What does it take to support the members of an international online community? On December 13, 2016, 15 members of the Facebook Group Nonprofit / Community Benefit Organization Consultants began exploring what conditions would need to be in place to maintain the supportive nature of the group, and to allow each member to maximize their potential. A project of Creating the Future, this Facebook group has more than 500 members, each of whom in some way serves the community benefit sector as a consultant / coach / contractor.
An earlier meeting identified the ultimate potential of this group: by bringing out the best in its participants, the participants in turn will bring out the best in their clients, their communities, their countries and the world. The earlier meeting also identified the attributes that are already working within the group. You can read the notes from this earlier meeting here.
Who Are We?
The December meeting was the next step: Further identify the participants in the group and the conditions that will bring out the best in the participants.
Participants in this meeting ranged from long-time members to recent additions, from frequent posters to those who watch and absorb, and from those who are new to the nonprofit world or consulting to those who are experienced in both. Each brought their unique perspective and experience to the conversation.
We began by asking “Who are we? Who are the Nonprofit / Community Benefit Organization Consultants who participate in this group?” The responses reflected the externally focused mindset of the participants. Instead of categorizing by experience/market/talent/expertise, the list of attributes reflected the commonality of all the participants:
- Advocates for nonprofit organizations
- People who want to help others achieve better outcomes
- Community impact makers
- Facilitators of community conversations who pass our knowledge on to others
- Business strategist for nonprofits
- Helping organizations to help people
- Value professional development, learning from peers
- Experienced service providers who can learn more
- Self-taught, learning ways to approach clients or to get the best outcome from a meeting or conflict
- Appreciate a breadth of perspective
- Meet the client where they are; put ourselves in their shoes
- Lifelong askers, listeners
- Connectors, teachers, helpers; Relationship builders
- Committed to bringing out the best in each other and ourselves within the group so that we can bring out the best in the fellow humans we connect with in orgs, community & world
Having a Mindset of Possibility:
- Exploring and expanding the space of possibility
- We ask questions and possibilities are presented
Yet these characteristics are not exclusive to community benefit organization consultants; and there are places in the online world where they can gather, including at another project of Creating the Future, Catalytic Thinking in Action.
What Makes Us Different?
What differentiates participants in this group, is that all intend to generate income from their work coaching/consulting/contracting to nonprofit organizations, regardless of their particular expertise.
Further defining the group, we are, in the words of one participant, “an international consultant brain trust.” Participants are: coaches, consultants, copyeditors, trainers, facilitators, gurus on board development, strategic planning, story telling, measurements & metrics, grant writing, communications and finance – and more. Because the group represents a wide variety of expertise and different ways in which we serve the community benefit organizations, the group provides a breadth of resources for each participant.
What Will Bring Out Our Best?
The next step after identifying the “Whom’s” that this group supports, was to ask “What conditions need to be in place for all of these varied participants to prosper?.”
While numerous specific strategies were tossed out and discussed (listed at the end of this post*), eventually a theme emerged:
Participants seek ways to tap into the group, in order to achieve whatever it is they want to do.
Conditions that need to be in place for this to become reality:
- Participant empowerment: to share our own stories and to reach into the basket and pull out what we need.
- A welcoming and inviting environment; demonstration of the power of sharing and engaging in a dialogue
- Participants who are committed and show up
- Explicit education on how different ways of asking questions elicit different types of responses
- Shared values
- Facilitators; Hosts who are comfortable and inviting
- Participants across a broad range of age, experience, expertise, background, geography
What’s next? The next question to be considered is What preconditions need to exist for the participants, in order for each of these conditions to be in place? What do participants need to feel, know, believe, have access to, in order to create these conditions?
Our next meeting will again invite any member of the Facebook group to participate in that exploration.
Click on the full meeting [above], so you can watch the brilliant minds at work as they bounced their thoughts from person to person.
*Numerous specific strategies that led to the overarching theme:
- Topic specific meet-ups, potentially with guest ‘speakers,’ e.g., individuals who study the nonprofit world
- A map of participants so we can find each other via our expertise and geography
- Subgroups based on expertise or interests
- Promote cross-referrals among participants
- Mentorship, including explicit education on how to mentor/be mentored
- Ability to reach other participants to request a chat, either one-to-one or group
- Client focused alerts and discussions, such as alerts that will remind us of things our clients should be thinking about; or discussions on what measurements/values would be valid for showing a difference in a community
- A meet-up place to know if I’m asking the right questions