How to benefit from the extraordinary knowledge in your community.

We love designing projects with our clients that connect them to peers who can help address some of the challenges we are working on. Here are a few projects that worked for our clients that might work for you:

I. A fresh look at increasing your community impact:

We designed and facilitated a multi-stakeholder think tank for a advocacy coalition. The challenge: how will we finally end homelessness in this community? We facilitated eight monthly gatherings with over 20 colleagues and constituents to share data, explore promising models from other communities, tackle some tough questions and prioritize solutions.

Even before the think tank ended, a number of ideas were already on the path to implementation. And the coalition itself forged some new partnerships and had the essential elements of its own strategic plan in place and endorsed by its stakeholders.

Update: This project was featured in the article Marrying Mission with Strategic Planning and Evaluation in the Nov/Dec 2013 edition of Grassroots Fundraising Journal, a journal worth subscribing to.

II. A cost effective, participatory approach to evaluating your programs:

A neighborhood-based children’s play writing organization wanted to evaluate its programs, but the cost of hiring a professional evaluator seemed out of reach. And we wanted the evaluation to be something done by the organization, not done to it.

In partnership with an amazing theater-maker we know, we reached into the board and out to the community to enlist a volunteer team in a participatory evaluation. The team included two other theater professionals, a local school teacher, a program alumna, the education director from another performing arts organization that had recently completed an extensive evaluation, the local community development corporation and the founder.

The team constructed a logic model and designed a number of data collection tools from surveys to focus groups to a pizza party where the children playwrights and their professional collaborators interviewed each other.

The end result? They discovered they were doing good in ways they hadn’t even anticipated. It also helped us uncover the investments needed to make the program even better.

III. Adding other great minds to your  Strategic Planning challenges:

Museums and nonprofit cultural institutions around the world are engaged in deep reflection and reinvention around their purpose and programming. We’ve helped plan and facilitate charettes with fellow directors, educators, preservationists, scholars, funders, farmers, businesses and a myriad of other experts to share their knowledgeand think forward with them about the possibilities- and partnerships – for their institutions.

What’s a charette ? While it has many forms, we promote it as a collaborative session where diverse stakeholders come together to tackle a question or design a solution.

What makes these projects work?

  • a well-defined question or set of questions
  • a spirit of sharing
  • Careful planning so time is well-spent
  • an interesting group that also benefits from coming together
  • a belief that we benefit from each others’ success
  • a commitment to listening and learning
  • a focus on improvement
  • being receptive to new (or time-tested) ideas
  • using what you’ve learned
  • reciprocating
  • appreciating the extraordinary gift you’ve received

Most importantly,

  • you really do have to ask for the help you need.

If you want more information, check out these items – and others –  in our free Tools for Change Toolbox:

Stop Talking to Yourself: How to start conversations that build awareness, friendships and funding.

Strategic Planning: Questions to ask about your mission

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