One Love: Managing a Movement Against Relationship Violence

The One Love Foundation is a group dedicated to the prevention of relationship violence through education. Professor Tom DeLong talks about the challenges CEO Katie Hood faces as the organization works to create a movement and then maintain momentum around community engagement, fundraising, and growth.

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Brian Kenny: Relationship violence is a problem of epidemic proportions in the United States. Here are some statistics from the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence. On average, nearly 20 people per minute are physically abused by an intimate partner. During one year, this equates to more than 10 million women and men. One in five women in the US has been raped. Only 34 percent of people who are injured by intimate partners received medical care for their injuries, and in case you don't see the business implications, victims of intimate partner violence lose a total of 8 million paid days of work each year with the cost of such incidents exceeding $8.3 billion. Today, we'll hear from Professor Tom DeLong about his case study entitled One Life; One Love. I'm your host Brian Kenny, and you're listening to Cold Call.

Tom DeLong teaches courses focused on leadership, organizational behavior, managing human capital, and career management. He's written over 100 cases on those topics, and several books including his most recent, Flying Without a Net: Turn Fear of Change into Fuel for Success. Tom thanks for joining me today.

Tom DeLong: It's a pleasure to be here with you.

Kenny: This is obviously an emotional case, and it has a kind of a shocking beginning, and it's about a topic that is very much in the headlines today and shows no sign of dissipating. And by the way, I should also mention as the father of two daughters I read this with great interest. I know you have five daughters of your own…

DeLong: Yes, I do.

Kenny: So, I'm sure this hits close to home for you as well. But maybe you can start just by telling us who's the protagonist in this case, and what is on her mind?

DeLong: Katie Hood was my student and graduated from Harvard Business School in 2001. She joined the Michael J. Fox Foundation because she was interested in social enterprise, and doing good, and had a remarkable run there but then was at a transition point. What we know about human behavior is that it's during transitions that you kind of see the mettle of the person, and you kind of see how they deal with crucibles in different situations. At this time, she was considering remaining a full-time mom. At the same time she heard about this [news] at the University of Virginia about a star lacrosse player who was killed by her long-term boyfriend, who was jealous and under the influence.

It set off ... her asking questions of herself like, "Why is this happening?" "Why have we evolved as a society where we don't understand the importance of symmetry in relationships?..." And so, I was interested in finding a protagonist who was interested in purpose, and interested in moving through a transition, and here she was being asked to lead this foundation, actually like a movement. I asked her whether we could begin the process of writing a case.

Kenny: You mentioned the catalyst for the One Life One Love Foundation. Can you give us more context for what happened with that event?

DeLong: It was in 2010 in May. In fact, Yardley was just a few weeks from graduation. She was impatient with her boyfriend in how she was being treated, and they dated for two, three years. She had another date, and her old boyfriend didn't find that, well, it brought out some behaviors in him that really frightened a lot of different people. He went late at night, basically attacked her, and then the next morning when her roommates came back she wasn't alive. One part that was important about this situation is that every person in that community said, "You know, I worried about him and yet nobody said anything. Nobody stepped forward and said I don't think you ought to date him."

What happened is Yardley's mother, sister, and cousin basically created a foundation. They named it One Love. And then the business question is: how do you create movement? More important, how do you create a movement around a topic that is so hard to talk about as relationship violence?

Kenny: It made national headlines. They were both Division I [collegiate] athletes playing for one of the best known lacrosse programs in the country. This brought attention to this particular case, whereas [most of] these kinds of incidents continue to happen under the radar screen.

DeLong: Five years ago a woman came to me and said, "I'd like to do a study on how frightened woman are working on Wall Street." She did some extensive interviews on campus; there were 200 women that came forth to be interviewed about having situations in their three to five years in the financial services world where they were in a position of being frightened.

"The men in our culture haven't quite figured out how to use power, or to understand the concept of control"

For some reason, the men in our culture haven't quite figured out how to use power, or to understand the concept of control. They haven't learned how to problem solve. I'm making some gross generalizations, but they haven't figured out how to deal with their own emotions. One of the things that we teach in the course and we're trying to teach our students is about having the courage to be what I call “maturely vulnerable” and talk about things in a way where you share more than just superficial issues.

Things build up over time. There have been women in my class who have written reflections that have said things like "I've been in an abusive relationship for five years, but I didn't want to hurt him by leaving the relationship." What's happened in this whole movement is that when Katie Hood is at an MBA program, and is sharing the data, and talking about the program, the MBA students say, "Well, you should be doing this at the college level." Now, she's been to over 400 universities. When she goes to undergraduates, the undergraduates say, "Listen, you need to go to high schools."

