Building a Program by Engaging Community

Group Hug!On August 1, I embarked on a month of “semi-sabbatical,” writing and exploring and planning and reading.  I say “semi-sabbatical” because I only decided mid-July that the time was right.  So there are still some tasks to be done, some projects with timelines that won’t allow me to simply abandon ship.  This post is about one of those efforts.
As part of this time of exploration, we were blessed to spend two days planning with one of the most brilliant minds and beautiful spirits we know, Christine Egger.  The time flew, as the conversations built idea upon thought upon brainstorm upon wisdom.
As we reverse engineered our vision for the future we want to create, we found more and more clarity about the work we will be doing to achieve that vision.
Our vision is that our world is a healthy, vibrant, resilient and humane place to live – where people are being and doing from the richest and most joyful sense of our humanity.
Reverse engineering, we  identified the pre-conditions to that joyful world.  Asking “What needs to be in place for that to happen?” it became clear that our mission (the work we will do to achieve that vision) is the same as our tagline has been for years:
Making visionary social change practical and doable. And then making those approaches the standard for all social change / “nonprofit” work.
As we continued to ask, “What needs to be in place for that to happen?” it became clear that there need to be as many ways as possible for people to access these approaches.  It needs to be as easy as possible for individuals already doing some form of “nonprofit” work to re-align that work to simultaneously create a better world.  And that means it has to be easy for folks to first learn about this work and then to join in whatever ways suit their own needs right now.
That means our developing additional pieces to our curriculum.  Soon that will include classes for funders and others in the community benefit world.
For now, though, we are excited to be expanding the curriculum for consultants.  (Why consultants? Because for every consultant we teach, 10 or 20 or more organizations are then learning and adopting these approaches and ways of thinking.)
Building a Program Together
On September 23rd in Los Angeles, Dimitri and I will introduce a new workshop – a 3 hour facilitated session for consultants and coaches to organizations working to better our world.  Its working title is “Intro to Consulting that Creates the Future.”
For several reasons, we will be developing that workshop here online.
1) We committed to make all major decisions openly. And what decision could be more important than crafting a new program?
2) We teach that the most effective programs are built with the individuals who will use them, rather than for those individuals.  It would be silly for us not to take our own advice!
3) We know from our “name change” discussion that there are people learning from how we engage these conversations.  If our developing this program together gives you ideas about how to use Community Engagement to build your own programs, that would be the best definition of “demonstration project” we could imagine.
And so that leads to my questions.  As we move forward in developing this workshop,
  • What is the highest potential outcome for a 3-hour workshop, Consulting that Creates the Future?
  • What could be different after the workshop is done – for the participants, for their clients, for their communities?
  • What results could we aim to achieve for participating consultants? For their clients? For their communities?
Looking forward to our building this program together!!

10 thoughts on “Building a Program by Engaging Community”

  1. 1. What is the highest potential outcome for a 3-hour workshop, Consulting that Creates the Future?

    Every person in attendance goes back out into the world armed with the ability and desire to train their clients in the use of simple, practical, effective ways to engage their specific community in a way that’s meaningful to them, both to make a positive impact in the world and to advance the work of the non-profit in their sector. This is assuming two things: 1) that the lessons learned at the workshop really do work and really do matter and 2) that the end clients accept and execute on said ideas

    2. What could be different after the workshop is done – for the participants, for their clients, for their communities?

    The participants come away with training they can use to help their clients achieve their goals. The clients come away with another option for building and engaging a community around the anchor of their brand/cause/mission/vision/values. Their communities come away with a system to work hand-in-hand in a meaningful way with an organization that they believe in, in a way that benefits both that organization AND improves the quality of their own lives (and the lives of those around them) at the same time.

    3. What results could we aim to achieve for participating consultants? For their clients? For their communities?

    Participating consultants have their eyes opened to a new way of helping their clients achieve results. They are able to provide feedback and discussion during the workshop, and therefore add their expertise to the project as it’s going on (taking a valuable established idea and making it better). Their clients have a new way of engaging their existing members and attracting new ones. A better way. Faster, easier, more fun, more personal, more meaningful, more effective. And also cheaper. 🙂 Their communities start participating with the organization more, instead of simply “supporting” it. They work together to accomplish a goal, in a way that stays true to the organization’s mission and at the same time makes a tangible difference in the lives of the people around THEM, thus being the best possible brand ambassadors and generating additional interest and support for the mission.

  2. Nate:
    Wow – thank you for putting so much thought into this! As we are in a bit of overdrive developing this workshop, I hope you will allow me to pick your brain a bit more.

    The workshop is less about “simple, practical tools” and more about changing how consultants think about their work – the focus of all the work we do in our consultant curriculum. Assuming that consultants already know how to do the content side of their work, we have realized that effectiveness in creating significant change is a result of a consultant’s assumptions and expectations about his/her work and his/her relationship with the client. Change that, and the rest falls into place.

    I am very much appreciating the end results you noted in your very first sentence – that attendees go back into the world armed with the ability and desire to change the way they “be” in their work. And I’m hoping you have some thoughts about what results we might accomplish in 3 hours toward that end.

    I would also love ideas about the 2nd assumption you mention (still in #1). What would it take for clients to accept and execute new ideas? In your experience, what creates the conditions for that to happen? (Your comment gave me the gentle reminder to finish Part 2 of my “client readiness” post at our blog for consultants…)

    You can tell that you have my mind working hard. I’d love your thoughts as we continue working on this new part of our curriculum!

  3. I wanted to add here some of the comments folks have had in other locations, to get more brains into the mix. The following thoughts are from Facebook and Twitter.

