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SSG2016 RECAP: SHARED SPACES ARE PERFECT PETRI DISHES + WORKING WITH BOARDS

Nonprofits are increasingly asked to work collaboratively to achieve scale and impact. Much has been covered on the legal and financial aspects of collaboration, but why is it still hard? This symposium will bring together social science experts and nonprofit practitioners to learn from one another about how the latest research can inform the human dynamics that challenge nonprofit resource sharing. by The Nonprofit Centers Network & Culture Works April 28, 2016
Nonprofits are increasingly asked to work collaboratively to achieve scale and impact. Much has been covered on the legal and financial aspects of collaboration, but why is it still hard? This symposium will bring together social science experts and nonprofit practitioners to learn from one another about how the latest research can inform the human dynamics that challenge nonprofit resource sharing.
by The Nonprofit Centers Network & Culture Works
April 28, 2016

Just back from an action-packed week in Philadelphia!

We had a sold-out Energize training on Wednesday and the mix of long-standing centers and new projects was invigorating!

On Thursday, we piloted Streamlining Social Good: Overcoming Barriers to Nonprofit Resource Sharing.  A terrific group of speakers, moderated by Syon Bhanot of Swarthmore College, led us through lots of concepts nonprofits don’t usually contemplate.  Here are my take-aways:

 

1. Shared Spaces are perfect petri dishes for resource sharing:

  • Create a culture of learning to speed up nonprofit innovation.  Host a Fail Fest to make it easier to acknowledge missteps in a safe environment.  We learned that leaders tend to have high levels of self-control.  A Fail Fest helps nonprofit leaders “recover faster from the ego depletion” around failures.  I had never heard it put that way, but I concur and look forward to it!
  • It may seem obvious, but shared space can help nonprofits boost the number of interactions they have with each other.  This builds trust and can help organizations find alignment of self-interests, which are key ingredients in collaborating and sharing resources.

2. Boards of Directors

  • We spent a surprising amount of time on Boards and how they impact decisions on resource sharing.  There was an acknowledgement that foundation boards are no different from other nonprofit boards and may not always follow governance best practices.  That caught me off-guard!  We need to address this issue and make sure those in decision-making roles are well-equipped for work around collaboration.  In fact, we heard from Nadya Shmavonian that every nonprofit board should ask itself each year, “Who are our competitors? How can we work with them?” We need to make this part of every Board agenda.

3. Push the field

  • If management is doing things the right way, but leadership is doing the right things, how can we demonstrate leadership around resource sharing?
  • We learned that if the norm we’re fighting is intransigence, we only need three people to start a movement and change behavior.  Let’s start small and build change in the right direction!
  • We need to set the example and build in time in our days for innovation.  Be less reactive and more proactive.  Start by scheduling weekly meetings with yourself.  Use this time to think strategically, develop innovative ideas and long-term goals.  Let’s carve out the time to be agents of change.

These are just small snippets of what I learned.  We’ll be issuing a full report in the summer on Streamlining Social Good.  What did you find interesting? I’d love to hear your thoughts!

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About Our Blogger:

Lara Jakubowski

Lara is the Executive Director at the Nonprofit Centers Network and has worked with nonprofits and their real estate projects for 18 years. Most recently she was the principal in LWJ Consulting LLC, a consulting practice that focused on shared space, shared services, business planning, facility planning and fundraising. Since 2006 she has worked with over forty Metro Denver nonprofits to evaluate and grow their impact in the community.


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