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Joanne Posner-Mayer
Joanne Posner-Mayer

I first heard of Joanne Posner-Mayer when I was a consultant working with a fledgling shared space in Denver focused on international development in 2013.  The project was in trouble.  They had secured a lease for a building through the Denver Housing Authority, but it was a historic structure and the group needed to raise the funds for renovations and start-up costs. There was a gap between the projected costs and the actual costs and it wasn’t clear how the project could move forward.  I remember thinking, another one bites the dust.

But I was wrong.  The project succeeded because of Ms. Posner-Mayer and it is now one of the best examples of mission-driven shared space.  Posner-Mayer is a Denver physical-therapist-turned-entrepreneur who invented the FitBall™, which is now ubiquitous in gyms and therapy rooms.  She had deep roots with the Curtis Park neighborhood where the international development shared space center was being developed.  Her father, a Polish immigrant, had a successful hardware store in that neighborhood.  Ms. Posner-Mayer felt she could give back to the neighborhood that enabled her to achieve so much.  I remember being so surprised at how it all came together – her contribution was truly pivotal to the center, the difference between life and death.  Now in Denver we are lucky to have the Posner Center for International Development, named in honor of her family.

If that wasn’t tribute enough, a recent blog by the Rose Community Foundation reported that Ms. Posner-Mayer has been instrumental in another shared space project, the Rose Andom Center.  The Andom Center is a one-stop shop for survivors of domestic violence and houses over 20 agencies in a central location.  Previously, those affected by domestic violence had to travel to up to a dozen different locations to access services.  Taking a client-centered approach will help stop the cycle of violence by improving rates of reporting abuse.  Ms. Posner-Mayer contributed to the Rose Andom Center and is helping it establish an endowment so it can be financially sustainable for a long time to come.

I’m anxious to learn of other philanthropists who have embraced the shared service model as much as Ms. Posner-Mayer.  In working with her at an NCN training event in 2015, we discussed the notion of mission-driven shared space centers as a kin to a mutual fund investment vehicle – invest in one shared space center and you’ve touched all the organizations who locate there.  It’s a great way to address a pressing community issue in a holistic way.  I’ve not heard of many who have invested in multiple centers, but I’d love to see it catch on.

At this time of year, it’s inspiring to think about the many ways our generosity can make a huge difference in people’s lives.  The Posner Center addresses global poverty and creates opportunity for men, women and children around the world.  The Andom Center is helping local Denver families find safety and peace.  I can’t imagine a better example of what we all hope for in this holiday season.

 

 


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Leena Waite
14/Nov/2016

In the wake of the election, no matter who you voted for or if you were watching from the North, the results have shown the true polarities of opinions, emotions, classes, and struggles that American’s face. There was a large sum of individual voices mainstream media did not even pick up on in the polls. Whatever you believe or hoped, I am recognizing the need to acknowledge these unheard voices.


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Ninety percent of maintaining good health is determined by factors other than direct health care. The Melinda Hoag Smith Center for Healthy Living will create a synergistic model of service delivery, by aligning a major hospital with like-minded non-profit organizations that share in the vision of making the vulnerable community healthier.


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In Ontario, the Ministry of the Attorney General recently invested new funds into their system of legal clinics. In exchange, the government expects the clinics to seek out ways to reduce costs and reinvest those savings into their work. In response, the Specialty Legal Clinics Modernization Initiative was formed to co-locate nine unique programs serving needs ranging from legal support for people living with AIDS, people with disabilities, to accident victims to tenants, landlords and youth.


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Mike Gilbert
12/Sep/2016

Do Your Due Diligence: Four Things To Do Before Committing To a Vacant Building

This post is the first in a series by Mike Gilbert of The Jones Trust that will focus on how to repurpose existing and vacant buildings in a cost effective way. It is very important not to cut corners in the due diligence process before you commit to renovating a property – you might end up with some unfortunate and costly surprises.  

Many buildings throughout North America are unoccupied, in a state of disrepair and/or abandoned. These buildings present amazing opportunities to preserve history or unique architecture, and it can be more cost effective to renovate than to build new.  However, older buildings are typically constructed using asbestos containing materials in varying components.  Many of these facilities were built under older building codes with less stringent requirements for life, safety and accessibility.

