The Latest

Embracing the Messy, Unpredictable Journey

Written by Hailey Hechtman | November 24, 2017

Looking out the window at the snow-covered ground, it feels as though ages have passed since my time at the Community Change Institute in Vancouver. Although, the seasons have quickly changed and new day to day operational priorities have skipped to the head of the line, there are many messages that remain in my mind about the content shared that week.

I think back to the session by Mark Cabaj called Disruption & Snapback: Capturing Systems Change where the aim was to shift our thinking about systems change from the shiny end product to the messy, convoluted process that often leads us there. He emphasized that “an effort to change systems will be adaptive: messy, ever evolving and yielding unpredictable results”, which has been presenting at the forefront of my mind as I evaluate my own projects.

I know for myself as a passionate fan of growth and a huge advocate for creating sustainable differences when developing programs, I sometimes prefer to aim my attentions at what an end user will have upon the completion of the exciting new initiative rather than the side-tracking, delays, re-thinking, road that will move us towards our destination.

Although the challenges and derailments along our journey may leave us feeling uncomfortable or discouraged at the onset of planning, it is important to have acceptance that nothing is going to be exactly as imagined or intended. If we can embrace that the process that it will take to make a big, lasting impact in our community will be full of flaws and re-works, then each time one comes up we can take it as a learning milestone.

Whether it is a new program for a specific population, a social issue facing many or an investigation of the best ways to collaborate within and between sectors, the mess is worth rolling around in as it gives us new insights and takes us in directions that can ultimately improve our outcomes.

As I look at the ups and downs of the developments that I have been working towards such as the creation of a foundational training program or a collective impact strategy , I am with new eyes going to cherish the rearrangements, the tangents and the endless discussions because they are signs of the good stuff to come.


This is the fourth blog written by Hailey Hechtman, in a series of reflections about the 2017 Community Change Institute. Read others in Hailey's 2017 CCI series: