" expenditures. Nevertheless, the school budget is the only place where the resources are going to come from in the long run for anything that is going to last. The funds for reform start with the school budget because they will have to end there anyway, and if they start there, there is a clearer system commitment from the beginning.

Yet, how do we get resources for change from the always tight budgets we see typically in business, government, and school districts across the country? Believe it or not, there are some ways! First of all, we can look to under-utilized resources such as space that is vacant part of the day. There may also be resources, which are potentially dual use. Most role and function definitions in a system have some amount of vagueness or looseness, which may allow an innovative activity to slip in. There are also mandates, outside authority, which may compel the local system to do "something" in a particular area which can then be interpreted as fitting the innovative project. Even without official mandates there can be implied mandates, i.e., concerns that are so obvious or so pressing that the system leadership feels bound to shake loose some resources. All systems must have some amount of resources set aside for general purposes to meet unexpected situations. Such resources may be very limited but they are there, nevertheless. Gaining access to such resources represents a major challenge to the change agent and to the supporters of the change.

There are many barriers to getting on board the regular budget. The system's accountants and auditors may act as finance gatekeepers.

The political leadership always hates to ask for new taxes to pay for anything, and the administrators don't want to cut anything else to make way for something new unless there is a clear advantage not just in terms of student learning but to themselves and their situation. Generally, they don't want to do anything that will make trouble with the unions. There is always a cost to changing the system; when you ask permission to play around with something new with a little money from somewhere else there is minimal threat; the more you ask for a share of the system's own on-going resources the more you threaten the system as it is.

Sooner or later:
The change must become an item of the regular annual budget!