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From the Sponsor’s Desk – The Journey from Problem to Solution

How does stuff happen? Who decides that a specific problem or challenge needs attention?

Who identifies it as a problem in the first place? Who decides what direction to take to solve the problem? Who guides the effort through a variety of options to achieve the desired result? Who establishes the target end result? And how are all the questions addressed and the work carried out? I call this the journey from problem to solution.

In this post, we’ll look at an organization that decided to tackle a problem that has been around for as long as humans have existed. Hunger. We’ll see how they explored the opportunities for their attention and talents. We’ll review the approaches they took to understand the challenge, the people and organizations they relied on for help and the practices they applied and are still using to reach their goals.

Why is this relevant to you, a project or change manager, a business analyst, a technologist, a business manager or leader? Because the approach this organization took to realize its dream is a template for success applicable to any project or change. Take a critical look at the project or change you’re working on now. Does it tick all the boxes? If not, there’s an opportunity to learn from the best.

The Situation

Stephan Clarke has had a successful, decades-long career as a sales and marketing executive, speaker, author, business strategist, consultant, coach, and mentor, both domestically and abroad. Over those years he has helped identify problem areas, consider alternatives, develops remedies to solve those problems and deliver solutions effectively. He has used his entrepreneurial talents to explore uncharted waters.

In 2015, with the formation of the RTG Group Inc., Stephen turned his attention to the elimination of hunger in the world. That’s right. The elimination of hunger!

Stephen and his team were looking to give back to humanity. They considered taking on the elimination of poverty but found that massively daunting and well beyond their span of control. But eliminating hunger? That just might be doable.

They looked at forming a charity to achieve that goal, relying on donations from well-meaning individuals and organizations to provide the funding. However, on investigation, they found that most charitable giving was coming from or controlled by people age 50 and over. Where were the millennials, roughly a quarter of the population?

On investigating that question, they found that millennials were less trusting of traditional charities and less inclined to contribute because of a perceived lack of transparency, with funds often going to high executive compensation and fundraising efforts rather than good deeds.

So, Stephen and his team decided to change the model, to structure a program that would appeal to everyone – over 50’s, millennials and everyone in between – to tackle world hunger. RTG Group was born. What, you might ask, does ‘RTG’ stand for? Receiving Through Giving. It was one of Stephen’s mother’s favorite messages. She would often say ‘if you want something Stephen, you have to be prepared to give first’.

The Goal

To eliminate hunger in the developed world through the formation of a for-profit social enterprise that collaborates transparently with organizations and individuals worldwide.

The Project

The first thing the RTG team did was to fully understand the nature of the problem they were focused on solving. In 2013, the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) estimated that 842 million people were undernourished (12% of the global population). UNICEF estimated 300 million children go to bed hungry each night and 8000 children under the age of 5 are estimated to die of malnutrition every day.

RTG also found that there were thousands of organizations focused on studying and addressing the problem of hunger, locally and internationally, with varying degrees of success. There was a myriad of factors contributing to the problem including lack of resources to purchase and prepare food, cost, distribution, nutritional content, spoilage and waste, war and civil unrest.

They talked to the hungry. They talked to the people and organizations who were trying to feed the hungry including hostels, food banks, and meal preparation and distribution organizations. They also talked to charity givers and those that weren’t currently giving, like many millennials. They talked to many charities to understand the challenges. They talked to fund-raisers.

They talked to nutritionists to understand what would be required to provide a nutritious and appetizing meal. They talked to food manufacturing organizations to understand their supply chains and manufacturing, packaging, storage, and distribution processes and the options available to support the RTG project.

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With this information in hand, they started to develop various approaches for solving the problem. For example:

  • Affordability – ensure the food is prepaid
  • Preparation – ensure the food is consumable out of the package
  • Nutrition – design meals to provide the required nutritional content
  • Cost – work with food manufacturing companies to provide maximum nutrition at the lowest cost
  • Spoilage – package meals to minimize special storage needs
  • Distribution – leverage existing service organizations to reach the hungry

Out of this exercise, the “Give & Gain” (G&G) program was born. The G&G program had four key components: the food itself, the funding sources, the manufacturing and warehousing, and the distribution to those in need.

  1. The food – The RTG team worked with nutritionists and food manufacturing companies to design five affordable, dry packaged meals that required no special storage or refrigeration and could be eaten as is. Each meal provides about 650 calories plus fiber and minerals to deliver a daily minimum sustainable level of nutrition. All five varieties are certified organic and non-GMO and are nutritionally equivalent.
  2. The funding sources – Instead of adopting the standard charity model, RTG opted for a for-profit model with a targeted 20% profit margin, half of which is turned back into good works. Subscribers (organizations and individuals) pay C$38.70 per month to purchase one meal a day for 30 days for the intended recipients. In return, the subscribers receive a federal tax receipt for the full amount of the contribution. Subscribers also get access to the RTG app that features promotions and discounts from hundreds of leading Canadian companies.
  3. Manufacturing and warehousing – To minimize RTG’s costs and ensure the food gets to the intended recipients as quickly and efficiently as possible, the organizations that distribute the food order the meals directly from the manufacturer. The manufacturer ships directly to the requesting organization. The meals have already been paid for by the subscribers’ contributions.
  4. Meal distribution – RTG reviews and selects the organizations that distribute the meals based on their ability to reach and serve the hungry. RTG staff conduct regular audits including assessing the satisfaction of the meal recipients. Feedback is used to enhance the meals and the processes and practices that get the meals into the hands of the hungry.

