Honouring the Past

History speaks to us of our journey, the high points, the low points, the times of transtion, funding milestones and so on. For those who have been with an organization for a long time as well as those new to the agency it can be really helpful to do a histogram.

Histograms are exploratory tools typically used for the graphical display of data or in other words pictures of data. Some of the work I have done lately has involved creating variations of the typical hisotgram that highlight key historical turning points or milestones in an organization’s life.

These histograms will vary from client to client but they tend to unfold in a number of streams:

  • The changing mindset of the organization
  • Key elements of a changing environment
  • Service or programmatic milestones
  • Major resource changes

The histogram reveals connections between what the organization was thinking about and struggling with conceptually and the evolution of services,  the emergence of partnerships where none existed before, and the appearance of new funders or increases from current ones. 

We see mindset changes that go on around the organization – for example, a change in government policy which a year or two later results in either increased or decreased funding: depends upon the context. 

Histograms are excellent tools to help foster conversations across all levels of the organization. They work well to help newer staff truly understand that the significance of their organization’s history is not to be found through a series of dates and associated blurbs that we typically find in a PowerPoint presentation.

Rather the meaning of history is gleaned through the conversations that ensue because of the histogram’s display of key milestones and elements of the past. In doing so, not only do people develop a true understanding of their organization over time, but they are provided with the opportunity to celebrate the past while anticipating the future.

Originally published in our May 2011 issue of our e-newsletter.

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