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Asheley Lovell, Ph. D.
04/Dec/2017

Nonprofits come in many shapes and sizes, but one thing they share in common is a desire to scale up their impact on the world. Collaboration has long been touted as the best way for nonprofits to scale up, but the actual practice of collaboration is often messy, making it hard to measure the impacts of these efforts. At The Alliance Center in Denver, CO (home to the headquarters for The Nonprofit Centers Network), over 50 nonprofit and for-profit organizations work under one roof. We are a mission-driven nonprofit with an event and collaborative working space which is dedicated to bringing people together to create a sustainable and inclusive future. As the operator of a collaborative working space, we strive to create a work environment that is inspiring, inviting, and that promotes constructive interactions between tenants. The Alliance Center recently underwent a brand realignment process to reconnect with our mission. As part of this process we changed the name of the organization from the Alliance for Sustainable Colorado to The Alliance Center. For many years, the building that houses the collaborative working spaces was named The Alliance Center while the nonprofit organization that managed the building and created programming was called the Alliance for Sustainable Colorado. This caused considerable confusion. While we are excited to have one name for all aspects of our work, changing our name to The Alliance Center is about a lot more than simplifying our moniker.


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23/Oct/2017

An Evaluation! Those two little words strike fear into leaders’ hearts. I hear “It’s too expensive!” or “We don’t have time!”  or “No one ever fills out surveys anyway!”  Earlier this year, we set out to help shared space managers tackle this question with the support of Laura Sundstrom and Elena Harmon of Vantage Evaluation.  Through a combination of structured learning webinars, peer learning and hands on homework, we worked with approximately ten different shared spaces to see what methods we could test. While we are still crunching the quantitative and qualitative data, here are my preliminary take aways. Have a clear goal for your collaborative work. What are you trying to accomplish through shared space? Break it down as simply as possible and unpack common jargon-filled phrases. Trying to show the impact of collaboration? Make sure you know what that looks like in your community?


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02/Aug/2017

When you provide shared space or back office services for nonprofits it can be a challenge to explain what exactly it is that you do. This was the focus of NCN’s virtual Community of Practice last week. Honing our message is a continual work in progress. For many years, we’ve included Simon Sinek’s “Start with Why” TED Talk in our Nonprofit Centers Boot Camp Curriculum. While providing affordable space for nonprofits is a noble endeavor, most of us are in this field for a greater purpose. Sinek argues that if you can articulate the “Why” behind the “What” that you do, you will be more success and convincing people to support your cause. Another tool that I have found to be incredibly useful is Mission Minded’s Minute Messaging Model, which was recently featured on their blog. Mission Minded asks people to develop a series of timed stories about their mission:


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17/Jul/2017

I was recently traveling for my Summer vacation. When I would come across new people and tell them about my work at The Nonprofit Centers Network, I got the typical mix of responses that I’ve come to expect. They range from, “Wow! Sharing space and resources makes so much sense for the nonprofit sector,” to the confused “That’s nice, but what do you really do?” Then there was a conversation with a woman that caught me by surprise.   From the way she reacted, I knew immediately that she was one of those who “got it” right away. Towards the end of our conversation, she asked me, “What can I do to support this idea? I don’t run a nonprofit organization, and I’m not a philanthropist.”  Here are some of the tips I shared (and some I wish I had thought of at the time!):


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19/Jun/2017

I’ve been reflecting on the biggest lessons I’ve learned about mission-driven shared spaces. Here’s what I would tell someone new to the field. #1 – Find the Bullseye – Nonprofit centers that have a very clear goal that resonates with the community tend to be more successful. A clear goal allows the center to brand itself and communicates the value of locating there. They can build a quicker buzz than a center with a more generic focus. Tenants understand the benefits of co-locating and clients and community members know where to access resources. NCN’s survey data has shown that centers tend to be more financially sustainable when they are organized around a specific theme or goal. #2 – Get a Backbone – Start-up nonprofit centers are more successful when there is a project manager to shepherd the project through development. Many groups try to build their centers by committee, which can seem more financially responsible, but in my experience, hiring someone to champion the project, schedule meetings, follow up on to-do lists and monitor the budget is the better option.


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05/Jun/2017

When we work with nonprofits, we typically ask how much space they have currently and how much they’re looking for. Usually, the numbers only go up, but so much about the millennial workforce is changing how we interact with our workspace. When you’re thinking about moving or finding office space, don’t use your current space as the baseline – think outside the box. Let form follow function. What will be done in the space? Office work and data processing? Or will you be running child care programs? Counseling clients? Different uses require different amounts of space.


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Kim McNamer
22/May/2017

I was recently working with NCN on a feasibility study and was asked to look into 1st floor retail options in a shared space environment. While I didn’t have experience with this when working at Deschutes Children’s Foundation, I have always thought the idea of having some retail in a shared space center could be beneficial particularly in regards to an additional revenue stream.


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24/Apr/2017

NCN started 2017 by kicking off the Evaluation Project, a peer learning opportunity we created with Elena Harman and Laura Sundstrom of Vantage Evaluation. Ten centers are participating in this 9-month process to understand how to approach impact measurement in a rigorous way. Each center will be supported as they complete their own evaluation. This is the first of a series of blogs on what we are learning through this critical process of making the case for shared space. The advantages to the approach we are using are twofold: first, the centers are essentially sharing the cost of an evaluation professional who would have cost them many times more if they contracted individually; secondly, by working in parallel, the centers are “speed” learning what works in various settings since they can see what their peers are trying and apply those lessons in their center. We have a great mix of centers: large, small, new and seasoned. We have some centers who are focused on a specific theme or issue area and some that are more general in terms of the types of tenants they house. This has helped us learn more about how different types of centers approach evaluation, why they want to do it and what kinds of information they are seeking.


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03/Apr/2017

Takeaways from Hardwired: Technology for Shared Spaces Last week, we were joined by Greg Bugbee from Connecticut Center for Advanced Technology for new ways to think about how to design the technology that goes into a space. Here are five tips for maximizing your IT investment. Ensure form follows function. Who is going to be in your space and how will they use it? Your users should drive your IT infrastructure. Think not only about how they will act while in the building, but what they will be producing for others outside of your four walls. For example, if you have tenant partners that develop webinars or host virtual convenings, they’ll need more IT infrastructure than those that have traditional teams in the office at all times.


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