Work hard. Be Nice.

“Work hard. Be Nice.” is one of the slogan used in KIPP charter schools. Slogans, chants and songs are elements of larger programs used in charter KIPP schools to raise students to academic excellence. In 1994, two teachers, Dave Levin and Mike launched a fifth-grade public school program in inner-city Houston, Texas. They had just completed their commitment to Teach For America, and were recognizing they failed in their classrooms. The new program they launched themselves was KIPP (Knowledge Is Power Program). It was so successful that today there are 99 KIPP schools serving over 26,000 students in 20 states and Washington, DC.

In his thought-provoking (and fun) book, “Work Hard. Be Nice”, Jay Matthews, tells us about what makes KIPP schools. Through interviews with the founders, Matthews discuss KIPP programs history and accomplishments, their key elements, as well as the battles, or controversies they (still) raise.

Jay Mathews is the author of six previous books, including “Escalante: The Best Teacher in America”, about the teacher who was immortalized in the movie “Stand and Deliver”. He has won the Benjamin Fine Award for Outstanding Education Reporting for both features and column writing. He covers education for the “Washington Post”.

Join us for an engaging discussion on the book “Work Hard. Be Nice.” at the Foundation Center on Wednesday, June 13th. Across the United States many low-income and at-risk students in public schools have low educational achievement and few chose to pursue college. Some have touted that the onset of a new education paradigm with Teach for America and charter schools (such as KIPP Schools) has created a working solution that eradicates the inequity of public schools. Others contend that a parallel school system will not fix the root of the problem and will continue to leave many children behind. Undoubtedly, charter schools have revolutionized education across the United States, but are they a lasting solution?

Come share your insight, perspective, and hope for the current landscape and future of education in the United States. You do not have to have finished (or even read) the book to attend. Snacks and Drinks will be served.

Further links for those interested to know more about KIPP schools:


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May 24, 2012 · 9:33 AM

Making a Change

UPDATE: We’re excited to announce that YNPN San Diego and YNPN San Francisco Bay Area will be reading Switch together and collaborating for the book club!

“Changing the world or changing your waistline”: is there a successful pattern to follow to achieve your change goal?

In their latest book, Switch: How to Change Things When Change is Hard, Chip and Dan Heath compiled decades of findings in psychology and sociology, and expanded them with tons of successful stories on change. The authors reveal a common pattern underlying those success stories, and most importantly, provide us with a fun and engaging read filled with actionable “how to’s”.

The Heath brothers start with “The Happiness Hypothesis” (originated by Jonathan Haidt) analogy for the mind: the emotional side of our mind is like a headstrong Elephant, and the rational side of our mind is the guiding Rider. The Rider cannot win if the Elephant disagrees. “The Elephant [is] looking for the quick payoff (ice cream cone) over the long-term payoff (being thin). When change efforts fail, it’s usually the Elephant’s fault, since the kinds of change we want typically involve short-term sacrifices for long-term payoffs”.

According to the authors, making a switch involves a three-part framework:
– Direct the Rider
– Motivate the Elephant
– Shape the path

Some key ideas of this framework :
– Find the bright spots (investigate what’s working and clone it)
– Find the feeling (the sequence of change is not ANALYZE-THINK-CHANGE, but
– Shrink the change (break down the change until it no longer spooks the

Come join us as we discuss these and other insights from Switch on April 11th!

Register for free:

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April Book Club!

Join us on April 11th as we discuss “Switch: How to Change Things when Change is Hard” by Dan and Chip Heath.

More info and registration at

Check back here for posts relating to the book throughout the month!

