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Inclusion Series: How Listening Can Be Transformative

Struck dumb by the size and airiness of the Arcus Center's atrium, I tentatively approached the right side of the room, which is bordered by floor-to-ceiling windows that showcase a neat array of tall maple trees. I sat in one of the brightly colored chairs arranged in a circle and craned my neck to read some of the phrases printed on the back wall--"curious creatures" and "things like locusts" jumped out. By then I had a hunch that I had entered a transformative space.

I was right. That night I attended a training at Arcus Center for Social Justice Leadership called Trans*, Genderqueer, & Gender Non-Conforming: A Workshop for Allies. In just over three hours I and about 50 others (primarily Kalamazoo College students) participated in a variety of interactive activities and discussions. Two hours into the training, several people of different gender identities spoke about aspects of their identity and experience, and that's when the transformative piece clicked. The participants engaged in a radical act: listening. We embodied allyship by giving attention and time to community members who rarely have a platform to be heard.

That act, just listening, might be the right first step. When working with issues around which there is little widely-available, trustworthy information, I think this is the best approach to learning. Implementation is critical, but can nonprofits be expected to make thoughtful, studied practical decisions without first listening?

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Join us at ONEplace for our new Inclusion Series, which focuses on how nonprofits can make our workplaces and services more inclusive. There will be plenty of opportunities for listening. Creating Accessible Content will kick-off the series on July 21. Immigration 101 is August 5, and Trans*, Gender Non-Conforming, & Genderqueer: A Workshop for Allies will take place August 12.


In the moment

In last week’s NEWSletter article I mentioned being on retreat with several of our nonprofit colleagues. We gathered Wednesday evening and worked together through Friday noon, pilot testing a service we’re considering for ONEplace. While I’m still pulling together all that I learned, I can tell you this:

It was a moment for me.

As we entered our time together on Wednesday, I marveled at what I saw. Here I was in a familiar environment. I had been on retreat at this venue several times. And, here I was with people I knew. I had worked with almost everyone there. However, these had been two different worlds for me, and now they were coming together. More than that…

It was a fulfillment of a two-year plan, a two-year vision.

Various strands of activity over the past two years were slowly woven together to arrive at this moment – and the impact hit me square in the chest. Yet, it was different.

I’ve worked on long-term projects before. In a previous job, I led a four-year effort that culminated in five regional conferences at sites all across the country. I recall the moment when we closed the fifth conference and headed for the airport. It was a sense of completion, achievement, and success. 

While holding a sense of fulfillment, this recent moment pointed more to the future than the past. It was like finally cresting the hill to see the green valley below. Yes, we made it up the hill, and now the fun work begins.

So, I offer my thanks to those who participated in the retreat and to those supervisors and colleagues who supported their participation. It was a moment to treasure.

And, we’ve only just begun.

Best,

Thom


Courage to Lead

When this email arrives in your inbox, I’ll be on retreat with a several others. Called Courage to Lead, this retreat creates space for each person to relax, rest, and listen to the quiet voice of their own wisdom.

I cherish these times.

For the past two years, I’ve been on retreat at least once every quarter. It’s an opportunity to declutter, recharge, and reconnect with what’s important. It helps me align my deeply held values with my actions and activities…to merge soul and role.

It’s also something I can carry with me. The retreat works on the principles of the Circle of Trust as developed by the Center for Courage and Renewal in Seattle. These principles (e.g., extend hospitality, listen deeply, ask open honest questions, maintain confidentiality) can be carried and practiced outside the retreat center – in the home, in the workplace…anywhere. And yet...

their power is greatest on retreat – in a community of solitudes.

You know this. You’ve experienced the synergy of several people working together. Each has his/her own unique task or challenge, but the energy of everyone doing their work creates a spirit that motivates and sustains. It’s awesome and invigorating.

This week’s retreat is a pilot for ONEplace. We’ll evaluate the experience and plan how to move forward from here. I anticipate other Courage & Renewal experiences to come through ONEplace in the near future. 

Stay tuned.


Just ONEthing - July 2015

Last week, Tamela Spicer (The Intentional Catalyst) presented a Management Track workshop on Event Management. During the session, we dissected the finer points of holding a fundraising event. Here are a few points to consider.

First, it’s all in the planning. My experience with nonprofits (and everyone else) is that we commonly don’t think through the details before taking on a new project. Tamela supported that opinion and advocated detailed planning (don’t forget the post-event follow-ups in the plan) and document everything as you work the plan. It helps track this event and plan for the next one.

A second key to success is making sure your volunteers have a great experience…a Wow! experience. This is respect and good hospitality for the volunteers, and it’s a great investment in building your reputation. Give them a great answer to the inevitable question, “How’d it go?” If this is done well, then recruiting volunteers for the next event will be that much easier.

One more highlight: make sure your event shows your core purpose. It can be popular and fun, but if people don’t know what they’re supporting then you’ve done little to connect with that donor.

And a final word: don’t be afraid to challenge yourself. If you meet all your goals, you may have planned too easy.


Extending our reach

Summer is often seen as a different time. The fact that school is out of session affects many. Also, people just get out and about more often. At ONEplace, we continue doing what we do, but this summer affords us opportunity to do something new.

This summer we’re doing some experimenting. We’re testing three services that look to extend our depth and breadth.

Courage to Lead – Introductory Retreat: This three-day, two-night retreat provides a slow-paced, reflective experience designed to reconnect us with our values and passion. Based upon the work of Parker Palmer, the retreat follows the design from the Center for Courage & Renewal. (more info)

ONEplace On the Road: We’re leaving the friendly confines of downtown Kalamazoo to bring selected Management Track workshops to the wider county. We’ll be in Oshtemo on June 2, Richland in July, and Portage on August 18.

Lunch & Learn: These noontime discussions focus on the gnawing issues that plague most managers. Bring your questions, your concerns and your lunch, and we’ll explore research, best practices, and helpful hints from colleagues.

So, try one or more of these this summer. Do some experimenting yourself. Perhaps we’ll all learn something along the way.

Best,

Thom


What am I doing?

There are things we do every day. Certain actions and behaviors form the habits that seem to run on autopilot – without thought. It’s for these actions and behaviors that ONEplace created the Lunch & Learn Series, where we

Spend one hour focused on something we rarely think about.

Each session explores a habit, beginning with a short presentation on the topic followed by a facilitated discussion among your colleagues. You get to share information, test ideas, and connect with others in the nonprofit sector. 

Mostly, however, you spend about an hour becoming more self-aware.

We opened the Lunch & Learn Series last week with a look at Giving & Receiving Feedback. This week (Wed, May 27), we examine how we’re Managing Expectations. Next month (Tues, June 23) we’ll explore Effective Board Meetings.

We limit the discussions to 12 so all have a chance to participate. Consider coming to a Lunch & Learn, or at least consider spending some focused time discovering and testing your habits.

It’ll be time well spent.

Best,

Thom


Lunch & Learn at ONEplace

At our workshops and peer learning groups, I enjoy watching participants share ideas, insights, and resources. When the room buzzes with energized voices from people perched on the edge of their seats, it’s fun. And I learn a lot.

This is my vision for our new Lunch & Learn events coming in May. Our Lunch & Learns start at 12:05 and end at 12:55 pm. The session opens with a brief presentation of the topic followed by a facilitated discussion. The goal is to not just share our knowledge but to go deeper into the subject. My hope is that each person leaves with a greater understanding and feeling challenged to take the next step related to the day’s concern.

This month, our Lunch & Learns focus on people topics. On May 21, we’ll explore Giving & Getting Feedback, and on May 27, we’ll tackle Managing Expectations.

Each Lunch & Learn is limited to 12 participants so that everyone can fully engage the discussion. Also, it’s BYOB (Bring Your Own Bag-lunch). We’ll provide our usual water station.


