It Won’t Work Here…
Seems like I have been hearing the same phrase over and over in all different places around the country… “That is a great idea (or program or process) but it will not work here.” I am curious as to this place “here” and how it is so different from “there,” or someplace else. I have heard that “here” is different from everywhere else because:
- Our demographics are so different from other places (race, income, language, etc.)
- We are more rural than other places
- We are more urban than other places
- Transportation is different here than elsewhere
- Our government process is different here than elsewhere
- We receive less support than other places
- We have less staff than other places
At the ASPCA, we have found that most of the time the programs we suggest do work here… and there—if we can start by first measuring what the risk really is in order to apply the right program and acknowledging what is really causing the thought that “here” is so different in the first place.
Fee-waived adoptions is one of the most common examples of “It won’t work here.” I recently visited with a shelter unsure of the positive impact that fee-waived could have for them. The concern, in this particular “here,” was that because of the demographics of “here,” the adoption counseling was not up to par to be able to support fee-waived adoptions. They were concerned the people coming to adopt at their facilities were more challenging and potential risks. What does the fee do to substantially change the counseling at all? Paying a fee for an adoption does not count as counseling, does it? Why would waiving the fee decrease the quality of the counseling? In this case, digging into the “It won’t work here” uncovered the need for some basic training on conversation-based adoption counseling, and learning how to respect those who walk in the shelter doors to allow more, and better, adoptions to occur—whether or not a fee was waived.
Another recent example is the implementation of ASPCA SAFER® assessments in a busy municipal facility. When presented with the data showing success in other municipal facilities, the response was, “I see the data and understand the successes elsewhere, but… (you got it!)… it won’t work here.” When we started to dig a bit into what was different about “here,” we learned that the assumption was that no changes in staff or volunteer training and support would occur prior to implementation. This was a big “aha!” for me…
In my “here,” I think about what can shift to allow a lifesaving program opportunity to work: What are the barriers to implementation? How can we responsibly address those barriers? For the municipal facility, readying for SAFER involves building the volunteer base and the rescue base, training staff, volunteers and rescues—and then implementing the program.
The two most important things to do “here” are to prepare fully before implementation and to measure the impact. The way to know if it works in your “here” is to try it (with preparation and gusto) and measure it—remember, each one of those numbers represents a wet nose. Until we are getting them all out alive, or stopping them from coming into our shelters in the first place, we owe it to them to try it—even in your “here.”