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What can the Change Academy do for you?

Think of a metric that captures the impact of the work you do. If you’re focused on homelessness, it might be “the number of people placed in permanent housing” in a given period. Or, if you’re committed to improving prenatal care, you might focus on “the percentage of low birth-weight babies” in a certain region.

The Change Academy is a program designed to help you boost your performance on that metric. Dramatically.

This is not a ‘training program,’ though there is a lot of training involved. Rather, it’s a results program.

If you crave better results, and if you’re willing to rethink the way you work, then read on. We want to help you move a metric that matters.

Who’s leading the Change Academy?

The CASE Change Academy is a program hosted by Duke University’s Center for the Advancement of Social Entrepreneurship (CASE), one of the nation’s oldest and best-respected programs for social entrepreneurs. The program will be led by Dan Heath, a senior fellow at CASE and the co-author of the New York Times bestsellers Made to Stick, Switch, and Decisive. The 2015 Change Academy features a partnership with the Rapid Results Institute, an organization that has pioneered a methodology for making big changes on 100-day timeframes.

If you crave better results, and if you’re willing to rethink the way you work, then read on. We want to help you move a metric that matters.





Who is the program designed to help?

The Academy is for leaders in the social sector who want to improve dramatically the effectiveness of their work.

  • What type of organizations should apply? Nonprofits, B corps, and for-profit social ventures. Other organizations (corporations, government agencies, churches) are welcome to apply so long as they meet all other conditions. (For more on those conditions, read the FAQ). Individuals should not apply.
  • Is the Academy geared toward large or small organizations? We encourage organizations of any size to apply, though very small organizations (< 12 employees) will have a tough burden of proof (see “How will applications be evaluated?” section below).

4 organizations will be accepted into the 2015 class.

What kinds of “metrics” can the Change Academy help me with?

Here’s what we’re looking for:

  1. The metric must relate to work that you’re already doing. You must already have “baseline” data. For us to help you “move the needle” on your metric, we need to know where the needle is today. As part of the application process, we will ask you to document your recent results. Because of this requirement, The Academy is not well-suited for startup ventures or for startup projects within existing organizations, since there is no ‘track record’ yet.
  2. It should be a service metric, not an internal/functional metric. In other words, “number of vaccinations” would be a great metric for the Academy, but not “server uptime percentage” or “dollars raised per direct mail promotion.”
  3. Long-term or seasonal metrics may not fit the program constraints. The heart of the Academy is a 100-day “Rapid Results” project conducted from mid-April through mid-July.(See details below on the project.) If it would be impossible to measure a change in your metric on that timeline, the Academy will not fit your needs. For instance, it would be hard to measure “kindergarten readiness” within the Academy’s timeframe, since you would not be able to measure your results until school started in the fall. Similarly, a program for high school freshmen, designed to reduce their likelihood of dropping out of school, would be impossible to assess on this short timeframe.

Suggestion: If the Academy’s structure doesn’t fit your mission, you might consider substituting a shorter-term metric that correlates well with your outcome measure. E.g., if you have proof that ‘hours spent by parents reading to their children’ correlates well with ‘kindergarten readiness,’ then you might swap in a focus on reading, since it would be easier to assess in a 3-month span.

Here are examples of the kinds of metrics that would fit well with the program:

  • Number of microloans made to female entrepreneurs
  • Percentage of infants who received the diphtheria-tetanus-pertussis vaccine on the recommended schedule
  • Number of people successfully placed into a full-time job
  • Decline in absenteeism among targeted students (assuming a year-round schedule, since the Academy extends into the summer)



What’s the program structure?

The Academy runs from January thru July 2015. The program will include 3 in-person sessions hosted at Duke University in Durham, NC:

  • Session 1 (2 days): Monday, January 12 (9am – 7pm) and Tuesday, January 13 (9a – 3pm)
  • Session 2 (3 days): Monday, April 13 (9am – 7pm); Tuesday, April 14 (9am – 6pm); and Wednesday, April 15 (9am – 3pm)
  • Session 3 (2 days): Tuesday, July 28 (9am – 6pm) and Wednesday, July 29 (8am – 3pm)




What happens in the program?

Session 1 agenda: Together we explore your track record: With respect to your goals, what has worked to date and what hasn’t? Where can we find analogs that suggest what’s possible? We will discuss the Rapid Results methodology/philosophy and lay out the steps needed to prepare for success in April. Heath will share tools for framing the challenge and for motivating others to join the mission (from the Heath brothers’ books Decisive and Made to Stick).

