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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.

What is 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 is 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 Change Academy has a simple structure:

Who attends: One organization, which brings a team of 6- 20 people. Depending on the circumstances, your team might include partners or other external constituents.
Where: Durham, NC
How long: The meeting lasts 1.5 days. We believe great things can happen on a short timeline.
Why: To 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. We are interested in working with nonprofits, B corps, and for-profit social ventures. Other types of organizations (corporations, government agencies, churches) should contact us to see if there’s a fit.

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. 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.”

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)







How do we decide who is ‘admitted’?

In the past, we had a formal application process. We have discontinued that in favor of a more opportunistic approach. We want to fit the program to your timeline, not vice versa. So if you’re interested, just fill out the form at the top of the page, and we’ll get in touch with you to learn more. We are very selective — traditionally, fewer than 25% of applicants have been accepted – because we want to have the greatest possible impact with the limited number of sessions we can run each year.

What does it cost?

The Change Academy is free (other than your travel costs, of course), but we do ask something of you. At CASE, we offer this program as a service to the social sector, and we ask that you “pay it forward” in some way. That might mean offering your organization up for a case study, taking on a student intern, speaking at a conference, making a donation to CASE, or perhaps something else entirely. We will work with you on this; our intent is simply to avoid making cost a deterrent to positive social change.

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

Past participants in various iterations of the Change Academy include these organizations:


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