She goes to the high schools, and they say, "You’ve got to start this earlier." One of the ways the paradigm has shifted is moving from talking about just relationship violence to healthy relationships. It's a reframe, and it gives people, it gives them psychological permission to talk more about it as opposed to something that sounds so hostile.

Kenny: Right, and it's looking at the solution rather than the problem. We all know the problem is there, so let's talk about the solution. What is Katie in One Love trying to accomplish? What's their ambition?

DeLong: Well, I think that what she says is that, "I want to do for relationship violence, and healthy relationships, do what the mothers did for MADD." Mothers Against Drunk Driving.

That it became something that just wasn't a fad, but it began to change the way that legislatures looked at penalties towards drunk driving. Her goal, and it's very aspirational, and the question in the course is in one of these movements is, how much time is she involved with informing, or inspiring, or asking for money, and that's one of the leadership questions that begins to emerge as I talk to her and advise her. But she wants this to spread throughout the country.

Kenny: How do you do that? What's the approach that you take? She's a force of one, it's a small organization. She is burdened with the need to raise money, otherwise you can't sustain the operation. How do you divide your time?

DeLong: Well, one is that she's brought in some fabulous professionals who are as committed to this work as she is. The other thing is that she's found that the easiest thing is raising money. But the key for her is to create an atmosphere at a local level where individuals who have never talked about this whole notion of interaction, and symmetry in relationships, of how to get that out to kids at a reasonably young age so they can begin to have conversations with their parents. But what we're finding is the parents aren't talking to their kids about relationships. This is an educational, inspirational process.

Kenny: You've got to sort of empower people to be influencers in this, right?

DeLong: Yes. One of the things that's been interesting for her is that when she goes to administrators in universities, many of them are very reluctant to get involved because they want to control information, they want to control the incidents that may have taken place, and it's like they're dealing with issues around control, and power themselves about managing image, managing their own reputation. What she would hope is that they'll move from relationship violence, to healthy relationships, to what they're going to call now in the coming year is: Love Better. To really play on that and see how, for me, it's to understand how women and men can talk about this concept about what does it mean to love and care about somebody else more than you can about yourself.

Kenny: What's Katie like? I was interested in reading about, in the case about some of her hesitancy in taking over this role, and some of it had to do with the fact that she was a mom of two young kids. But there was another interesting dimension to that. Just about her own insecurity.

DeLong: Well, the question is if I take this on, can I do it? One of the reasons I approached her is that so many of our students here say, "I'd like to know what my purpose is." Now, many of them haven't had many road miles, so it's difficult to come up with a purpose. But she says, "I wanted a purpose that I could commit my life to." And she says, "I actually felt like God spoke to me." Now, she says it "God spoke to her" and said, "This is your calling. This is what you need to be about." Then that's when the insecurities started to take over because she said, "This is what I need to be about, and am I up to it?"

I think for all of us when we take on something different it's never going to be how we thought it was. We never get the right vision, and I also think that it's typically harder than we thought.

Kenny: What were some of the issues, and think about this more in the context I guess of people who are listening, who may be in organizations or they've got fledgling things that they're trying to get started. What are some of the things that they should think about as they begin to shape that idea?

DeLong: I think the first thing is while it's important to have quick successes, I think if you move too fast then you lose out in creating a foundation of relationships, and people that you can rely on. I think it's very tough to become the sole leader, I think that there's always this question around, "Am I going to join this movement because I'm inspired by Katie? Or I've been converted to the cause?" I think you need to take the time to kind of look at the motivations of people around why they are in fact joining this movement.

"If you move too fast then you lose out in creating a foundation of relationships, and people that you can rely on"

Kenny: Have you discussed the case in class?

DeLong: I did a run-through with some executives. One of the dilemmas with the case is that people start to turn inward and begin to reflect on their own experiences, and it's like they psychologically and emotionally leave the class during the discussion. The other thing that is typical is that they might be critical of how Katie has managed, which I'm just fine with, but I also think that it's a way for them to deflect when they're thinking about the kinds of relationships that they form, and also how they use power and control to get their way.

Kenny: I would imagine part of the challenge for you in the class is how to get people to focus on the business side of this and separate themselves from the emotional part of it?

DeLong: It's a tough process, but again anybody who comes to this campus we want them to have a transformational experience, and that means tough work for the faculty.

Kenny: Tom, thank you so much for joining us today.

DeLong: My pleasure.

Kenny: You can find the One Life; One Love case along with thousands of others in the HBR case collection at HBR.org. I'm your host Brian Kenny, and you've been listening to Cold Call.