Session 2: In this intense 3-day session, participants are first led through a crash course in the change methodology from the Heaths’ book Switch, blended with the Rapid Results choreography. Armed with those tools, we break out into 4 separate groups (one per organization) to launch our Rapid Results projects. As part of this, participants are challenged to reinvent the way they work and to commit themselves to ‘unreasonable’ goals. At the end of Session 2, each team will be ready to declare publicly the answer to two questions: (1) What is our 100-day goal? (2) What’s our plan to achieve it?

100-day Rapid Results project: Back at home, your team will begin its efforts to move a metric that matters—to achieve unprecedented levels of success by experimenting with new ways of doing things. Along the way, team leaders will receive regular coaching support via phone and email from Heath and the Rapid Results Institute team, and they will share the highs and lows of their 100-day journeys with their peers in the program.

Session 3: In the aftermath of the 100-day project, we ask: What has worked and what hasn’t? (What are the bright spots?) How can you adapt your efforts in the future to maximize the chance of ongoing success? How can you broaden the scope and scale of the impact you created? And, finally, how can you use the methodology you’ve learned to spark innovation and dramatic acceleration of results in other areas of work?

How can I learn more about the “Rapid Results” methodology?

Check out the Rapid Results Institute website or read the three articles below:

Who should attend from my organization?

This is a bit complicated, so read this carefully. Only the Session 1 attendees (three people) need to be determined as part of your application. Part of the agenda of Session 1 is to determine who will be invited to Sessions 2 & 3. So this information is intended to give you forewarning of what’s coming, but you need not have full clarity on the team composition at this point.

  • Session 1: 3 people: The Core Team (2) + a Top Leader (1)
  • Session 2: 7 – 12 people: The Core Team (2) + the Rapid Results Team (5-10)
  • Session 3: 7 – 12 people: The Core Team (2) + the Rapid Results Team (5-10)


  • Core Team: The Core Team is composed of two individuals, both of whom will attend all three sessions. One member of the Core Team is the Team Leader, who will be our primary point of contact with your organization throughout the Academy. The Team Leader should be the person most responsible for the success of the metric-moving mission. It should be the person who stays up nights thinking about how to achieve better results in the work you do. The other Core Team member should be a trusted co-pilot, someone who works closely with the Team Leader on the work you’re bringing to the Academy—it could be a peer or a direct report or a field leader.
  • Top Leader: The Top Leader is a very senior executive who attends Session 1 only. In a small organization, it should be the Executive Director. For large organizations, it might be the head of a region or a service area. If you have questions about who we’d expect, please ask. The reason we require early participation by the Top Leader is to ensure that we have executive buy-in for the Rapid Results project. Without that buy-in, your team will never be able to achieve the level of focus that it needs to succeed.
  • Rapid Results Team: The Rapid Results Team is the group of people who will lead the actual, on-the-ground work that will allow you to move a metric that matters. The composition of the Rapid Results Team will differ by organization. If you work closely with partners to achieve your goals, then you’ll want to have representatives from those organizations on your Rapid Results Team. (E.g., your Rapid Results Team might have 10 people from 6 different organizations) If you handle most of the service work yourself, everyone on your Rapid Results Team might be from your organization.

As noted above, we will spend time in Session 1 determining the composition and size of your Rapid Results Team, so you need not have those issues pinned down today. But you should think in advance about two issues:

  • Logistics: The minimum size of your Rapid Results Team will be 5 people, and we will recommend that you aim higher (say, 8-10 people). Flying these people back and forth to Durham will be expensive, and the scheduling will be complicated. Are you ready to sign on for that?
  • Permissions: If you work closely with partner organizations, you will need to recruit representatives from those organizations to join your Rapid Results Team. If you are uncertain as to whether a critical partner would be willing to participate in a structure like the Change Academy, we strongly encourage you to discuss the idea with them now. Otherwise your Rapid Results Team may lack the people it needs to succeed.



What does it cost?

The fee for the Academy is $10,000 per organization. Of this amount, $5,000 is refundable assuming you meet the basic expectations of the program (see below). No travel expenses are included in this fee—you must cover flights, hotel stays, transportation, dinners, etc, for all participants. The amount you spend on travel will greatly exceed the program fee.

