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  • Writer's pictureDave Griffith

The Dog Fence

We have had three dogs since moving to New Hope in 1993: Duncan, Piper, and our current Clover. We installed a Dog Fence with Duncan to allow him to roam the property without a leash, chase the deer and squirrels on an even footing, and give us peace of mind when outside.

It is remarkable how well they work once the dog is trained. A beep goes off a few feet from the wire that marks the perimeter, and the dog stops, not wanting to have the mild reminder from the collar shock.

It works well unless it is cut. Over the 30 years I must have spliced the wire 75 times. Sometimes, a lawn mower would catch the ground, sometimes edging the plant beds, sometimes a tree roots, to the point where a rain storm could short the wire, sending a beeping signal to the panel. The challenge is finding the break first, repair, and test. The process sometimes would take 20 minutes, sometimes 20 hours.

Last week was one of the 20-hour sessions, and I had had enough. I called Invisible Fence, and we scheduled to replace the old wire field with a new one. Today, it is getting installed. OK, so where am I going with this?

Sometimes, we repair a broken system; while it works, it is still broken. Any rational person would have replaced the fence years ago. We hang on to our old way more than we like to admit. As I step away from ECS and look at the systems designed to address poverty throughout the City of Philadelphia, I see many spliced wires and systems that break or don’t really change lives or, worse still, put people at risk.

This is why ECS took on a brain science-based coaching methodology to address long-term intergenerational poverty, which we call MindSet, and social and emotional learning with our OST children. To do the best job of helping people gain economic mobility, you need to fix broken systems, and sometimes that is a replacement. We continue to use a broken system for many built-in reasons, but none warrant continuation if they don’t drive long-term change.

I am proud of ECS and our partners who have decided to take on the heavy lift and drive transformation rather than keep repairing the broken fences. We work through direct programs and services and advocate for public policy to change where it impacts people adversely.

Sometimes, you have to say “enough” and fix the fence.

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I have had a diverse career. Starting with IBM, ROLM, and MCI, then moving to The Modern Group, Ltd., and Episcopal Community Services. These days, I serve on several boards, both for-profit and nonpr


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