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“Open for you, and you and you…” is the tagline for one of our Canadian members, Community Door in Brampton, Ontario. It is a fitting message for so many of our centers (and centres!) across North America. A place where you can find healing for what ails you. A place that takes you in as you are and diligently works to keep you as safe as possible. This last statement was the theme that emerged from our first Live Ask-NCN Zoom call for members that was focused on Risk Management. I actually expected the conversation to steer more towards the somewhat dull, but necessary details of what it takes to manage a space, filling vacancies, collecting timely rent and more. Instead, improving safety was the top concern for most spaces. People wanted to know how best to communicate imminent dangers, how to report incidents, and how to keep communication lines open with tenants and community.  One member is witnessing the opioid epidemic first hand in their very welcoming and open community space. While their bathrooms provide an opportunity for someone off the street to clean up, other times it is a collection site for needles from their illicit substance usage.  All participants stressed the need, and struggle, for their space to be both open and safe. Here are the suggestions that emerged:

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It’s a new year! Time to get into shape! No, I’m not here to harass you on how well your New Year’s resolution towards good health is going, or if you’ve already given up on it. (You can do it!) I’m here to help your nonprofit get its plan about sharing space into shape, so you can present your best self to your community. This year, we're bringing you a different kind of Boot Camp, that's making it super easy and cost effective to learn about nonprofit shared space with Virtual Nonprofit Centers Boot Camp. You can get in shape on your own (in your pjs) over 2 months or with your colleagues (maybe not in your pjs) over 6 months, starting whenever you register. Make this year the year you dive into the idea that you, your board, or community has been thinking about: getting serious about shared space. Here are just a few ways Virtual Nonprofit Centers Boot Camp will get you and your team there:

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“Mommy, I don’t want to lend Nicholas this toy because he might not give it back,” says my 4-year old the other day. Nicholas is just over one, so in some ways, my child might be deducting a logical conclusion. (See This American Life’s endearing Kid Logic episode.) He is learning that a toddler barely understands what sharing is, and we have to help teach him that. On the flip side, my son has had many sharing experiences where he does get his toy back. Still the idea of handing something over that is near and dear to him is a scary proposition. As much as us adults try to teach this to children, we must continually re-learn this aspect as well. It is something NCN actually talked about in our 2016 Event, Streamlining Social Good. And now we are spending a whole day in November focused on sharing AND innovation – another spooky term.

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L to R: Michael, Craig, John, Leena and Chris

What do a café Manager, Member and Program Coordinator, nonprofit Executive Director and Chartered Alternative Investment Analyst all have in common?

Well, last week the café Manager, John, and I organized an open mic during our building’s monthly tenant Happy Hour. Our responses were slim, but two brave, busy souls, Craig (the CAIA) and Michael (the ED) reached out to share that they played bass and guitar, respectively.  John, a New Orleans native, plays guitar and sings and I play violin (trained) and sing (not trained). We forged ahead with no time to rehearse, but just some scattered emails throwing out ideas for tunes, who could sing or play what, and a few charts in case any of us miraculously had time to practice on our own.

Michael had just got back from traveling but thanks to an unclaimed guitar left it in a Car2Go vehicle, whose office is in our building, he had something to play. It took some time to get a working bass amp for Craig, but we started to hit a groove and kept at it for an hour and half.  Two others jumped in and we crossed a generation of artists, from Patty Smith, Bruce Springsteen, Van Morrison to Bo Diddley. People showed up, and they even cheered! I’m not saying we’re the new hottest band this side of the Mississippi, but we had fun and sounded good!

Outside of us all knowing John, because well, he makes coffee (‘nuff said), we now all have a reason to say, “how you doin’?” to each other in the building. We found common ground between folks I otherwise may not have met. Is this going to lead life changing, mission-oriented collaboration? Doubtful. But together we contributed to a culture of creativity and fellowship in the space, through a medium completely unconnected to our building’s theme of sustainability.

A leader in our community recently challenged a group of us to get out and talk to people who don’t look like you, who may fall into a different “category” of life, because we are getting trapped in our own bubbles.  We are missing out on the diversity of life, which stifles our own experience in this world. I’ve always felt music is one path towards connecting people, and this was just another instance that reaffirmed that for me.

People have been asking when the next jam is and we’re planning for October.  We plan on opening it up outside the building walls and even asking the guy who regularly plays jazz flute on the street corner outside our building. One of John’s friends who is without a home plans to join us when he gets his guitar fixed.

It might not be music for you. But what opportunities do you have to find common ground that may or may not fall outside your line of work? It doesn’t always have to be epic. In the world these days, sometimes we just need space to feel good, together.  I’m grateful shared space cultivates these opportunities, and it’s just another reason I like going to work each day. And that can carry us a long way to our respective missions.


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As we entered our fifth chair pose of the session - or Utkatasana, for you yogis out there - I was internally screaming, “Seriously, again?!?” I’ve learned over the years of doing yoga to try to “focus on the breath” and not what part, or parts, of my body are struggling. But, sometimes I fail to listen to this internal wisdom. Chair pose requires all of your body, which is true for most yoga poses, or asanas, but in this pose you feel it everywhere. Your thighs and calves burn and your arms reach for the sky (or someone to rescue you), while you try to keep your back from overarching, your shoulders from getting too close to your ears, your jaw or neck from getting too tense, or too much weight resting on the knees, “deep breaths, Leena.….AHHHH! When is this going to end???” And suddenly relief. Only to return to chair pose 3 minutes later, after my other “favorite:” chaturanga (push-up like pose).

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