Here’s how you can “earn back” $5,000 of the fee:

  • Homework, pre-Session 1: Upon completion by all participants, you will earn back $1,000. (Approx 6-8 hours of work)
  • Preparation for Session 2: Assuming you complete the preparations for the Rapid Results workshop in Session 2, you will earn back $2,000;
  • Rapid Results project: If you complete the Rapid Results project and document the results (regardless whether those results are negative or positive), you will earn back $2,000.

None of these three requirements are intended to be onerous in any way. If you invest reasonable time and effort into the program, you will earn the refund; it is not contingent on successful results.

What’s the application timeline?

  • Friday, October 31: Applications are due by 5pm Eastern Time.
  • Wednesday, November 12: Finalists will be notified.
  • November 17-28: Interview calls will be scheduled with finalists.
  • Wednesday, December 3: The Class of 2015 will be announced.


How will the applications be evaluated?

The applications will be judged on 4 traits:

Impact: If you succeed at moving your metric, how big of an impact would you make?

Organizational strength: How well-positioned is your organization to succeed?

Importance internally:  Do you need to succeed? (I.e., even in the absence of the Academy, would you be struggling to improve?)

Fit: Do we at the Academy think we can contribute meaningfully to your challenge? Do we believe your participation would be an asset to the other organizations in the cohort?

Who has been part of the Change Academy in past years?

This will be the second year of the Change Academy. The focus of the inaugural 2013-14 class was on tackling ambitious, complex challenges.Unlike the 2014-15 cohort, several of the first-year attendees were starting new campaigns or new areas of work. To see who was part of the Class of 2014, click here. The admitted organizations were:


The 2014 CASE Change Academy Class The 2014 CASE Change Academy class

Here’s what some of the participants said about the experience:

“This experience, next to graduate school (which I pull from daily), has been the single-largest influencer, catalyst, and resource in my career as an Executive Director to date.”
–Kathryn Jacob, ED, Housing Crisis Center

“This is a special time—a life-changer!”
–Karen Mathison, CEO, United Way of Greater Toledo

“AMAZING learning and development experience! Great practice, feedback, tools, opportunities, and interactions with like-minded, ambitious people.”
–Amanda Bikowski, teacher and member of the Teach For America team.

Why might someone NOT want to join the Change Academy?

Here are four reasons (among many) that the Change Academy might not suit you:

  1. Tough logistics, significant cost. As you saw above, Sessions 2 and 3 require you to bring large teams to Durham. Your organization will need to arrange the participation of roughly 10 people for Sessions 2 and 3. Think about that: That’s 23 different flights (3 flights for Session 1 + 10 for both Sessions 2 & 3), 23 sets of hotel reservations, etc. That’s a nuisance and it’s expensive. (Of course, our belief is that it’s no more of a nuisance than planning a staff retreat or an off-site training, and furthermore, that it’s a small amount of cost/nuisance relative to the potential opportunity. Still, though, it’s a real factor and one you should think about carefully.)
  2. A merciless attendance policy. We expect the 2 members of the Core Team to show up for every hour of all 7 days. The same goes for the Top Leader who attends Session 1. No late arrivals, no early flights out, no ducking out for conference calls. And any absence not due to a true emergency will cause your organization to forfeit 100% of the fees and may result in your organization being kicked out of the program. (Busy times in the office are not ‘emergencies.’ Neither is a flight delay that makes you late because you left no slack in the schedule.) Why are we so heartless about this? Because the slots for the Academy are incredibly scarce. We want to work with leaders who are frothing at the mouth to participate. From that perspective, perfect attendance is the bare minimum we’d expect.
  3. The need to share the reins. A critical part of the Rapid Results methodology is that the people who do the work should own the goal and the plan. Often, that can be uncomfortable for top leaders, since they’re accustomed to setting the goals and coming up with the solutions themselves, then delegating the “execution” work to the field team. That’s not the way the Change Academy works. The top leaders will be expected to “clear a space” for the field team to work and, furthermore, to trust the field team’s instincts about both (1) the ambition of the goal; and (2) the way it is pursued.
  4. The potential discomfort of transparency. This program will require you to be open about your results. Every admitted organization will have its results published in some public forum (e.g., the Duke CASE blog and/or elsewhere). It’s possible that you could try your best and still see subpar results. We believe strongly that there is no shame in—and that there are valuable lessons to be learned from—an all-out effort that comes up short. But to avoid drama within your organization, you should make sure your Executive Director (or Board) agrees with that philosophy.

For our best effort to anticipate your questions, see the FAQ.

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Other questions?

If you have questions that aren’t addressed above or in the FAQ,
please email