by John Trybus, Managing Director

More than 16 million children – that’s more than one in five – are at risk of hunger in America right now, according to one estimate. What a shocking statistic.

The good news? There’s a solution to the problem within reach and one organization – with the help of one social strategist in particular – is putting an ambitious plan into action to solve the hunger epidemic.

That social strategist would be today’s guest of course: Josh Wachs, the chief strategy officer of Share Our Strength. He’s the mastermind behind making sure the organization reaches its aggressive goal: to do nothing less than end childhood hunger…and oh yeah, to do that by 2015. Talk about ambitious!

“Our work is very dynamic. What we’re doing is really developing a new model of how to end childhood hunger and a new paradigm around how to fight this issue,” explains Josh of the No Kid Hungry campaign.

He adds: “It’s a very bold goal that I think has been a crucial part in the organization’s success.”

From the NBA where he served as the vice president for community relations to the chief operating officer role at the Democratic National Committee (DNC) and other positions in between, Josh knows a thing or two about building and executing ambitious strategies.

In our interview, Josh shared more valuable insights into strategy building than I have room to write here. But here’s a preview of some of them:

  • Pick a battle that’s big enough to matter but small enough to win. This line is based on one from writer and education theorist Jonathan Kozol who Share Our Strength is fond of citing as inspiration. In other words be ambitious about what to accomplish but set metrics-driven benchmarks to reach the goal, Josh recommends. “High preforming nonprofits these days, the ones who are most successful, are ones who have a clear set of metrics that all stakeholders can buy into,” he says.
  • Create a theory of change within the organization. So that everyone works with the same roadmap and can assess potential opportunities against that structure.“Everyday there’s a new opportunity,” Josh concedes. But “you really have to look hard at those opportunities against your end goals” and pass up on those that don’t fit into the established theory of change.
  • Make sure everyone has skin in the game. “Everyone within the organization has got to see how buying into the strategy is ultimately going to move their piece of business forward most effectively,” Josh says of obtaining organizational buy-in. The same principle applies to external partners.
  • Leave room for innovation, creativity and risk. Successful causes must be willing to fail to be able to ultimately succeed. One way to do this is to think of unique and creative partnerships. “I think the key to our creative strategy is bringing unusual suspects to the table,” Josh says. “Unlikely bed fellows,” as he refers to them, have brought different perspectives and a fresh dialogue to the subject of solving childhood hunger.

So will the goal of ending childhood hunger be met? Most definitely. “Success is putting yourself out of business in this case,” he told me.

Listen to my interview with social strategist Josh Wachs to learn more about setting ambitious goals and building the strategy to help reach them.