With the G&G program in place, RTG started to add subscribers and to line up distributing organizations. Businesses and non-profits were approached about participating, engaging with their staff to give back to their communities and enjoy the perks offered. Millennials have embraced the program because of the transparency and the perks. The program started slowly and grew organically. It’s still growing. The world awaits!

The Results

To date, over 100,000 meals are being delivered to the hungry every day of the year across the country. Those subscribers, in addition to the good feelings they get from helping their fellow man, are enjoying the benefits offered through the RTG app as well as a tax receipt for the full amount of their giving. The organizations focused on helping the hungry now have access to prepaid, healthy meals to give to their clients. The organizations and staff who have supported the program are giving back to their communities. And remember, RTG is a for-profit organization. Half of those profits go back into good works. That’s a win, win, win, win, win, win!

In addition, RTG Group USA Inc. has officially launched in the U.S.A. with it’s first Office in New York City. As well, discussions are being held on numerous fronts exploring new and exciting collaborative Programs. One such is with 300 of the top Youtube performers to bring the program to their 720 million followers. Stephen expects to grow the program to a multi-billion dollar business that can be run with as few as 30 staff. It makes for exciting times at RTG. And for the hungry!

How a Great Leader Succeeded

The RTG Team has implemented a successful program that is delivering on the vision now and will continue to do so for the foreseeable future.

How did they do it? Certainly, they have had lots of experience identifying core challenges, formulating appropriate solutions and delivering change to fill the need. No doubt his experience has been instrumental in the success to date. However, I thought it would be interesting to use John Kotter’s 8 Step Change Model and examine the approach RTG used to deliver the G&G program in that context. Let’s take a look.

davison 09052018 1Step 1 – Create a sense of urgency: RTG created a sense of urgency with their global and local views. The worldview showed the size of the problem. The dialogue with the hungry and homeless in RTG’s backyard and ongoing collaboration with service organizations cemented and sustained that urgency.
Step 2 – Build a guiding coalition: Look at all the parties RTG involved in their initial deliberations and who are still actively involved in delivering the G&G program. The guiding coalition is alive and well.
Step 3 – Form a strategic vision and initiatives: The strategic vision? Eliminate hunger. Check. The initiatives? For-profit RTG. G&G. Others in progress. Check.
Step 4 – Enlist a volunteer army: Organizational and individual subscribers, food manufacturers, service organizations, food banks, shelters, the hungry. Perhaps not all are volunteers, but all are certainly voluntary.
Step 5 – Enable action by removing obstacles: The approach RTG took to achieve their vision addressed a number of obstacles including affordability, preparation, nutrition, cost, spoilage, and distribution. It appears they are determined to remove any roadblocks that get in their way.
Step 6 – Generate short-term wins: RTG is enrolling one organization, one subscriber, one delivery partner at a time, providing one meal at a time and celebrating each hungry person who is a little less hungry because of the collective efforts of all involved.
Step 7 – Sustain acceleration: That’s the current stage, continuing the rollout in Canada, expanding to the U.S., building a program with the top Youtube performers. Tomorrow the world.
Step 8 – Institute change: That’s RTG’s plan for the future, to eliminate hunger. They’re not there yet but here’s hoping.

Interesting eh? RTG’s successful change efforts effectively mirror the steps in Kotter’s change model. John Kotter wouldn’t be surprised. You shouldn’t be either. It’s a great framework to help manage the journey from problem to solution.

So, put these points on your checklist of things to consider so you too can be a Great Leader. Also remember, use Project Pre-Check’s three building blocks covering the key stakeholder group, the decision management process, and Decision Framework best practices right up front so you don’t overlook these key success factors.

Finally, thanks to everyone who has willingly shared their experiences for presentation on this blog. Everyone benefits. First-time contributors get a copy of one of my books. Readers get insights they can apply to their own unique circumstances. So, if you have a project experience, good, bad and everything in between, send me the details and we’ll chat. I’ll write it up and, when you’re happy with the results, Project Times will post it so others can learn from your insights. Thanks

Drew Davison

Drew Davison is the owner and principal consultant at Davison Consulting and a former system development executive. He is the developer of Project Pre-Check, an innovative framework for launching projects and guiding successful project delivery, the author of Project Pre-Check - The Stakeholder Practice for Successful Business and Technology Change and Project Pre-Check FastPath - The Project Manager’s Guide to Stakeholder Management. He works with organizations that are undergoing major business and technology change to implement the empowered stakeholder groups critical to project success. Drew can be reached at [email protected].

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