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Further Reading on Systems Thinking

Thanks to everyone who joined us and made our Book Club Meeting an interesting one!  Be sure to check out these other great books on Systems Thinking and organizational thinking:

The Nonprofit Strategy Revolution: Real-Time Strategic Planning in a Rapid-Response World 

The Fifth Discipline Fieldbook: Strategies and Tools for Building a Learning Organization

Handbook of Action Research: Concise Paperback Edition

Systems Thinking in the Public Sector: The failure of the reform regime… and a manifesto for a better way 

Tempered Radicals: How People Use Difference to Inspire Change at Work

How to Change the World: Social Entrepreneurs and the Power of New Ideas, Updated Edition 

Switch: How to Change Things When Change Is Hard

For more information on YNPNsfba and our upcoming events, Like us on Facebook or check out

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Common Principles of Complex Systems

While organizations are complex and unique, there are some basic principles common to all systems.  Jim Ollhoff and Michael Walcheski offer these basic principles in their book, “Stepping in Wholes”:

  1. “Systems are interdependent”; You can’t change a part of the system without affecting the whole.
  2. Don’t treat the symptoms; instead, look for the cause and for your “point of greatest leverage”.
  3. Simple solutions that work are rare because simple problems are rare.  Understand the complex causes to craft a better solution.
  4. Short-term solutions often produce long-term problems.
  5. Know your organization! Understand the levels of homeostasis and differentiation of your organization.  Chapter 6 details these and other concepts to gain a better understanding of your organization.
  6. Systems have behavior patterns; recognize them so you can intervene.

These are only the first steps to break the pattern of linear thinking.  Ollhoff and Walcheski go on to detail other ways to view your organization from a systems perspective.

Grab your FREE copy of the book and join us on February 8th to discuss your ideas at our Book Club Meeting. Register for free at

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Symptoms of Linear Thinking

Our Febrauary book “Stepping in Wholes” tackles the process of Systems Thinking.  As the authors eloquently state, ” Thinking in complex systems is a way to see the world, looking at wholes and their interactive pieces instead of the constituent parts.”  Most organizations teach and practice linear thinking, sacrfacing the whole while focusing on the indivdiual parts of a system.  Some common symptoms of linear thinking (taken from Chapter 4) include:

• A reoccurring problem that won’t go away, no matter what you do to solve the problem.

• Lots of complaining and sour attitudes; just shifting the topic of the complaint; there is even complaining about the complaining.

• Policies and rules that actually hinder the stated goals and purposes of the organization.

• Organizations that never seem to get anywhere; they just stay busy fighting the daily fires.

• Logical people who sit in a committee and make illogical decisions.

• Organizations that never seem to get anything done.

• A few people, usually the fussiest and most-disliked, seem to control the agenda of the organization.

• The more an organization tries to change, the more they seem to stay the same.

Luckily, Jim Ohloff  & Michael Walcheski offer a cure to linear thinking by giving an overview of complex systems.  In “Stepping in Wholes” the authors highlight the basics of complex adaptive systems, allowing the reader to take advantage of the forces in their organization to create lasting, positive changes.

Join us on February 8th to discuss your thoughts and experience with your organization!

Register for free.

Free copy of the book (PDF).

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Cheap ain’t cheap

but sometimes it’s convenient and facilitates saving money for other things. And oftentimes it’s difficult to know the true cost of discount items with limited information and to choose more expensive goods when on a budget.

These were just some of the thoughts voiced at tonight’s December Book Club on Cheap: The High Cost of Discount Culture by Ellen Ruppel Shell. Seven YNPNers convened at ZSpace (where Kathleen, who helped coordinate the event, works) to engage in thoughtful discussion about the book and its topic.

Some highlights from our conversation:

  • Whether more market choice is empowering and overwhelming
  • The Cult of the New (owning new things) and the connection made by the author to affording new things as a false sense of wealth
  • Where we recently bought a new item and how we made the decision to buy it there
  • A return to crafting, gifting, recycling
  • The things we really spend/invest money on (food, shoes, good clothes) and don’t (electronics, books)

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Interestingly, it was the first time for all of us, including myself and Kathleen, to participate in a YNPN Book Club event, and none of us knew each other prior to meeting. We all enjoyed each other’s questions, perspectives, and sharing related to the book and many expressed interest in attending another book club event or even helping to organize. Oh yeah, the refreshments were also very delicious!

Look out for the next YNPN Book Club event in February 2012. The book will be announced in January. If you’d like to volunteer as a book club organizer for YNPN, feel free to leave a comment to this post or e-mail us at!

Until then Happy Holidays!

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