Why we serve

At ONEplace we have the opportunity and honor to have extended conversations with many who devote their career to the nonprofit sector. One of my favorite questions is, “What attracted you to do this work?” The answers vary in detail, but a consistent theme runs through virtually all of them:

It’s not work. It’s what I love to do.

That point resounded loud and clear at last week’s 30th Annual STAR Awards. Since its inception, Volunteer Kalamazoo and MLive Media Group/Kalamazoo Gazette have co-sponsored the annual STAR (Sharing Time and Resources) Awards program to recognize the contributions of the outstanding volunteers who exemplify the spirit of volunteerism – a spirit embodied by Lifetime Achievement Award winner, Elaine VanLeeuwen.

In case you missed it, Mrs. VanLeeuwen served as a foster parent for 52 years and cared for nearly 500 children. MLive reports her story and many of the things she said in her acceptance speech. Yet the one thing she said that stood out to me was,

I don’t deserve any praise. It was something I enjoyed doing.

Over the years, many psychologists and others have explored the question, “Why do human beings do good things?” Altruism poses an evolutionary conundrum: how does it serve my preservation to risk myself for others?

Steve Taylor (Leeds Metropolitan University) suggests that we don’t need to try to explain away altruism, figuring out how it serves our best interest. He says that our “altruism is an expression our most fundamental nature – that of connectedness.” So, we should celebrate it.

Thankfully, the STAR Awards did just that.

Best,

Thom


Advocacy Institute

The Kalamazoo Nonprofit Advocacy Institute is a beginning-level program for organizations that are ready to engage in advocacy but need the skills to do so. It is designed to enhance your nonprofit’s capacity to impact public policy at the local, state and federal levels. Michigan Nonprofit Association has contracted with Erin Skene-Pratt to facilitate the sessions. During the five month program, you and your peers will learn how to engage in policy work with specific strategies tailored for your community.

The Institute will include:

  Individualized course learning plan 

  Five group sessions covering the following topics with customized content:

  • June 16, 1-4 pm: “How and Why of Advocacy”
  • July 28, 1-4 pm: “Systems and Process: How to institutionalize Public Policy in Your Organization”
  • August 25, 1-4 pm: “Effective Techniques for Engaging Policymakers”
  • September 22, 1-4 pm: “Engaging Your Team to Affect Change” 
  • October 20, 9 am-4 pm: “Funding Your Advocacy Efforts” 

  Monthly one-on-one conference calls with the instructor, Erin Skene-Pratt 

  Individualized organizational advocacy action plan

Upon completion of the program, you will have a customized advocacy action plan that includes specific objectives for building your organization’s capacity to advocate.

Registration is limited to 10 organizations. Organizations are required to assign a representative from the staff and one from the board of directors to participate in all aspects of the Institute. It is estimated that each participant will spend about 10 hours per month on this course. Organizations must be members of Michigan Nonprofit Association. The cost to participate is $100 per organization.

If you and a board member are interested in participating in the Institute, please request an application and submit by Monday, May 11.

Questions? Contact Erin Skene-Pratt, facilitator, at erin.skenepratt@gmail.com or Thom Andrews, at ThomA@kpl.org


Just ONEthing - Apr 2015

Earlier this month, executive coach Mary Jo Asmus led a day-long workshop on Coaching for Breakthrough Performance. During this workshop, participants not only learned about coaching but also coached one another on real work-related issues.

Early in the practice sessions, participants commented on the power of deep listening. An undistracted listener, focused solely on the one speaking, gave the speaker space to explore their concern more fully without fear of the conversation being redirected. 

Mary Jo reminded us that this type of listening requires a person to

  • Talk less
  • Be open and receptive
  • Avoid distractions
  • Listen for understanding

The workshop ended with participants pairing up and agreeing to check-in over the next month to see how their coaching practice was progressing. Mary Jo also offered participants a group follow-up session in early April for additional check-in and a look at advancing their practice.

For more information on Mary Jo and to access her fantastic blog, visit aspire-cs.com