Repurposing older buildings can deliver outstanding project economics and return on investment if we do the hard work on the front end. Before you commit to a vacant building, make sure to do your due diligence. Identifying and fully understanding the potential risks of building renovation is a monumental task for the skilled developer and even more challenging for an individual, organization or group that does not do so on a regular basis. It is critical to be conservative at this stage of the project, investigating all possible risks that can become known prior to commitment to proceed.

As you plan your project, here are some tips to keep yourself from purchasing a money pit.

  1. Assemble a team of experts. Numerous skills are required to put together a full understanding of the challenges involved in building renovation. You, as the lead developer, are like the head coach, matching your player’s skills with roles on the project. If you don’t have the skills already on your staff, you may need to hire paid consultants Some of the roles you will need filled include:
  • Environmental Safety Assessment (ESA)
  • Building Envelope Assessment
  • ADA Assessment
  • Mechanical and Electrical Systems Evaluation
  1. Conduct an ESA. This process will identify any important hazards that must be addressed during the renovation process. Environmental remediation can be extremely expensive, can destroy project economics and potentially kill a deal in progress. Typical ESA costs are between $3,000 and $7,500 for the initial work, although costs can vary significantly based on factors including size, age, location and more. This step cannot be avoided.
  2. Bring on an architect to do Building Envelope and ADA Assessments. The Building Envelope Assessment will give you a fair assessment of the weather tightness condition of the building including roof, windows, exterior skin, expansion and control joints, etc. The ADA assessment will help in the design process for compliance and can sometimes be expensive if new ramps are needed or if elevator upgrades are required. Cost of this investigation should run between $5,000 and $10,000 depending on the scope.
  3. Evaluate the mechanical and electrical systems. This process determines the suitability of the existing systems to accommodate the desired improvements. This evaluation is normally completed by a mechanical and electrical engineering firm. The investigation should cost between $2,000 and $6,000.

The due diligence phase of project evaluation is a very detailed process and can range in cost from as little as 1% of your project budget up to 3%, depending on the scope of work and level of detail desired.

Analysis of the various reports will allow you to fully develop a preliminary renovation budget that will feed into the pro forma budget for the project. Our next post will dive into strategies to consider in developing a preliminary project budget and feasibility study.


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In 1978, with a dream of establishing a permanent home in New York for the nonviolence movement, the A. J. Muste Memorial Institute purchased a three-story loft building in downtown Manhattan, affectionately known as the "Peace Pentagon". By providing affordable office and meeting space to mission-related tenants, and using income from several commercial storefronts to offset expenses, the Institute has provided a way for activist groups to stay in a convenient location while freeing up vital resources for their social justice work.


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Angela Baldridge
29/Aug/2016

The Plantory hosts an innovative and energizing coworking hub that fosters collaboration and nurtures growth for positive, passiPlantory Positivityonate, and community-minded businesses and nonprofit organizations. Our goal is to build a more diverse, connected, and sustainable nonprofit sector in Lexington, KY. We currently house 71 organizations for incubation in our 15,000 square foot building, which was formerly a Rainbo bread factory. Through our center, we support growth and collaboration through coworking space, training and technical assistance, shared fundraising, staff and volunteer support, consulting services and more. As part of our programming, we host 10-12 interns per year, from high school up to the master’s level. Our interns come from local private schools, Fayette County Public Schools, Transylvania University, Asbury University, Blue Grass Community and Technical College and the University of Kentucky. Our internships teach students skills related to research, community development, facilitation, marketing, nonprofit management, business management and community center management. We also sponsor, recruit, train and supervise interns for organizations in our space that need support, but that may not have the capacity or staff to manage interns. Additionally, we accept project requests from our members, so we can match their needs with our interns’ skills. We keep updated posts about available internships on our internship page and accept online applications from intern applicants. Member organizations can also request support through our internship request form.


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Saul Ettlin
21/Aug/2016

Is your organization ready to get out of the rental market and build a lasting asset? You should consider including shared space for other organizations as part of your plan. While designing your project to generate revenue from shared space users, can strengthen your case to lenders and improve the long-term financial sustainability of your project, that’s not the real value. Shared space connects your organization and its work to a wider community of nonprofits or social ventures, increases staff retention by making your organization a more vibrant and interesting place to work, and raises your organization's profile through your role as a dynamic community hub.


Nada Zohdy
01/Aug/2016

I recently had the privilege of participating in two stimulating NCN convenings in Philadelphia.