Transcript edited for length and clarity. Interview recorded December 7, 2017.

 Read more

Brian Kenny: Relationship violence is a problem of epidemic proportions in the United States. Here are some statistics from the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence. On average, nearly 20 people per minute are physically abused by an intimate partner. During one year, this equates to more than 10 million women and men. One in five women in the US has been raped. Only 34 percent of people who are injured by intimate partners received medical care for their injuries, and in case you don't see the business implications, victims of intimate partner violence lose a total of 8 million paid days of work each year with the cost of such incidents exceeding $8.3 billion. Today, we'll hear from Professor Tom DeLong about his case study entitled One Life; One Love. I'm your host Brian Kenny, and you're listening to Cold Call.

Tom DeLong teaches courses focused on leadership, organizational behavior, managing human capital, and career management. He's written over 100 cases on those topics, and several books including his most recent, Flying Without a Net: Turn Fear of Change into Fuel for Success. Tom thanks for joining me today.

Tom DeLong: It's a pleasure to be here with you.

Kenny: This is obviously an emotional case, and it has a kind of a shocking beginning, and it's about a topic that is very much in the headlines today and shows no sign of dissipating. And by the way, I should also mention as the father of two daughters I read this with great interest. I know you have five daughters of your own…

DeLong: Yes, I do.

Kenny: So, I'm sure this hits close to home for you as well. But maybe you can start just by telling us who's the protagonist in this case, and what is on her mind?

DeLong: Katie Hood was my student and graduated from Harvard Business School in 2001. She joined the Michael J. Fox Foundation because she was interested in social enterprise, and doing good, and had a remarkable run there but then was at a transition point. What we know about human behavior is that it's during transitions that you kind of see the mettle of the person, and you kind of see how they deal with crucibles in different situations. At this time, she was considering remaining a full-time mom. At the same time she heard about this [news] at the University of Virginia about a star lacrosse player who was killed by her long-term boyfriend, who was jealous and under the influence.

It set off ... her asking questions of herself like, "Why is this happening?" "Why have we evolved as a society where we don't understand the importance of symmetry in relationships?..." And so, I was interested in finding a protagonist who was interested in purpose, and interested in moving through a transition, and here she was being asked to lead this foundation, actually like a movement. I asked her whether we could begin the process of writing a case.

Kenny: You mentioned the catalyst for the One Life One Love Foundation. Can you give us more context for what happened with that event?

DeLong: It was in 2010 in May. In fact, Yardley was just a few weeks from graduation. She was impatient with her boyfriend in how she was being treated, and they dated for two, three years. She had another date, and her old boyfriend didn't find that, well, it brought out some behaviors in him that really frightened a lot of different people. He went late at night, basically attacked her, and then the next morning when her roommates came back she wasn't alive. One part that was important about this situation is that every person in that community said, "You know, I worried about him and yet nobody said anything. Nobody stepped forward and said I don't think you ought to date him."

What happened is Yardley's mother, sister, and cousin basically created a foundation. They named it One Love. And then the business question is: how do you create movement? More important, how do you create a movement around a topic that is so hard to talk about as relationship violence?

Kenny: It made national headlines. They were both Division I [collegiate] athletes playing for one of the best known lacrosse programs in the country. This brought attention to this particular case, whereas [most of] these kinds of incidents continue to happen under the radar screen.

DeLong: Five years ago a woman came to me and said, "I'd like to do a study on how frightened woman are working on Wall Street." She did some extensive interviews on campus; there were 200 women that came forth to be interviewed about having situations in their three to five years in the financial services world where they were in a position of being frightened.

"The men in our culture haven't quite figured out how to use power, or to understand the concept of control"

For some reason, the men in our culture haven't quite figured out how to use power, or to understand the concept of control. They haven't learned how to problem solve. I'm making some gross generalizations, but they haven't figured out how to deal with their own emotions. One of the things that we teach in the course and we're trying to teach our students is about having the courage to be what I call “maturely vulnerable” and talk about things in a way where you share more than just superficial issues.

Things build up over time. There have been women in my class who have written reflections that have said things like "I've been in an abusive relationship for five years, but I didn't want to hurt him by leaving the relationship." What's happened in this whole movement is that when Katie Hood is at an MBA program, and is sharing the data, and talking about the program, the MBA students say, "Well, you should be doing this at the college level." Now, she's been to over 400 universities. When she goes to undergraduates, the undergraduates say, "Listen, you need to go to high schools."

