When Mistakes Are Good
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Fail fast and cheap. That's how Playworks founder Jill Vialet answered our query last week about management strategies. She runs an Oakland, Calif.-based nonprofit that creates playground programs and trains teachers on how to make recess more enjoyable for children. She says nonprofits can be held back from taking risks, especially if they're worried about answering to a large donor. The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation is Playworks' biggest investor, and Jill credits it with creating an environment that allows her to beopen and straightforwardabout any of Playworks' mistakes.
The strategy has paid off: the 17-year-old organization, despite shrinking education budgets, is expanding the number of schools adopting its programs. (Already 400 schools are using Playworks and several more are on waiting lists.) They pay $25k to $30k annually to have a Playworks coach on hand to teach kids on the playground about empathy, bullying, and team work. Playworks, which has a $31M annual budget, also provides training for any school employee or parent volunteer who wants to become a coach. (Although someone should teach that kid in orange about sharing his multiple hula hoops.)