By Dick Traum
As leaders of organizations committed to making meaningful differences in people’s lives – Cigna, a global health service company with more than 45,000 employees and 95 million customer relationships around the world, and Achilles International, a nonprofit that enables people with all types of disabilities to participate in mainstream running events – we’ve witnessed the power that passionate, close-knit groups of like-minded people – we call them micro communities – can have in helping everyday individuals achieve extraordinary goals.
People want to find meaningful ways to help others, but in many cases, they just don’t know where to begin. From our personal experiences, we can attest to the power that micro communities can have in helping others achieve impressive goals.
Each micro community and the cause they are pursuing is unique. But what they share is their ability to help empower others to confront their fears, set new goals and forge paths they may not have pursued alone. Micro communities can be organized and planned to help individuals over the long term or can be spontaneous gatherings responding to a moment in time, but at their core they are connecting individuals dedicated to making an impact.
You can harness the power of micro communities for your own organization by following our six-step recipe. This organized, step-by-step process will help you form, implement, and sustain micro communities that can help those around you achieve things they never even thought possible.
- Define the Vision.The process for setting clear objectives and taking the steps to achieve them begins with establishing the vision: a true north point of direction that guides everyone on the journey.
- Create a Strategy.Having a clear strategy defines how we are going to achieve our vision. Built into the strategy is a plan of action—the hard work and sense of purpose to get there.
- Attract the Right Resources.We rely on our people, research and development teams, and other resources to help us build an infrastructure to get programs off the ground and sustain them over the long term.
- Execute to Achieve the Plan.Once we define our aspirations and create a strategy, the ultimate difference between success and failure is our ability to execute and achieve the plan.
- Overcome Obstacles.No matter how foolproof our recipe may be, we should always anticipate obstacles, setbacks, and a few stumbles along the way. Be prepared to adjust accordingly.
- Expand and Grow.Just as recipes evolve when they are passed down through generations or modified with healthier ingredients, our basic recipe allows us to make improvements and expand the vision with new opportunities across more micro communities.
In The Courage to Go Forward, we’ve profiled remarkable individuals who have overcome devastating physical and mental trauma – by not going at it alone. Among many other stories, we included those of Trisha Meili, known as “the Central Park Jogger,” who experienced traumatic brain injury and severe physical and cognitive dysfunction after a horrific attack in 1989 while running in New York’s Central Park; and Cedric King, who experienced major internal injuries, permanent loss to part of his right arm and hand, and the amputation of both legs in Afghanistan when a detonated improvised explosive device tore through his body in 2012.
With the support of their micro communities, which were uniquely configured and committed to helping these individuals meet their goals, Trisha ran the 1995 New York Marathon and in 2003 established the annual Hope & Possibility Race through Central Park; and Cedric competed in the 2014 half-Ironman in Augusta, Georgia, and completed two Walt Disney World Marathons and the Boston Marathon, using prosthetic blades. Both Trisha and Cedric exemplify the power that micro communities can achieve.
The six steps we’ve outlined here benefit everyone involved and emphasize that with the help of others, we can achieve the unimaginable. A community that enables each other to overcome obstacles and tackle challenges together – rather than alone – creates a communal experience that can be likened to your favorite recipe that you want to share with others and replicate again and again.
David Cordani is president and CEO of Cigna, a global health service company. He is an accomplished triathlete and running guide for disabled veterans.
Dick Traum is president and founder of Achilles International, a nonprofit enabling people with all types of disabilities to participate in mainstream running events. He was the first runner to complete a marathon with a prosthetic leg, when he crossed the finish line at the 1976 New York City Marathon.
All proceeds from The Courage to Go Forward support the programs and athletes of Achilles International. To learn more, visit www.CouragetoGoForward.com.