She goes to the high schools, and they say, "You’ve got to start this earlier." One of the ways the paradigm has shifted is moving from talking about just relationship violence to healthy relationships. It's a reframe, and it gives people, it gives them psychological permission to talk more about it as opposed to something that sounds so hostile.

Kenny: Right, and it's looking at the solution rather than the problem. We all know the problem is there, so let's talk about the solution. What is Katie in One Love trying to accomplish? What's their ambition?

DeLong: Well, I think that what she says is that, "I want to do for relationship violence, and healthy relationships, do what the mothers did for MADD." Mothers Against Drunk Driving.

That it became something that just wasn't a fad, but it began to change the way that legislatures looked at penalties towards drunk driving. Her goal, and it's very aspirational, and the question in the course is in one of these movements is, how much time is she involved with informing, or inspiring, or asking for money, and that's one of the leadership questions that begins to emerge as I talk to her and advise her. But she wants this to spread throughout the country.

Kenny: How do you do that? What's the approach that you take? She's a force of one, it's a small organization. She is burdened with the need to raise money, otherwise you can't sustain the operation. How do you divide your time?

DeLong: Well, one is that she's brought in some fabulous professionals who are as committed to this work as she is. The other thing is that she's found that the easiest thing is raising money. But the key for her is to create an atmosphere at a local level where individuals who have never talked about this whole notion of interaction, and symmetry in relationships, of how to get that out to kids at a reasonably young age so they can begin to have conversations with their parents. But what we're finding is the parents aren't talking to their kids about relationships. This is an educational, inspirational process.

Kenny: You've got to sort of empower people to be influencers in this, right?

DeLong: Yes. One of the things that's been interesting for her is that when she goes to administrators in universities, many of them are very reluctant to get involved because they want to control information, they want to control the incidents that may have taken place, and it's like they're dealing with issues around control, and power themselves about managing image, managing their own reputation. What she would hope is that they'll move from relationship violence, to healthy relationships, to what they're going to call now in the coming year is: Love Better. To really play on that and see how, for me, it's to understand how women and men can talk about this concept about what does it mean to love and care about somebody else more than you can about yourself.

Kenny: What's Katie like? I was interested in reading about, in the case about some of her hesitancy in taking over this role, and some of it had to do with the fact that she was a mom of two young kids. But there was another interesting dimension to that. Just about her own insecurity.

DeLong: Well, the question is if I take this on, can I do it? One of the reasons I approached her is that so many of our students here say, "I'd like to know what my purpose is." Now, many of them haven't had many road miles, so it's difficult to come up with a purpose. But she says, "I wanted a purpose that I could commit my life to." And she says, "I actually felt like God spoke to me." Now, she says it "God spoke to her" and said, "This is your calling. This is what you need to be about." Then that's when the insecurities started to take over because she said, "This is what I need to be about, and am I up to it?"

I think for all of us when we take on something different it's never going to be how we thought it was. We never get the right vision, and I also think that it's typically harder than we thought.

Kenny: What were some of the issues, and think about this more in the context I guess of people who are listening, who may be in organizations or they've got fledgling things that they're trying to get started. What are some of the things that they should think about as they begin to shape that idea?

DeLong: I think the first thing is while it's important to have quick successes, I think if you move too fast then you lose out in creating a foundation of relationships, and people that you can rely on. I think it's very tough to become the sole leader, I think that there's always this question around, "Am I going to join this movement because I'm inspired by Katie? Or I've been converted to the cause?" I think you need to take the time to kind of look at the motivations of people around why they are in fact joining this movement.

"If you move too fast then you lose out in creating a foundation of relationships, and people that you can rely on"

Kenny: Have you discussed the case in class?

DeLong: I did a run-through with some executives. One of the dilemmas with the case is that people start to turn inward and begin to reflect on their own experiences, and it's like they psychologically and emotionally leave the class during the discussion. The other thing that is typical is that they might be critical of how Katie has managed, which I'm just fine with, but I also think that it's a way for them to deflect when they're thinking about the kinds of relationships that they form, and also how they use power and control to get their way.

Kenny: I would imagine part of the challenge for you in the class is how to get people to focus on the business side of this and separate themselves from the emotional part of it?

DeLong: It's a tough process, but again anybody who comes to this campus we want them to have a transformational experience, and that means tough work for the faculty.

Kenny: Tom, thank you so much for joining us today.

DeLong: My pleasure.

Kenny: You can find the One Life; One Love case along with thousands of others in the HBR case collection at HBR.org. I'm your host Brian Kenny, and you've been listening to Cold Call.

Transcript edited for length and clarity. Interview recorded December 7, 2017.

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