Becky Kanis & Her Commitment to Achieve The Unreasonable

One morning I woke and decided I wanted to throw myself into work I believed in,” said Becky Kanis, the Director of the 100,000 Homes Campaign who was recently honored by The White House as a Champion of Change. Becky graduated from West Point in 1991 and then served as an officer in the U.S. Army for nine years. After the Army, Becky struggled to feel connected to something bigger than herself.  She believed in helping people and feels that fate has led her to where she is today. Many men and women’s lives have changed for the better as a result of Becky deciding to change her life’s path.

This week we had the pleasure of speaking with Becky and discovering how she became so dedicated to ending homelessness, how the partnership between the 100,000 Homes Campaign and the Rapid Results Institute has transformed their work, and Becky’s future plans and advice.

To understand Becky’s passion for the Campaign, you first must know how her involvement started. In 2003 Becky was introduced to Rosanne Haggerty, the President of Community Solutions, who hired Becky to lead an effort to reduce street homelessness in Times Square. After a year of working on the effort, Becky and her team went out in the middle of the night to measure their progress and discovered that street homelessness had risen by 17%. It is from this unsettling realization that Becky and her team recognized that they needed to commit to the outcome and be willing to do anything to get there. By 2007, street homelessness in Times Square had receded by 87%. Becky took this determination and learning to her next effort, The 100,000 Homes Campaign, a grassroots national movement to house 100,000 chronically homeless individuals in America by July 2014.

It is because of Becky that the Rapid Results Institute broadened its mandate from developing country work so it can participate in this noble domestic effort. In December of 2011, Becky read a NY Times blog about Rapid Results Institute’s work in Africa and decided that the Campaign needed to embed the Rapid Results Approach in its work with communities around the country. Before their partnership, 100,000 Homes Campaign and the United Way of Greater LA had successfully helped teams cut in half the amount of time it took for a homeless veteran to be housed in Los Angeles and a few other cities. However, this improvement in placement time had no impact on placement rate.  Teams were still housing veterans at the same rate, despite having a better process in place.  The Institute and 100,000 Homes worked together to create Rapid Results Boot Camps. Becky believes that the partnership is effective because of the shared belief of the two organizations in the power of being committed to an unreasonable goal. Becky credits the Rapid Results Institute for “transforming our thinking and our strategies in a wonderful way.” Communities working with the Campaign have housed 38,750 chronically homeless individuals to date, and the partnership with the Institute is being leveraged to accelerate the rate of housing in the cities that will have the largest impact on the national goal.  As a result of this partnership, several teams have doubled the rate at which they house homeless people.

It is due to this extraordinary impact that The White House recently honored Becky as one of the 14 female veterans as Champions of Change for her involvement in Times Square, The 100,000 Homes Campaign, Knights Out, and The Social Change Agency. During the ceremony’s panel discussion, Becky shared her inspiration —  how people can change the rules and their own performance when they commit to an unreasonable end goal.

Once the Campaign accomplishes its goal, Becky wants to take everything she has learned and apply it to The Social Change Agency, which she recently co-founded. Through this Agency, she plans to share her knowledge with other leaders in the sector who want to make the world a better place. Becky says she wants to “work with every nook and cranny of the nonprofit sector.”

Becky’s courage and passion to make a difference and achieve the unreasonable is truly motivating. We asked Becky what advice she would give to a person looking to get involved in the nonprofit sector.  Here’s what she said – without a moment of hesitation: “Discover what you love doing, get so good at it that you’re a master, then use it towards something that inspires you in creating something that is really beautiful.” Towards that end, Becky suggested three steps:

  1. First tap into what you are really passionate about. “Don’t waste your time being against something, it will sap your energy. Instead, channel your energy into what you really want to create in the world – what mark you want to leave.”
  2. Through trial and error, discover your “genius” – what you are really good at. She borrowed this idea from Gay Hendricks’s novel, The Big Leap, “There will be plenty of people who will pay you to do what you are good at, but find the stuff you are genius at and enhance it.”
  3. Put in your 10,000 hours.  Malcolm Gladwell talks about masters putting in 10,000 Hours.  “Pay your dues and don’t be afraid to get dirty. It might be hard at first, but in the end it will be totally worth it.”

It has been an honor working with the 100,000 Homes Campaign and Becky Kanis. Her passion for the cause and motivation to succeed is contagious and she truly is a Champion of Change.

To learn more about the partnership between the 100,000 Homes Campaign and the Rapid Results Institute, visit here.