The Case of the March of Dimes
ing had led her to an inevitable conclusion about the “soul” of the organization and that she was curious as to whether others had had the same immediate reaction. She said that she had written down the archetype she felt was at their core on a piece of paper before her. Others responded that they had done the same. And when they lifted their papers to show their instinctual thinking, the word “Hero” appeared simultaneously on each one. This unanimous selection was really quite astounding. Nonproﬁts that are in the business of helping children almost inevitably are drawn to the gravitational force of the Caregiver, and to all of the imagery that surrounds that archetype. Research about the competition had reinforced how prevailing the Caregiver identity was in organizations helping children. Even the March of Dimes, in its earlier positioning work, had adopted a corporate logo that shows a line drawing of an infant in the soft embrace of a mother ﬁgure. But what led Howse and the other executives of the organization to write “Hero” on their charts was quite different from the emotion surrounding the Caregiver. Every day, as they went through that serene lobby, whether they noticed it or not, they had ﬁled past that iron lung and those headlines proclaiming victory over polio. And every day they went to work to try to wrest a victory from today’s silent and unseen enemies: youth and ignorance leading to unhealthy pregnancies, premature births, emotionally and physically debilitating birth defects, and the unnecessary deaths of little babies. Whether they had acknowledged it or not, these people were working for a heroic cause, and there was something wonderfully validating and inspiring in acknowledging that this was the case. The Hero archetype also spoke to them as people—in some real way it expressed values that they held in common, that motivated their collective actions. But could it be effective in today’s cynical age? Howse could not have been clearer on that subject and on the potential power of the archetypal approach. Following the presentation and the discussion that ensued, she cautioned the group, “This is powerful stuff, not to be reckoned with lightly. If we are to pursue this approach, if we are to adopt the ‘Hero’ archetype, we are to do it as carefully and responsibly as possible. We have to be sure it is right for us, right for the cause we serve, right for the public.” So we set out to live up to her challenge.