Independent Learning

Quick Pivot: Organizational Adaption in the Times of COVID-19

This framework is a great way to map the existing assets of your organization; assess the needs of your organization, team, or community; and then begin to brainstorm ideas to address the existing needs in a way that matches the mission of your organization when faced with a new situation, such as COVID-19.

The recent pandemic has altered the operations of many organizations and required them to adapt to serve the rising community needs. The Center for Social Impact Strategy (CSIS) collaborated with Cafe Momentum to discuss a new tool to use when helping your organization adjust. Chad Houser (Founder, CEO, & Executive Chef) from Cafe Momentum shared how the organization quickly adapted to the pandemic to better serve the new needs of their community and CSIS presented a framework for social impact practitioners to apply to their own organizations.The tool was presented by Kaveh Sadeghian (Creative Director), Ariel Schwartz (Managing Director),  and Allison Russell (Postdoctoral Fellow).


  • Learning Objectives
  • How to use the framework
  • Identify the assets of your organization that can be leveraged to address the needs of the community 
  • Evaluate your organization’s mission and how it can adapt to meet current community needs 
  • Brainstorm actionable steps that your organization can take to address community needs during these unusual times

This framework can be applied to the needs of your team, organization, and/or community. The worksheet was designed to help you evaluate your organization’s assets; consider the needs of your team, community, or organization; and brainstorm how your organization can adapt to address existing needs.

The framework combines techniques from three already existing tools: asset mapping, needs assessment, and rapid idea generation.

  • Asset mapping is based on appreciative inquiry practices. The goal is to be able to map out all of the existing assets in the community. Then, brainstorm strategies to cultivate solutions that leverage the community’s existing assets, based on the abundance and scarcity of different resources.
  • Need assessments involve evaluating which parts of the mission align with the current problems and which parts should be put on the back burner.
  • Rapid idea generation component

This tool was developed evaluating what the organization Cafe Momentum went through as they rapidly adjusted their programming to meet the new needs of the community in the wake of COVID-19.


In this section, you are completing an inventory of what your organization has available, both internally and externally. 

  • Individuals are the humans involved in your work. This includes the people on your teams, in your network, and the volunteers. 
  • Associations are informal structures and groups of individuals. This could be facebook groups, church groups, PTAs, etc. 
  • Institutions are formal structures and groups of individuals. This could be foundations, banks, city groups, etc. 
  • Physical assets are tangible items including property, equipment, inventory, etc.
  • Connections refers to social capital. This could be the networks and communities your organization has access to and the power that these networks and communities have. This category can also use emotions that can be leveraged such as hope and optimism. 
  • Anything else- any other assets your organization has access to and can leverage. 

You don’t need to follow these categories exactly and you may need to adapt the worksheet to fit you or your organization’s specific goals and needs. For example, you may just want to consider the internal or the external assets as opposed to including both. The purpose of this section is to think through the assets your organization has access to. 


In this section, brainstorm what the community you aim to serve might need. Consider these guiding questions:

  • What does your organization need? 
  • What do the teams in your organization need? 
  • What do you think your community needs? 
  • What does your family need? 

You can use surveys, focus groups, conversations, and even windshield tours where you drive around your community to derive this information. 


List out your organization’s mission statement. If you’re applying the framework to your team, your family, or anything else, you can take some time to draft a quick mission statement. 

When evaluating how to adapt your mission to the changing circumstances, it can be useful to break it into three pieces:  

  • What can not be compromised on today? 
  • What can be compromised on today? 
  • What can you leave behind for now? 

You should relate the mission statement to the assets and needs you already listed to identify which aspects of your mission statement you can keep, which parts you need to compromise on for the time being, and which parts, if any, you can leave behind for now. 


This space of the worksheet is an area to brainstorm and list all of your ideas. In this portion of the worksheet, you are connecting your assets, needs, and mission. 

What can you do to leverage your assets to deliver on the needs that maps to the mission of your organization? 

You might already have enough assets to deliver on a need or there may be partnerships that you need to leverage your assets to effectively respond to a need. 

Next Steps: 

Your next steps are to directly connect the ideas you brainstormed to meet the needs of the community. How can you act on your ideas? 

This portion can be broken into three parts: 

  • What can you do today? 
  • What can you do this week? 
  • What can you do this month? 

