Posts

Opportunities & Challenges:
The Gwinnett County (GA) Public Library serves one of the fastest growing and most diverse countiesin the US with fifteen branch locations and more on the way. The Library is internationally recognized as an innovator in its field; and its leadership knows that when you’re at the top of your game is the time to up your game even further for success. The challenge was to create a strategic plan to guide the library for the next five to seven years: one that is flexible—allowing the organization to cultivate its position in and relationship to a changing community—and one that provides concrete guidance for action in the near-, middle-, and longer term.

What we did:
M&B engaged the Library in an eight-month planning process that included extensive stakeholder engagement, research and careful crafting and review of the plan. We invited staff, community leaders, strategic partners, and citizens to participate in the process, so that the whole community has its “fingerprints” on the final product. We then worked with a group of key stakeholders to examine findings and develop goals and strategies. A set of action items was developed, along with extensive project plans, to create the first round of implementation for the plan.

Deliverables:
Deliverables include the strategic plan document, detailed documentation and processes for managing implementation and documents to guide further planning efforts.

This past winter, M&B principal and Northeast Economic Development Association (NEDA) board president, Abby Straus, appeared in the annual journal of the Kettering Foundation, Connections 2018: Experiments in Organizational Innovation.

In the article entitled: “Vibrant Communities: Reinventing an Economic Development Organization,” Straus discussed the organizational transformation underway inside NEDA to maintain its relevancy to those creating vibrant communities throughout the region. Along the journey toward reinvention, Straus explained, NEDA began to ask itself:

Who has a stake in the economic wellbeing of our communities? How might we engage them, so they feel included and want to participate in the NEDA community? How might we connect members to ideas and to each other to create value that will produce revenue? How might we support local associations in their work in collaboration rather than competition?

In answering these questions, Straus said, NEDA discovered:

… that our purpose doesn’t lie in solving problems for our members, but rather in connecting them to each other and to the solutions they—and we—create together. We learned that there is an appetite for connection and co-creation and that NEDA can provide an environment in which people of diverse backgrounds and perspectives might exchange knowledge and experience in service to creating an economically vibrant Northeast.

Checkout the full article here and tell us what you think! What are some other new ideas in community and economic development that we should know about?

 

Opportunities & Challenges:

The Paterson Alliance was founded in 1998 by five nonprofit agencies in the City of Paterson, New Jersey, who came together understanding that collectively the Paterson nonprofit community needed to set an agenda that would advance the quality of life in the City. The Alliance has grown to a membership of more than 70 organizations. With budgets tightening and the needs of citizens greater than ever, it is essential to align passion, talent and capability to produce the highest and most effective outcomes for Paterson. Hence the need for a creative and inclusive strategic plan.

What We Did

M&B facilitated a strategic planning process based on collaboration between Alliance members and community leaders. The process included a series of “Community Café’s”, where participants shared their vision for Paterson and their understanding of current reality, and collectively designed a way forward. Once the plan was created, we held an event, where champions of the plan came together to prioritize action items and recommit to collaboration.

Results:

The Paterson Alliance continues to be an anchor for the nonprofit community, which is stronger than ever. The planning process helped to galvanize members for collective action and reinforce a new narrative for Paterson, one of optimism and success. Programs like the flagship “Think Pre-k” early childhood initiative, and the Paterson Full Service Community School Nonprofit Collective Impact Project are making a huge difference to the people the Alliance serves.

M&B continues to work with the Paterson Alliance to support collaboration and the development of initiatives.

Just when some pundits were announcing the demise of the public library, and politicians are trying to defund them, libraries are undergoing a major revival as centers of community re-invention.

You can call it Carnegie 2.0.

It is 88 years since the last library was built with funds from Andrew Carnegie, Scottish-American businessman and philanthropist, but the spirit of helping communities thrive is alive and well across the United State of America.
Altogether, 2,509 libraries were built between 1883 and 1929, most of them in America (1,689,but others in UK, Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, France and half a dozen other countries.

Cuts to library budgets seems to be a bi-partisan effort. For example, in 2010 New Jersey Governor Christie slashed funding for libraries soon after becoming governor in 2010. In the same year, Newark Mayor, now Senator Corey Booker, cut the budget of the city’s library by 20% when be first became mayor.

It is not all books anymore, although they are not going out of fashion. And googling stuff is no longer reliable, as the Internet is fast becoming a place for “alternative facts”, which are not facts at all.

