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Brad Wood, River Valley Resources, Madison, IN
08/Jul/2019

We are excited that today’s blog author will be featured as one of 8 presentations at this year’s Sharing Innovation 2019. Like what you read? Register today at www.nonprofitcenters.org/sharing

Stop, collaborate and listen – more than just the lyrics to a popular song from the ‘90s, the Clearinghouse of Jefferson County Indiana has taken these words to heart. Since its inception in 2007, the Clearinghouse team has been through a series of peaks and valleys, always focused on the end goal of creating a larger network of social change. Created as a multi-tenant facility where workforce development entities and community agencies live and work under one roof, the Clearinghouse was the brainchild of River Valley Resources (RVR). Originally founded to provide workforce development services, RVR’s mission has grown to include a variety of services to help individuals become self-sustaining. The organization currently provides education and training services in 17 Indiana counties and employs more than 80 people.

These three words – stop, collaborate, and listen – have been an integral part of RVR’s process to create and sustain a vision of building a network of community partners all working together to help individuals become self-reliant.

It seems counter-intuitive that the process starts with the word stop. But over the years, we have learned that it is by stopping to assess what’s around us and responding accordingly that true magic begins. Sometimes, in such a large organization with multiple services, we can get so caught up in what we are doing as individuals that we don’t stop to recognize where others can add value. It is by practicing the pause that organizations discover there is more than enough if we all sit at the same table.

Stopping also shifts focus from a singular mission to one that is expansive and eliminates the duplication of efforts. Because we have practiced the art of stopping to collaborate and listen, our relationships are non-competitive, holistic, and client centric. We have a deep knowledge and understanding of what each member of our team provides, allowing us to link clients to the services that best meet their needs. We put this in practice by holding a monthly Clearinghouse meeting where each team is represented and has a voice. We use this time to talk about upcoming programs, events, and new partnerships that are mutually beneficial to the mission of assisting clients in becoming self-dependent.

As important as it is to stop, it would be pointless without a genuine focus on collaboration. It is one thing to share space with other organizations involved in similar work. However, it is another thing entirely to set the ego aside and approach each conversation from a place of needing to understand the perspective of the other party. When we can free ourselves from our ego, it opens up a whole new channel to see a clearer picture of the work we are all part of. This clear picture allows us to see how all of the pieces fit and how we are all connected as agents of change.

A perfect example of this is something we call the Madison Model. In Madison, we have a female correctional facility that focuses on re-entry. We sat down with their administrators and the local community college to find a way to integrate these women into our community during their pre-release. Through listening to their needs, we developed a transitions model that helps them learn job readiness skills and earn a certification in high wage, high demand occupations. This prison partnership extends to helping feed hungry kids through the Summer Meals program, and is the only one in the nation that has a partnership with a correctional facility. The women volunteers love giving back to the community and one said, “I love volunteering because I know my kids receive free summer meals back home.”

This collaborative effort would not have been possible without the patience of listening. These out-of-the-box ideas can only come to fruition when we are not dismissive of things that have never been done before. As we teach our students in the transitions class, effective communication utilizes three strategies to positively address issues and nurture a relationship of equals – communicate purposefully, communicate honestly, and communicate responsibly[1]. We have found that listening, when paired with this style of communication, leads to our most successful projects.

It’s easy to say all this, but practicing it is another story. This is especially true in rural communities where resource scarcity is a reality. But as we continue to grow our network, we realize that we don’t have to do this work alone. It is a beautiful thing that we can focus on our piece and trust that our partners will continue to do their part well too. There is a quote by Brene Brown that says, “Opposite of scarcity is not abundance, it’s simply enough.” When we stop, collaborate, and listen we don’t have to solve the problems of the whole world at once. We do what we can with what we have and it is simply enough.

[1] “Employing Interdependence.” On Course: Study Skills Plus, by Skip Downing, Wadsworth, 2016, pp. 135-162.


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Pamela Geddes and Angie Smith with Alberta Parenting for the Future Foundation
01/Jul/2019

We are excited that today’s blog author will be featured as one of 8 presentations at this year’s Sharing Innovation 2019. Like what you read? Register today at www.nonprofitcenters.org/sharing

 

Colossal failures and some initial successes caused us to stumble into social innovation in a shared space.  We didn’t see the journey taking this route, we just needed more space.  While we work in a large rural setting, there are very few appropriate rentals to fit our needs.

In October, we will explore how we applied the Panarchy Theory to our journey to success.

