information for transformational people

curve 246Are you an early adopter or a laggard?

When a new product or service is first launched, are you first in the queue to buy or do you wait you have to you have no alternative? An early adopter or a laggard or somewhere inbetween?

This cycle of new products making other products redundant is played out continually, especially for new technology products, for example the switch from vinyl to CDs, CDs to downloads, mobile phone vs landline, etc.

Marketeers have defined a distribution curve for the sale of products and segments of buyers within that curve. These are as follows:

Segment %
Innovators First 2.5%
Early Adopters Next 13.5%
Early Majority Next 34%
Late Majority Next 34%
Laggards Last 16%

Innovators and Early Adopters are willing to pay the most for the new product. (The Sony CDP-101 was the world's first commercially released compact disc player. The system was launched in Japan on October 1, 1982 at a list price of £500 - equivalent to £1200 today). Once the product gets trending and/or price comes down, then the Majority of buyers start to purchase. Followed eventually by Laggards (usually because they have no other choice).

Using this curve, one can attempt to predict the size of the market and speed of adoption based on the size and speed of take-up by first two segments.

What has this to do with Church one would rightly ask?

Speaking to a senior person at Trussell Trust, some years ago they calculated that food-banks were needed in 700 unique towns/inner city areas across the UK to cover the country (excluding multi-site locations of food-banks within a town or borough). There are now 420+ Trussell food-banks. In addition, there are some independent foodbanks as well. Let's take the 80/20 rule and say another 80. So looking at the classic distribution curve for products/services for food-banks, we are already well into Late Majority ((420+80)/700 = 71%) stage i.e. a very mature 'market'.
The same could be said of debt advice with CAP (301 centres) and Community Money Advice (140 centres) who between them have 440 centres.
Also for Street Pastors (300+ centres) and Street Angels (130 projects) – 430+ locations.
This last 15 year period has seen a move of God and the uptake of such initiatives has been due mainly to word of mouth (church networks) and the community franchisors' efforts (from research I did in 2011). Well done to the churches and to the community franchisors i.e. Trussell, CAP, CMA, etc!

Given this level of adoption, we have for the last 3-4 years been seeing different strategies emerging to answer the question 'What's next?'

Firstly, there are still some other franchises which churches can take up e.g. Housing Justice Night Shelters, Clean Sheet,  These franchisors are on an earlier part of the journey but it seems to me that the total take-up will be lower. The reasons for this are probably:

  • shortage of leaders and volunteers in churches due to engagement already in a high number of social initiatives for the size of the church.
  • the fact that some of these franchises are for more specialist ministries e.g. addiction
  • engagement/effort still needed for non-franchise ministries e.g. parents and toddlers, refugees and asylum seekers, etc.
  • increased confidence by churches to develop own ministries relevant to their context.

Secondly, the major franchisors, as well as continuing to promote their main franchise, are diversifying. Working with churches they are in relationship with, they are adding other ministries.  Here are some examples:

  • Trussell have been promoting More than Food; money management, cookery, nutrition and budget management, meals and activities for children in the school holidays, fuel poverty voucher scheme.
  • CAP have been promoting job clubs, addiction release, life skills.
  • Street Pastors have been promoting school pastors.

You will note that most of the above ministries are interventions after a person has got into difficulties.

Desmond Tutu once said, "There comes a point where we need to stop just pulling people out of the river. We need to go upstream and find out why they’re falling in.”

My contention is that the initiatives above are, of course, valuable but I feel the 'What next' must include prevention - going upstream and finding out why they are falling in. A small amount of effort there could reduce a lot of pain and effort later on.

This includes improvement of policy which tends to be national but what can a local church do?

If we really want to address prevention we must focus on Early Years development and Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs).

Jack Shonkoff, Director of the Harvard Centre for the Developing Child, is a leading expert in the science of early childhood development and its application in practice. In his most recent analysis of those interventions that have successfully transformed outcomes for children, he draws a number of important conclusions.

1. The only sustainable way to improve outcomes for children is to build the capability of parents or caregivers. It will never be enough to work with a child when the adults they spend most time around are themselves ill equipped to flourish in the world, let alone insulate them from the debilitative impact of toxic stress (the cumulative burden placed on a child through prolonged exposure to physical or emotional abuse, chronic neglect, caregiver substance abuse or mental illness, exposure to violence, and/or family economic hardship).

2. The single most important factor in the success of any intervention is the quality of the relationship between a helper and a family. In other words, if a family doesn’t trust and respect the person helping them, they will never listen to them nor change their behaviours in response to their input.

3. The resilience of the community as a whole matters. Adult capability exists as part of a system, in which the quality of relationships within the wider community is absolutely essential.

The Church has a unique position in the community, relating to parents, children and authorities such as police, doctors, local government. It can play a key role creating trauma-informed communities.

See my blog on creating resilent communities here

Happy to chat to the innovators and early adopters out there!

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Geoff Knott, 07/11/2016

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