When deciding which problems to address as part of your next steps, first consider which challenges you and your organization have the most agency over. With larger problems, you can try breaking them into smaller steps that are easier to address. There might be some problems where you need to cultivate and leverage partnerships with other organizations and individuals to solve them. 

This framework is flexible and can be modified, depending on your goal or purpose. You can apply the tool to your organization, your team, or even your family. 

You could expand the framework to precede a different action such as risk analysis.

Case Study

How Cafe Momentum Adjusted to the Changing Times

Cafe Momentum is one organization that rapidly adjusted their operations to meet the new needs of their community. Read their previous case study here.

Cafe Momentum’s filled in worksheet is available here.


What is Cafe Momentum? 

Cafe Momentum has been one of the top rated restaurants in Dallas since opening just over five years ago. The restaurant is staffed entirely by juvenile offenders through a 12 month post-release internship program they offer to young men and women exiting Dallas County juvenile facilities. The program has a holistic approach: the young adults learn both work skills and life skills. The Cafe Momentum team includes case members, a staff psychologist, and an education curriculum coordinator, all of whom are dedicated to addressing the issues and barriers that the juveniles have been experiencing up until this point. 

Cafe Momentum’s usual programming was halted when COVID-19 swept America. Even before state mandates for restaurant closures, the restaurant noticed that people were no longer going out to eat. The team knew that they needed to adapt and change in response to the new circumstances of COVID-19. 


Noticing Windows of Opportunity

The organization made quick, drastic changes. Before proceeding, they listened to the needs of the overarching community. As COVID-19 was becoming more and more serious in America and the threat of shelter in place loomed, schools in the surrounding districts were about to start their spring breaks. Many students already relied on school provided meals to meet their basic nutritional needs. While there were existing programs to provide meals to these students during their typical breaks, a resource for kids to rely on if their spring break was extended by a week or more didn’t exist. 

Cafe Momentum identified this as an opportunity to build a program that would give back to the community. The team quickly built a new program- Momentum Eats. In just five weeks, the restaurant was converted into a food hub. The staff and interns worked together to create over 100,000 meals for food insecure students and families in the community. 

This new program also allowed hands-on hours with the interns to continue. 


Auditing Resources

When coming up with a new plan to adapt to the changing needs of the community, Cafe Momentum made an audit of what resources they had available both internally and externally. The team reached out to their donor base and they were connected with another organization called ShiftSmart. ShiftSmart  places out of work restaurant employees in volunteer positions and pays them. One of Cafe Momentum’s donor’s offered to pay hourly wages for the interns to come into work and build meal kits. 

Cafe Momentum also needed to raise money for the ingredients and supplies for their meal kits. The team built and launched a new fundraising campaign within 96 hours and have raised over $200,000 to date. Food companies have also made donations as well. 


Re-Organizing Resources

In order to get the word out, Cafe Momentum has had to be creative using social media and emails to spread awareness of their new programming. They are working to spread a positive campaign about the work they are doing and expressing gratitude for the individuals and organizations that are donating time, money and other gifts to the organization. 

Cafe Momentum knows that as time goes on, they will need to use new techniques to keep people engaged and involved. This could involve putting together cooking shows with the interns and keeping them upbeat and inspired. 


Team Check-Ins and Fostering Resilience 

Finally, Cafe Momentum had to address the comfortability of the staff and interns. What makes the staff feel safe at work and what helps them thrive? 

Cafe Momentum works with kids who are used to instability so when COVID-19 hit there as an adverse reaction. Working to understand the kids’ emotions and build their confidence was critical. 

Cafe Momentum made a leap of faith when they pivoted their organization to meet the new community needs, leading to great uncertainty. Being transparent with the team and the kids was essential. 

Another strategy Cafe Momentum employed was noting the progress and milestones that were still occurring, despite the unusual circumstances. For example, one of the kids in the program who was a high school dropout completed his requirements and is now a high school graduate. Acknowledging the disappointments is important, but it is just as essential to celebrate the victories.

Based on the instruction of  Kaveh Sadeghian, Ariel Schwartz, Allison Russell, and Chad Houser, during the webinar Adapting in the Times of COVID on April 24, 2020. 

With contributions by CSIS team members Ariel Schwartz, Julia DaSilva, and Vaughn Sayers.