Posted by: Don Linnen | 27 June 2008

Brobdingnagian Vision

It’s easier to call it “BV.”

Brobdingnag is that imaginary land that Jonathan Swift claims Lemuel Gulliver discovered in 1703. It’s any fictitious place where everything is enormous in size or quantity and especially in scope or extent.

Does it sound familiar? In your own non-fiction world, what is the extent of the problem you’re trying to solve? Aids in Africa? Homeless in America? Foster children in Dallas?

Whatever it is, there’s a pretty good chance that it seems overwhelming … completely daunting … almost unimaginable that it can ever be solved. But are you dreaming big enough?

Kids (and their parents) in the 50’s dreamed of rocket packs and space travel. I loved going to Tommorowland at Disneyland. I thrilled at the rocket launch to the moon. It was terrific fun seeing all the time saving devices in the House of the Future. Just 20 years later, we actually got a microwave oven!

All that stuff is so blase now. From jet packs to instant communication, we’ve made absolutely incredible technological progress in the last few decades. Many of those dreams from “back in the day” have come true or will be realized in just a few more years. (Seth Godin talks about this in his terrific book of thoughts, Small is the New Big – The Future Isn’t What It Used To Be. Thanks again, Seth, for stimulating my mind.)

So today, do we dream more or do we worry more? It’s probably the latter given that the world is getting smaller. Anyone’s problems can affect everyone. It seems that our dreams are not quite as grand as they used to be.

What about you? Are you thinking about just existing, getting along, making it to the end of the year? Or are you dreaming about solving big … really big … problems??

You cannot afford to forget the here and now, but if you’re not already doing it, I strongly encourage you to use your BV. Brogdingnagian Vision is a multi-syllable way of alluding to “BHAG” (big, hairy, audacious goals).

Between BV and BHAG, I’m pretty sure I know which acronym will stick. Jim Collins (the Good to Great guy) and Jerry Porras coined BHAG for their books on Building Your Company’s Vision and Built to Last. I love big thinkers. I’m no Jim Collins, but I do know people who are setting bodacious goals to address some of our nation’s ills.

Interfaith Housing Coalition has been addressing the needs of homeless families in Dallas since 1985. They do a great job of helping accountable families break the cycle of generational poverty and transform themselves into contributing members of the community. They do it at a remarkable cost of just $25 per resident per day.

But given the increase in the number and needs of very poor families (the fastest growing segment of the homeless population) and the significant decrease of government safety nets over the last 10 years, something big needs to be done. And it needs to be done fast and cheap.

Interfaith Housing has a big idea. Based on programs in their own residential model that have been replicated nationally, they have launched a prevention model using best practices from their 23 years of experience and three other nationally known nonprofits. They strongly believe that by proactively working with very poor families before they become homeless, they can reach nearly triple the number they have in residence, avoid the huge disruption to the families (especially the kids), and do it for less.

Beyond that, the Interfaith folks think this new program will be an easily replicable model for use across the nation. That’s a LOT of people getting some help.

Can they do it? Will it work? Will it catch on with others? Will it really make a difference to a lot of people across the country?

Stay tuned. The potential is enormous! Thank goodness we still have some people dreaming big … really big.

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