As Manager of the OpenGov Hub in Washington, DC (an NCN member), I sometimes wonder if there are other people who can relate to the uniqueness of my role. On any given day, I juggle a plethora of activities, from working on the big picture to the more mundane (like explaining our unique work to visitors on a regular basis, brainstorming programs and partnerships, improving our members’ day to day experience at the Hub, and designing events and other ways for our members to collaborate for greater efficiency and effectiveness).

But NCN has given me exactly what I needed – a supportive network of other folks who understand the ins and outs of the unique, mission-driven business of running nonprofit collaborative spaces. The coworking movement in general is still quite nascent, and the nonprofit segment within it perhaps even more so.

Coming together with other operators of nonprofit resource centers presented an invaluable opportunity for me to reflect on the OpenGov Hub’s own strengths and challenges. The gathering sparked countless ideas for me on how the Hub might improve: how we enhance improve our daily operations, align our business model with our mission, create the culture we seek, evaluate our impact, and perhaps most importantly, facilitate and promote meaningful collaboration in our community.

Here are just some of my takeaways:

Day 1 – Creating High Impact Shared Spaces

This workshop focused on business models, cultures, collaboration efforts, and evaluating our impact evaluation.

  • When it comes to collaboration, we aspire to do it all: build trust, connect dots, and track collective impact. NCN staff presented a helpful typology of three approaches shared spaces take to promote collaboration between tenant members: trust builders (help members get to know each other as individuals), dot connectors (help find alignment across areas of work), and impact trackers (help manage higher-order, ongoing collaborations). It might be ambitious to strive for achieving all three (and not necessarily simultaneously), but I’m excited to test, learn and iterate new approaches (in the spirit of our shared value of innovation!) to tap the enormous collaborative potential in our network. In fact, the OpenGov Hub has just published its first-ever strategy that articulates how we might be more deliberate in better fulfilling our mission.

Day 2 – Overcoming Barriers to Nonprofit Resource Sharing

This session provided insights from the forefront of social science research about how and why people behave as they do, to help us understand some of the deeper behavioral and psychological barriers to of getting organizations to share resources.

  • To effectively promote collaboration, we should aspire for “self-interest properly understood.” To take a line from one of my favorite political philosophers Alexis de Tocqueville, self-interest properly understood I think is all about recognizing that when we make efforts to improve our collective welfare, we all benefit tremendously as individuals. I think this is both a realistic and an ambitious target for individuals seeking to promote collaboration between organizations. We are all naturally inclined to think of ourselves and our organizations first; but shifting our mindsets even slightly help open us to engaging/working with others in a way that is mutually beneficial for outsized impact. Most importantly, the self-interest properly understood mindset helps us pursue collaboration opportunities in a way that’s driven by a relentless pursuit of best achieving our respective bottom-line missions about why we really do what we do.

So, how does the OpenGov Hub fit in the growing ecosystem of nonprofit coworking spaces?

1) We’re well-positioned to meaningfully collaborate, as an intentionally themed space. It seems that every coworking space (for or nonprofit) aspires to be more than just a space. But there is often a somewhat general common thread that unites tenants (ex: an interest in social change). This realization makes me feel even more confident in the OpenGov Hub’s ability to promote meaningful collaboration, because we anyone who wishes to join our community has to have some connection to our opengov theme. This means we can design all sorts of programs and activities specifically target the issues in this field, in addition to more general capacity-building efforts (like helping train member organizations on fundraising or communications).

2) We’re fairly large and mature compared to other spaces. With almost 40 current member organizations and about 200 individuals who regularly work out of our space, we’re on the larger side of the spectrum. (On average centers have 12 tenant organizations and about 70 individual members.)

3) Financial self-sustainability is one of our greatest strengths. Most nonprofit shared spaces – like most nonprofits in general – need to rely on philanthropy to fund their operations/cover their costs. While the OpenGov Hub received a few founding sponsorships in the beginning, we currently run entirely on earned income. This frees us up to pursue new and creative approaches to better fulfilling our mission.

These two fruitful days with the NCN network also left me with lots of big-picture questions – like how organizations really learn, how we can create safe spaces for organizations to learn from failures, and how the OpenGov Hub might adapt its governance structure(s) to help institutionalize a culture of collaboration.

But I left Philly feeling fully armed with renewed confidence, passion, a plethora of ideas, and sharpened tools in my toolbox to help our unique community here at the OpenGov Hub reach its fullest potential.


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