A New Year’s Message from Penny Cook

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Penny Cook

Penny Cook, Pioneer Network President & CEO

The dawn of a new decade, 2020. Have you thought to yourself as I have, how can this be? Weren’t we just worrying about Y2K?

It’s said that we feel time passing more quickly as we grow older and maybe that’s the reason that 20 years seems like only a few. Perhaps that’s also the reason that as we enter into this new year that almost begs us to see more clearly, I feel a sense of urgency.

This time of year prompts us to reflect back on what we’ve accomplished and pushes us to set our intentions for the year ahead. We made a decision at Pioneer Network in 2019 to be very intentional about the process. For the first time in our history, we decided to develop an annual report of sorts to qualify and quantify our impact and results for 2019. Although we have documented our programmatic goals and results every year, we have not publicly shared them in this way for no other reason than we were working on other projects and being a small but mighty team, it didn’t rise to a high level of priority.

In 2019 the Pioneer Network staff and Board of Directors began working through a type of strategic planning process based on the work of David La Piana. La Piana authored a book called, The Nonprofit Strategy Revolution, and it challenged us to see strategic planning as a fluid and continuous progression that allows us to be proactive and flexible so we can adapt to opportunities that present themselves and supports us to set limits about what’s realistic and possible. As we navigated through the process it became natural to continually assess our actions and decide the next steps. It has opened up unanticipated opportunities and has helped to focus our efforts.

It also began to feel more natural to want to share our work and accomplishments with others, not to assert ourselves but to be open and transparent and most importantly, to have a degree of accountability.

It’s really the same reason we make resolutions this time of year and share them with those around us.  When we share our intentions, we naturally feel we have people to answer to, people who are helping us to monitor ourselves and achieve our goals. At Pioneer Network we feel the same way.  We’re in this together. You’re our friends, our partners, you’re part of the Pioneer family. One of my favorite Pioneer principles is that “Relationship is the fundamental building block of a transformed culture.” To me, developing a relationship requires a shared vulnerability. It requires a level of transparency and trust that allows space to grow and develop.

When we think of culture change and the process we go through to transform our traditional culture of care, it’s the same thing. We counsel organizations to be open and transparent, to create environments where accomplishments are openly celebrated, and challenges are shared with staff members, residents and families so all can be involved in finding solutions. This environment is based on being known, strong relationships, creating community and promoting everyone’s growth.  All Pioneer Network principles.

In the next few weeks you’ll receive an email from me with our 2019 accomplishments. Please take a moment to read through it. You’ve all contributed to what we’ve done, either by participating in our webinars, attending the conference, using our resources or even reading our newsletter. Thank you for helping us move towards our goal of changing the culture of aging, care and support. And thank you for challenging us to do more. We’re excited to introduce our dual webinar series, we are soon launching an important social media campaign about restraints, our annual conference will feature new programs and events and we’re partnering with other organizations to expand our reach and influence. All things that you’ll be seeing from us in the new year.

And now my challenge to you. It’s time to reflect on all you’ve done, celebrate it and share it. Then take some time and develop your 2020 vision. What are you going to commit to? Who will you share it with? How will you make your vision a reality? Join me in having the sense of urgency to create change. We are stronger when we join together and our vision becomes clear.


“Your vision will become clear only when you look into your heart. Who looks outside, dreams. Who looks inside awakens.” – Carl Jung

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