    Jane Savitt Tennen noted:
    The best outcome of any short workshop is that the participants become more fluent in thinking abput the topic — in other words, you facilitate a process that builds their ability to ask the right questions. Accomplish that and you’ll have been a success.

    David Hodges encouraged that we show proof. “Come with case studies of communities that have created their own future through creative imagining and hard work.”

    (As an aside, I love the words “creative imagining”!)

    And Alison Rapping added these thoughts:
    One area that would be great to explore is the tendency to silo our organizations as independent entities, separated from others (i.e. treating homeless shelters like McDonalds, Burger King, Wendy’s); where the function on the strategic planning is on “organization” instead of community” Helping people create opportunities for what would be possible if we created a holistic view (vis-a-vis) an organizational view of our work. Also supporting the bigger thinking about “issues” and “causes” as primary. We often spend so much time and energy on the “organization” and it being the “the best” that we unintentionally jeopardize our ability to collaborate with some of our greatest assets, which are right in our neighborhoods. LOVE the topic!

    Finally, on Twitter, @hwickline noted: In three hours you could introduce the consultant’s best role, explore what’s needed from the client, and inspire action.

    From all of this, I am gathering a draft outline for a flier. I’ll post it here for everyone’s thoughts when I have it done.

  4. Hildy

    You can set all the goals you want but they are just pipe dreams without knowing who will be participating, and why they’re there.

    You have very little control over what they will take away, especially in such a short session. Some may come to be inspired, others will want some general tools. Some will come with specific problems or issues they want help with. Some might just want to know who is this woman who tweets and blogs and writes so prolifically and eloquently about her struggles to make the world better, one consultant at a time.

    If the participants who attend already share your passion and commitment to social justice, perhaps you can hope that they will leave wih a commitment:

    a) to continue learning collaboratively;

    b) to assist each other to strengthen their ability to help clients connect their vision and mission to broad social goals.

    I think it would be most admirable if you could do this in three hours. Good luck.


  5. Nathan:
    First, thanks for making me smile. Second, your points a & b are terrific.

    Re: your questions about attendees, the participants will likely self-select based on how the workshop is promoted. And the promotions will be based on whatever we aim that workshop at accomplishing.

    Once we know what we want it to accomplish (and what we believe are reasonable outcomes for 3 hours), we’ll do what we do with everything – reverse engineer those outcomes to create the workshop to accomplish those results.

    You’re right that there are no guarantees that it will, in fact, accomplish those goals. (Of course if we don’t aim at those goals, it is less likely! 🙂 ) But reverse engineering the outcomes we want is the only way I know how to give it our best shot!

    So thanks much, my friend. Your item b above has my mind spinning with stuff already!!

  6. Many great comments here…I’ll just add a couple simple thoughts that I strive for in my workshops:

    1. What is the highest potential outcome for a 3-hour workshop, Consulting that Creates the Future?

    That participants leave with renewed energy and myths dispelled about communication and collaboration.

    2. What could be different after the workshop is done – for the participants, for their clients, for their communities?

    That the lens used to view their work and the work of those they serve shifts to allow greater impact, more dollars raised and/or clarity of purpose.

  7. Status update:
    Thanks to all your thoughts (and thank you, Lori, for adding to it – you will see yourself in the following!), I am thinking this is what the workshop will aim to achieve:

    • Participants more consciously and actively self-identify as catalysts for community change. They see their potential and are energized / excited by how practical it is to accomplish. And they are beginning to put pieces of that into practice.

    Within that, there are a ton of sub-goals, including:
    • Participants experience “aha” moments, where they gain insight into what has been stopping their work from creating the impact they hope to see, and more to the point, what can bring it forward. (The myths Lori noted.)
    • I’m also thinking about language – for example, that participants have ways of talking about things like “vision and values” in ways both they and clients are comfortable.
    • I would absolutely want them to experience the power of reaching for what is possible vs. problem-solving.
    • I would want them to appreciate and want to dive deeper into the power of questions to engage and build upon the wisdom in the group, and then particularly how to listen for the answers (and what to do with what they hear).
    • I’d want them to experience the power of reflection and modeling, again from both the “aha” and practical perspectives.
    • And I guess lastly, I would want them to take at least some piece of each of these bullet points, and put it into practice immediately.
    • Ok, that wasn’t last – last would be that they see strength in each other, which may not translate into relationships with the actual people in the room, but might translate into building “learning community” relationships with clients, etc.

    Getting excited about assembling the workshop around all this! Any thoughts on what I’ve tossed out here? Or thoughts on what we might reach to accomplish?

  8. I’m coming a bit late to this conversation. I agree with many of the great suggestions my esteemed colleagues have already made. I’d like to just add/highlight one other important aspect to all of this that I think makes the Creating the Future community fundamentally different. Today’s post by Hildy re: Gandhi and BEING helps to bring this out. The Creating the Future approach is about a different way of being, not necessarily just a different way of viewing community, asking questions, developing solutions, etc… Those are all important but in many ways they are still just tools in a consultant’s bag. If attendees don’t have an ‘aha’ moment that this is a fundamentally different approach that “I have to in my own being, grapple with, and decide to vest myself in”, the 3 hour workshop will not reach its highest Creating the Future potential. Of course, as Nathan says, you can’t control what each individual comes away with, and its much harder to do this in 3 hours than in a full week of bonding as a community, but its worth striving for!

  9. Although we normally try here to work in the positive, it might be that the most important take-away is dissatisfaction with past results, and a determination to try a new approach because the community deserves better.

    I hope they will also leave with confidence that better results are possible – a belief in the success stories and their potential to achieve similar success.

    Both results will encourage them to read the book, watch the videos, consider enrolling, and become part of our online community. The latter might be one metric for short-term success.


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