In each of our lives and in our businesses, we are continually reminded of the difference between efficiency (doing things right) and effectiveness (doing the right things). Of course, being efficiently effective is the goal, but it’s clear that focusing on the wrong things will catch up to us pretty quickly.

I’m struck by one aspect of our lives and our communities where the need for focusing on the “right thing” is of unparalleled importance:

“You’ve been out too long
Ain’t you got enough sense to go home?
You’re gonna end up alone
You need some love and understanding
Not that empty life you’re planning – Street Boy”

Street Boy by Rodriguez from the 1971 album “Coming from Reality”

A successful future for our communities is only possible if we can help young people become successful, contributing adults. There is no shortage of charitable community energy being put into providing support and services to young people in need. However, there are few such causes that focus on shoring up a critical source of the developmental problem – the family.

Over the past three years, a highly “effective” and special non-profit program that addresses this need has been growing in strength – it’s called the Santa Ana Parent Project – and it could be a model for solving this problem in all our communities.

Fact – Santa Ana, California is one of the communities in our country that has the highest degree of hardship, including astronomical high school drop-out rates and serious drug and gang problems.

Fact – The development of young people into effective adults can be traced to the building blocks of healthy development – the 40 Developmental Assets – as identified by the Search Institute (Click Here to Review the Search Institute’s 40 Developmental Assets). These assets fall into seven categories: Support, Empowerment, Boundaries and Expectations, Constructive Use of Time, Commitment to Learning, Positive Values, Social Competencies and Positive Identity.

Fact – Young people that have fewer than 20 of these assets in their lives are extraordinarily more likely to participate in negative/destructive behaviors than youth that possess 30-40 of the assets.

Through a unique and passionate collaboration between community leaders and the Santa Ana School District, the Santa Ana Parent Project was born. The program focuses on teaching the 40 Developmental Assets, but not to the children…they are taught to the parents! In order to make the program even more powerful, the classes are taught by volunteer parents themselves, and the program is intentionally as multi-lingual as the families the program is supporting.

The impact on these families is unmistakable. The parents are transformed by the insight they gain – those who volunteer to teach the classes are impacted even more. However, the highest leverage impact is that each of the children in the participating families not only benefits directly but is set on a path to be effective as parents themselves. The leverage this program generates is extraordinary.

Now the stats: The program is now in 15 schools in Santa Ana supporting 900 families a year, but because of parent involvement and the volunteer nature of the program, each school can be supported for a year by a donation of only $1,500 (I sponsored a school myself). Where else can so many families be transformed by such a small amount of money? Again, the leverage is very powerful.

And this brings me back to the subject of effectiveness versus efficiency. So many programs are efficient at giving things to people in need. I believe the Santa Ana Parent Project is uniquely effective at teaching the right things about helping kids become effective people. This can be a great lesson for all of us – it’s all about keeping our focus on what matters most.

If you give someone a fish – you feed them for a day; if you teach them to fish – you feed them for a lifetime.

Santa Ana Parent Project Contact Information: Click Here to Visit the Santa Ana Parent Project Website

Thanks for sharing time with me; as always, I welcome your feedback. Please feel free to pass this message along to others who may find value.

Upcoming Community Events:

Please plan to join us for the March 20th DifferenceMakersOC event supporting Education in Orange County. All proceeds from this event will benefit High School Inc. ( whose mission is to empower youth and strengthen communities through education and business partnerships. Please Click Here To Register or Learn More

The OneOC Spirit of Volunteerism Awards, Orange County’s largest and longest running volunteer recognition lunch event, is fast approaching on April 9, 2014 and will be held at the Disneyland Hotel. Click Here For Corporate Sponsorship Opportunities


Jeff Black
Partner, McDermott & Bull Executive Search

Cell: (714) 356-1949
Office: (949) 529-2672
2 Venture, Suite 100
Irvine, CA 92618

I believe creating relationships that truly fit makes a big difference in the world