Exploration – We started looking for a space just our size but what we found was one three times what we needed.  Using our silo lens, we began looking for tenants to help pay the rent and it wasn’t until our largest prospective tenant, with deep pockets, backed out at the last minute. We essentially hit a road block that forced us to completely shift our thinking. Our detour took us into social innovation and changemaking.

Development –  We thought that we had planned the perfect journey booking all our rooms in advance when really, we needed to do more research on the route and what we would find at each location.  Shifting our perspective meant that we needed to learn. We attended conferences including the 2015 Building Opportunities Conference in Vancouver (complete with boot camp), the Tamarack Institute’s conferences on Vibrant Communities and we enrolled staff in trainings and courses such as MacEwan University’s Social Innovation Certificate program. It was at this junction in the road that we learned that failure can actually be a tool for success.

Growth –  We applied our learnings and after early successes with initiatives such as multilevel leases, flexible space, purposeful artwork and signage to celebrate inclusion and daily networking opportunities we began to see where we fit within our own centre and where the centre fit in the larger community. We doubled down on compromise rather than emphasizing policy and procedure to create social cohesion.

Maturity – We were able to celebrate our successes and leverage small partnerships into larger scale innovations, most recently receiving a McConnell  Foundation grant, along with other partners in the community, for the creation of a social lab to create systems change in education.  Maturity is about not getting stuck in one location, rather looking at what needs to scale up or scale out and recognizing when it’s time to let go and continue the journey.

Release – Moving on, whether by choice or through the choice of others can be emotional and discouraging, like a flat tire or engine trouble.  We can choose to sit on the side of the road and have a good cry, then we need to embrace the failure as a tool that puts the air back in our tires. Letting go opens doors to new opportunities, we need to slow down so we can see them.

Organizations moved into our centre because it was economical but they stayed because they have a shared belief in the importance of our centre in the community and they see their ideas in action.

We learned to intentionally create opportunities for input and collaboration, we learned to recognize emergent themes, and we learned (the hard way) to let go and move forward collectively.  These learnings all form the foundation of our centre’s success.


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Chelsea Donohoe
13/May/2019

It’s Time to Register for Sharing Innovation 2019! It’s time to register for the third annual Sharing Innovation event! (Don’t miss the best registration rate! Early bird discounted registration ends Friday, August 30th). We are ecstatic at NCN about this gathering. It has continued to grow each year, and we are even more impressed with the groundbreaking collaboration happening all over the US and Canada. Every day, more groups are creating shared spaces and shared services to enable organizations to realign how they use resources to tackle the biggest challenges in their communities. No matter the size or scope of your organization, our speakers will have relevant, actionable advice and creative strategies for sharing. Sharing Innovation is a different type of NCN gathering. It’s a time to amplify ideas, dream big, and discuss what’s possible. You will hear from our network about the increased efficiency and effectiveness folks are experiencing from sharing space and other resources. We sought out speakers who are using infrastructure to achieve impact, and we wanted to hear how they are shaping their communities through collaborative, place-based initiatives.


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07/May/2018

As we prepare for Sharing Innovation 2018 in October, we thought we'd take a trip down memory lane to our 2017 event. Whether you missed last year or need a little convincing to attend this year (as if!?), check out the first of our four Sharing Innovation 2017 Blog Video Series below. With two speakers each over last year's themes of Technology for Collaboration, Adaptive Partnerships, Smart Growth and Sustainability, we're certain you'll walk away with not only some fresh innovative ideas, but also the desire to (re)connect with the NCN community this October! So without further ado, this week we focus on…


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30/Apr/2018

We are reviewing proposals for Sharing Innovation, and I’ve been thinking a lot about what innovation means to us at The Nonprofit Centers Network.  The dictionary definition of the word “Innovate” is to “make changes in something established, especially by introducing new methods, ideas, or products.” Sharing resources is an innovation in and of itself. For so long, we have been told that success looks like a nonprofit with a large staff, a building, and a strong back office. However, based on our recent research, many nonprofits don’t need that degree of capacity.  Efficiency and effectiveness is about having the right tools for the job when you need them.


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Chelsea Donohoe
02/Oct/2017

We’re super pumped at NCN about the upcoming Sharing Innovation event. It’s honestly like no event we’ve ever done before. You’ll get to hear about groundbreaking collaboration happening all over the country. No matter the size or scope of your organization, our speakers will have actionable advice and creative strategies you can tailor to meet your goals and needs. You might just get so excited you come up with your own ingenious idea…


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