Chapter 1: The Little Engine That Could!

Two months ago, I started a local GSK PULSE assignment at East Durham Children’s Initiative (EDCI) .  I can honestly say it’s been an incredible journey so far.

In this blog post, I will reflect on the evolution of my assignment…so get ready, hold on tight, and let me tell you a story about A LITTLE ENGINE THAT COULD!

Energized kids, smiling faces, countless volunteers, and learning in the air – this was my first EDCI experience. You see, I joined the organization in the peak of summer.  As I walked through the halls, I remember the feeling of awe and excitement because they were creating an environment for children to thrive.  Along with the STEAM Summer Camp program, they were also providing lunch to children and families at no cost.  But it doesn’t stop there!  This amazing organization, EDCI, creates a pipeline of services from birth through high school for children and families in the “East Durham Zone” to support career or college readiness.  Their collaborative model is quite unique; they partner with 40+ organizations and create programs to serve as a catalyst for change in the community.

At that very moment, I knew I was there to serve and make an impact – an impact far greater than the assignment I signed up for.  I instantly connected to their mission of creating a better tomorrow for the children of East Durham.

Fired up about my assignment, I spent the first few weeks interviewing staff, meeting families, and reviewing data. By merely listening, I gained a ton of knowledge and insight.  I was originally brought in as a branding consultant, but project management and organizational design  quickly surfaced as immediate needs. This organization is expanding rapidly,  with increasing responsibility and new staff.  As the staff are ambassadors of the brand, and the first line of defense when meeting families and partners, it is essential that they are well aligned to the mission and equipped with the tools they need to succeed; thus preserving this culture of passionate change agents to serve children and families with excellence.

To truly be intentional and fit for purpose, I revised the scope of my assignment.  However, this didn’t come with ease.  I was approximately 1 ½ months into my assignment and time was quickly passing.  Pressure, concerns, and doubt all filled my head – that is until I remembered my first day at EDCI and the ultimate reason why I was there – to serve and make an impact.  The “little engine that could” began to say, “I think I can…I think I can…I KNOW I CAN” until that thought became a reality.

With a new found passion, I worked with staff and developed concrete plans.  ADP (Accelerated Delivery and Performance) tools such as problem solving, stakeholder mapping, joint planning sessions, and the change framework were put to use.  I can now say that this little engine is en route!

Making connections and leveraging resources to have a greater impact: I remembered that I was not  alone.  I had a host of friends and colleagues that were eager to help me succeed.  I reached out, and as a result, my family volunteered at summer events.  My GSK Zebulon family and Employee Involvement Network (EIN) donated school supplies.  My North American Communication Team offered support and a listening ear.  My coach and mentors provided pearls of wisdom.  As it takes a village to raise a child, it also takes a village to turn “good” into “great”!.

Also, the GSK US Community Partnership team will use their Orange Day next month to volunteer – 60 GSK employees painting and rebranding EDCI’s new space!

I am learning to dream big, build great relationships and believe that all things are possible.  In doing so, my dreams are turning into reality.

Stay tuned for my next blog!



  1. Great blog Shaun – sounds like you have identified some great areas of focus for your assignment through taking your time and listening.

    1. Hi Ann,

      It’s been a learning experience – and a great one! Look forward to connecting with you soon through the learning exchange!

  2. Love it Shaun. Reminds me of a saying I have for my kids – “I can, I will, I did”. I think you’re little engine that could, will become the little engine that did do it !!! All the best, Tricia

    1. Hi Tricia,

      Thanks so much for your words of inspiration. You have always been a positive beam of light that lift many up! I hope to more like you “when I grow up”!

  3. Nice Job Shaun! You are always positive, inspiring and making great things happen! You are a DIFFERENCE MAKER DAILY!!!

    1. Greg – thank you. I’ve learned so much from you, and I’m applying E4P principles in my new space – daily! Thank you for being an amazing person and friend!

  4. Since my son is a Thomas the Train fan, I’m reminded of the line: “Little engines can do big things” . . . especially when they work together! FANTASTIC WORK, Shaun! Your journey so far really embodies our “be the change” tag-line!!! THANK YOU for your great efforts, and for sharing with us — keep being that positive ripple effect for all around you 🙂

  5. I love the way that you described the evolution of your work and experiences so far. You described mine as well. So many things keep changing as I go along in my project. One thing I liked that you said was about listening and how you gained a ton of knowledge and insight. I just thought I was a good listener prior to coming to Uganda. Listening has been a key for sure. We are learning some great lessons. Thanks so much for sharing your post! And great work!

  6. Shaun – you are so amazing!! the work you are doing is incredible. from the first time we spoke, i knew you COULD and WOULD have an amazing impact on EDCI. fabulous to see you include your “village” of friends and colleagues to make an event greater impact. truly an inspiration 🙂

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