Libraries are fast becoming the go-to place for:
  • Starting a new project or business, creating a new product or service, or making things
  • Building a resume and finding a job
  • Checking out community talent in the same way you check out a book or a movie
  • Acquiring skills and knowledge, packaged up in smaller chunks, just when you need it
  • Offering internships for community projects
  • Enjoying edutainment for toddlers, children, teens and adults
  • Critical community conversations
  • Meeting and socializing with others
  • Working with your tutor or mentor

The new roles for librarians are:

  • Honest brokers between a rapidly expanding number of disciplines, each with its own specialist language, ways of seeing the world, and growing distrust of other models/frameworks
  • Validators of knowledge of vital importance to communities and organizations who wish to make good decisions
  • Facilitators of crucial conversations between a diverse range of interests, particularly in community decision making and planning, policy making, and implementation
  • Curators of new and ever more diverse collections, including tools, methods, processes, systems and talents.
  • Mentors, so curation, categorizing and research become skills that everyone routinely uses.
  • Trusted partners, helping people and their organizations build the capacity for the wise application of knowledge, so they become much more than “learning organizations”.
  • Conveners for meetings, events, exhibits, safer refuge in emergencies, making and designing.
  • Community systems integrators, connecting organizations and talents in the community, and employing their skills and resources to help their people adapt successfully to change.
Here is an example of the kinds of far-sighted approach that libraries are adopting. It is two version of the strategic plan Maverick & Boutique developed for the Cozby Public Library and Community Commons in Coppell, Texas – the  Cozby Library Slide Show and the Cozby Library Strategic Plan. It is a major part of our consulting practice, currently averaging 4-5 plans a year. We use our own collaborative technology – Zing – shown in the image above to help conduct the community conversations, to achieve the “join in” necessary for the projects our clients  to develop to fact-track community-wide change.

Opportunities & Challenges:

To develop a vision for American International School of Rotterdam (AISR), as well as action steps to realize the vision and guiding principles that will inform the thought and action of the school community. Accreditation guidelines require that the entire school population must be represented in the process, including board, faculty, staff, students and parents.

What we did:

M&B partnered with the Cleveland Consulting Group to facilitate the event. On each of the first two days, groups of about 70 persons, representing a diverse mix from our community—students from grades 5-12 (including learning support and EAL students), faculty, staff, parents and board members—were lead through an interactive process to explore our collective values and aspirations, how we might make our school an even better place to learn and teach, how we might express the essence of AISR and how we will put our values into action.

The knowledge we created in the first two sessions was correlated by our facilitators and presented on the third day to a plenary group consisting of participants from the first two days. This group then collaborated to craft working vision and mission statements for the school, and language for our guiding principles.

The beauty of this process is that the new knowledge produced is made—and owned— by the whole community, rather than by a few individuals. Everyone is represented and acknowledged and has an equal part to play in the outcome. The process itself has helped to build capacity in our community for cross-boundary/group collaboration, helping us to hear and understand each other and to work together to achieve our goals.

Thoughts from Participants:

At the end of the first two days, we asked for thoughts and feelings about the day from each participant. These are included in the report you may download. At the end of Day Three, we asked for comments from anyone in the group who would like to contribute their thoughts about the entire event. Here is what we received:

“I think it’s good we all got to share our opinions of the school and how we can improve.”

“We’ve grown together as a school. Not often do we get to sit down together to work on a common task and have everybody heard.”

“It was very interesting to go through the process and see what everyone’s perspective is. Provide everyone the opportunity to think about what the school is and should give more meaning every day when people walk through the gate.”

“AISR is a unique place to work and it was nice to meet students I didn’t know. We’re are a small school and have the chance to interact with others.”

“The teachers and parents should commend the students on their hard work.”

“Unique process that allowed all of us together to come up with something meaningful. I really enjoyed meeting the students and to see how creative you all are.”

“I am very excited to go this school and meet a lot of friendly students and friends. And let’s let the school be better to complete our dreams.”

“I think it’s great to see that even though there are some differences of what the school can improve upon, there are a lot of ideas that everyone agrees on.”

“I wanted to complement the school on the organization of getting this done and working with this method. We needed to stretch ourselves to come up with the results we came up with today. I’m thrilled and touched to see how committed everybody is.”

“It’s a big opportunity to be at this school because it’s a safe one. I really enjoy this school when many other children don’t have the opportunity. It’s perfect.”

Deliverable:

See the event report here!

View a short video feature on the event: