Posted on 23 Dec 2015
It’s the holidays and you know what that means … time for Christmas cookies. I like to honor the traditional tastes of the cookies that my family likes and expects, but then add the twist of an innovative or new recipe each year. This year it was the Hershey Hug cookies pictured here.
However, if I don’t make the sugar cookies, Jam Thumbprints, Jeweled Lace Cookies, or Pistachio-Cranberry Biscotti, I’ll be in deep trouble. So, as I surveyed the fruit of my labors, I began thinking how variety and innovation are critical for growing and sustaining your coalition or partnership. But, what exactly do the terms variety and innovation mean?
Variety is a quality similar to diversity or difference. Having variety in life is more exciting than doing the same routine day in and day out. As a coalition, you might:
- Recruit new organizations and individuals who can help strengthen your skills, resources and ability to reach out to new populations.
- Provide mentorship and a transition process that fosters leadership opportunities and development at all levels of the coalition from the Steering Committee to Work Groups and Task Teams.
- Develop a diverse portfolio of funding streams that provides financial security for the coalition, such as in-kind donations, membership dues, grants and contracts, fees for services or training and fundraisers.
- Use different meeting formats that build excitement. Switch the meeting day, time or location, offer seasonal treats, invite a guest speaker, or skip the formal agenda and try a town hall discussion format instead.
Innovation is the introduction of a new idea, method, or device. The Clemmer Group suggests 35 ways (http://bit.ly/1mgqZGE) that any organization can cultivate innovation. For coalitions this may translate to the following:
Listen to the voice of your partners
- Regularly involve partners in joint problem solving and planning sessions, celebrations, focus groups, conferences, and presentations.
- Offer windshield tours or visits to places where your priority populations live, work, learn, eat, play and pray.
- Make customer service and excellence a priority for everyone in the coalition.
- Widen your network of partners. Provide regular face-to-face, electronic, print, or web-based communications to help external and internal partners exchange experiences, ideas, and problem solve.
- Ask “What if?” questions. Ignore those who try to write this off as wishful thinking. Leaders find ways to translate the answers into doable strategies.
Cultivate a culture where experimentation is honored
- Develop and nurture strong management system and a transformative leadership culture.
- See your coalition as a community lab for piloting new ways of doing things. Trial and error or making small mistakes, experiencing failures, and learning from them is how we improve.
- Make everyone in the coalition responsible for personal, team, and organization change and innovation.
- Establish regular assessments to reflect on the reasons for your coalition’s failures and successes. Based on everyone’s input, produce a summary of “lessons learned” following the launch of a new product, strategy or service.
- Set up a “best practices and good tries” clearinghouse to continuously spread the learning about what works and doesn’t across your coalition.
Leverage the best internal and external ideas efficiently
- Make sure that your coalition looks for good ideas to swipe from other coalitions. Learn from others who have experienced the same opportunities or problems that you face.
- If you want more innovation, set up methods and measures to track your outcomes. If you don’t know how you’re doing, you can’t improve.
- Develop alliances with other coalitions and partnerships that deal with your health or social issue. It can help you extend your reach and reduce your risk.
- Reward and recognize partners to foster cooperation, learning, and innovation.
- Recruit and retain unconventional thinkers and passionate people who have successfully bucked the system.
- Keep your coalition flat, decentralized and team-based. The more people feel they’re running their own show; the more they’ll act like entrepreneurs.
Happy New Year! Don’t eat too many cookies and make 2016 a year filled with variety and innovation for your coalition!
Posted on 06 Jul 2015
My husband, our three grown children, their spouses and five grandchildren just returned from a vacation aboard the Disney Dream and at Walt Disney World. Walt Disney strived to “always exceed expectations”, and, once again, we weren’t disappointed. The adults and children in our group had a wonderful time, while enjoying exceptional service.
How does Disney manage to create these fun memories for families time after time? The company focuses on five core areas that work synergistically to deliver sustained positive results: Leadership, Culture and Employee Engagement, Service, Brand, and Innovation. I’ll summarize these competencies here and illustrate how they can be guideposts to help coalitions thrive!
Based on the belief that everyone has the ability to lead, Disney proactively works to develop leaders who engage employees through shared values and vision. Leaders who nurture an environment of mutual trust and respect create stronger employee performance, exceptional customer service and, ultimately, greater results.
In coalitions, leadership is about taking actions to create sustained, positive transformations within the organization and the greater community. Encourage leaders to passionately communicate the values and vision of your coalition, align them with those of their partner organizations and operationalize them. Cultivate committed staff and volunteers who strive to lead as well.
Culture & Employee Engagement
Disney’s culture of excellence is honed through employee selection, training, care and communication. Disney hires individuals who exhibit the desired behaviors that best align with the company’s values. Once people are hired who want to excel, orientation and training reinforces the company’s principles and imparts new skills and knowledge.
To increase engagement and a culture of excellence, your coalition must provide the necessary education that helps staff, leaders and members develop and excel in their roles. The methods by which your coalition communicates with and cares for its members will determine how closely they align with your coalition’s desired culture.
Disney helps individuals reimagine their results by transforming exceptional customer service into a culture that is unified by a common purpose. Once people, places and processes are aligned with a common purpose and quality standards, employees are empowered to deliver extraordinary service by equipping them with the right tools, clear expectations and feedback. In short, Disney employees feel valued and appreciated and make sure their customers do as well.
For coalitions, excellent service does not simply come from a friendly transaction or helpful technology. It comes from truly understanding the expectations of coalition members and putting the right guidelines and service standards in place to exceed them. When the community being served is at the core, exceptional service becomes possible. Loyalty and positive results follow when a coalition makes a meaningful and credible promise to the community, and then delivers on that promise over and over again.
Disney is one of the world’s most trusted brands because it promises to consistently provide high-quality entertainment and experiences for children and adults. When a brand experience exceeds customers’ needs, they become more attached and create value to the organization far beyond repeat purchase behavior. Disney views the customer experience as the outward expression of its organizational values; therefore employees must apply the brand promise to everything they do.
Coalitions, too, must develop their brand and promote it widely throughout the community. Every member must become a brand ambassador to ensure consistent, quality delivery. By continually reexamining and growing the brand, your coalition will retain current partners and attract new ones.
Walt Disney understood the power of stories. By communicating new ideas through a clever narrative, people became engaged and emotionally connected. At Disney, idea generation and innovation are encouraged and systematically implemented. Employees are empowered to use their imaginations because they see their ideas put into practice. Thus, creativity is translated into innovative products and services.
Your coalition is filled with creativity. The challenge is to cultivate and harness its full potential. A brilliant idea can come from anywhere, so tapping into the diverse perspectives of your members can lead to extraordinary results. In order to embed creativity in your culture, coalition leaders must encourage collaboration that is fueled by trust, passion and calculated risk taking. Innovation happens when creativity and organizational processes are integrated successfully. It doesn’t always mean dramatic change. Your coalition’s impact may involve incremental improvements over time.
Walt Disney once said, “The way to get started is to quit talking and begin doing.” So, I’ll quit talking and you start building an exceptional coalition that sparks community change.
Walt Disney Institute. Our Core Competencies. https://disneyinstitute.com/about/our-core-competencies/
Posted on 12 May 2015
Since Kania & Kramer introduced the concept in 2011, collective impact has been adopted as an effective way to address complex social and environmental challenges. This structured way of achieving social change includes five conditions that together can take your coalition from common goals to uncommon results!
- It starts with a common agenda or coming together to collectively define the problem and create a shared vision to solve it.
- It establishes shared measurement or agreeing to track progress in the same way, which allows for continuous improvement.
- It fosters mutually reinforcing activities or coordinating collective efforts to maximize the end result.
- It encourages continuous communication or building trust and relationships among all participants.
- It has a strong backbone or an organization (like a coalition or its lead agency) that is dedicated to orchestrating the work of the group.
As backbone organizations, a nonprofit coalition or its lead agency should pursue six common activities to support and facilitate collective impact. Over the lifecycle of an initiative, they:
- Guide vision and strategy
- Support aligned activities
- Establish shared measurement practices
- Build public will
- Advance policy
- Mobilize funding
As a collective impact initiative launches and gets organized, the backbone organization is likely to prioritize guiding vision and strategy. Partners are encouraged to share a common understanding of the need and desired result and they increasingly align individual work with the group’s common agenda.
As backbone organizations mature, they often shift focus to establish shared measurement practices on behalf of their partners and use data to adapt and refine their strategies.
As backbone organizations seek to expand their impact and build a stronger community presence, they are likely to increase focus on other key external activities.
- They build public will by making community members more aware of the issues and empowered to take action.
- They advance policy by making policymakers more aware and supportive of their policy agenda and enact policy changes that align with coalition goals.
- They mobilize funding to support activities and encourage philanthropic and public funds to increasingly focus on coalition goals.
Over time, backbone organizations can expect these activities to lead to changes among partners, funders, policymakers, and community members which, in turn, lead to more effective systems and improved community outcomes. Individual partners simply cannot do the work of collective impact without backbone support. However, the way that each backbone organization approaches the role varies depending on their context.
Backbone leaders also must possess certain key characteristics that make them effective in the complex collective impact environment. They need to be:
- Visionary in setting the agenda, knowing where to focus and driving the focus forward
- Results-oriented in pushing the community to not just talking about change, but acting on it
- Collaborative in building consensus and relationships with partners and making them feel important
- Adaptive and focused in listening to ideas, but focusing in on doing what is needed to reach the end goal
- Charismatic and influential in passionately communicating ideas that move others to action
- Politic in understanding when to listen and to filter what is said in a politically savvy way.
- Humble by being a servant leader first.
Any coalition or partnership worth its salt already has effective leaders who embody the above traits and has a common vision and agenda, employs shared measurement and mutually reinforcing activities and communicates consistently and regularly with its partners. However, if after reading this blog, you find yourself deficient in any of these areas, get going and make collective impact a top priority for your coalition!
The Collective Impact Forum. http://collectiveimpactforum.org/what-collective-impact
Kania, J. & Kramer, M. (2011). Collective impact. Stanford Social Innovation Review. Winter: 36-41. http://leveragingourstrengths.ca/reading/collective_impact.pdf
Turner, S., Merchant, K., Kania, J. & Martin, E. Understanding the value of backbone organizations in collective impact. Stanford Social Innovation Review. July 18, 1012. http://www.ssireview.org/blog/entry/understanding_the_value_of_backbone_organizations_in_collective_impact_2
Posted on 25 Feb 2015
Coalitions are powerful vehicles for building the skills of professionals and volunteers, thereby empowering them to advocate and act on behalf of priority populations within their communities. Since I get more requests for training and technical assistance on evaluation than any other topic, I’ll share the hot tips that I offered for evaluators at The American Evaluation Association meeting last October to enhance any coalition’s efforts to evaluate itself and its initiatives.These tips also can be found in a Powerpoint presentation on Slideshare at http://www.slideshare.net/franbutterfoss
1. Let questions about your coalition and its strategies drive evaluation. Any evaluation should balance measures of how the coalition does its work with evidence that its strategies work. List questions that you have about your coalition, then collect data to answer them.
2. Enlist partners’ help to build buy-in and cooperation. Evaluations that successfully engage community members are more likely to develop relevant evaluation methods and tools and gain community credibility and participation in data collection efforts. For example, have members create short frequent surveys that reduce respondent burden and maximize participation.
3. Use innovative, qualitative evaluation methods. Traditional evaluation methods do not always capture the dynamic nature and outcomes of coalitions. As coalition strategies become more complex and concentrate less on individual behavior change, use multifaceted approaches across multiple levels that take community readiness into account. Relying more on qualitative methods that better represent the community and figuring out how coalitions make a difference is a start.
4. Focus on practice-proven strategies and measurable outcomes. Coalitions are best suited to assessment and priority-setting, rather than implementing projects. Concentrate on relevant health/ social outcomes, as well as on how partnerships build capacity by improving outcomes related to participation, member diversity, leadership, networks, skills, and resources. Coalition sustainability may be evaluated by tracking outcomes such as: community buy-in, infrastructure improvements, resource diversity, educational opportunities, and policy changes.
5. Provide training and technical assistance. Appropriate training, technical assistance and resources for conducting effective evaluations should be made available, so coalitions can translate evaluation results into actionable tasks.
6. Begin where you are. Most coalitions view evaluation as a formidable task. You may feel overwhelmed by technical tasks, time/financial costs, and concerns that you might fail. Start small and evaluate one aspect of your coalition from each of three levels (short, intermediate and long-term) each year. Use and adapt others’ tools. Take advantage of existing data that can be evaluated with little or no cost. As examples, member diversity can be determined by assessing the roster; attendance patterns can be derived from meeting minutes. As confidence and skills grow, engage in new and more complex evaluation tasks.
Posted on 20 Jan 2015
Well, it’s the new year and time to think about how 2015 will be different from last year. I just re-read my January 2014 post, “Seven Resolutions for Your Coalition that You Can Keep in 2014!” and still think it was a solid one. But this year, I’m posting an even easier message with the same intent – to improve how you and your coalition or partnership work! This year, my message centers on 2 words: Be Present!
According to John Kuypers, personal leadership coach and author, being present is what we experience when we are completely at peace in this moment. “Our feelings are calm. Our reflexes are fast. Our mind is clear. We are decisive. We know what we want. We know what’s right for us. We perform our best. Our confidence is deep. We know and accept that we have faults and we own them. We feel safer, which lets us be present with others (2002).”
I love to practice yoga, so being more present is my personal resolution for this year. But, is it possible for an organization to be more present? Yes, and it can be the foundation for collaborative work as well. I say this because, in our coalitions, we must commit to accomplishing the overall plan that we set for ourselves. It does not mean that we sacrifice what is happening in the present for what we hope to gain in the future. No, the positive events and energy that we harness now actually make the future possible! It is a smart and strategic way to work.
So, how do we do it? At the risk of repeating myself, I encourage all of you to visit your coalition’s vision and mission yet again. Once you and your leaders are convinced that they still ring true (or after you have revised them), revisit the goals that you have set for your coalition (or decide on a set of 2-3 goals). Are they feasible and actionable? If so, then focus on realistic and achievable strategies that will help you achieve these goals. Who will help you plan and carry out the strategies? What resources will you need to put the strategies in motion? How will you know that you have accomplished them (that is, what are the outcomes that you will track)?
Now, congratulate yourselves. You have created an Action Plan! If you want to know how to format the actual plan, check out this link: http://bit.ly/1KYeLe4. Your action plan should guide your actions for the coming year and free your members to be present to opportunities that involve your coalition in the life of your community. It may mean reaching out to diverse groups that you have not partnered with before. It may involve creating public awareness of your coalition’s issue in innovative ways. It may focus on building your coalition’s funding and resources to sustain its work.
Kuypers, J. 2002. What’s Important Now: Shedding the Past So You Can Live in the Present. Present Living and Learning.
Posted on 02 Dec 2014
Rediscovering Joy in Life and Work
I just spent Thanksgiving weekend with family at our mountain cabin. For the first time in 12 years, we actually had a blessing of SNOW for the occasion. Now, in our part of Virginia, snow is not a usual winter occurrence, so it brings a sense of magic and exhilaration when it happens! We were not expecting this snowfall (it only occurred at elevations above 1500 feet) and were amazed by the sight that greeted us as we rounded the final switchback to our place.
My husband and I had a full day to ourselves before anyone else arrived and once we had the pies made and other preparations for our feast done, we decided to go out in the snow and play! We stomped up the trail to the stream to savor its beauty! We threw snowballs. We made snow people to greet our guests as they entered the driveway. After spying them, one of our neighbors stopped by and asked where our grandchildren were. When we told him that WE had created them, he just laughed and said, “Well, maybe you aren’t so old after all”.
When our family arrived, the wintry scene also enchanted them. For two days, we all played in the snow. We packed down runs for the sled, rode them in wildly and rolled off at the last minute to avoid the woods. We had a real snowball fight. We made snow creatures (Check out the Olaf from Frozen that our grandkids built)! We built a big bonfire to warm ourselves. At one point, our granddaughter was so joyful, she exclaimed, “Is this a dream?”
When it was finally time to pack, all were reluctant to leave. I don’t think it was due to the turkey, the trimmings or the shared family time. I think it was because no one wanted to break the aura of joy that had surrounded our little gathering of young and old. I had to ask myself two questions: 1) Why do we lose the joy that we once experienced so often as children? 2) Why is it so exhilarating to rediscover it, even if only for brief moments?
I think the answers lie in how we approach our life and our life’s work. We get so caught up in our hectic schedules and to-do lists that we don’t make the time to just be! It’s easy to feel burdened by responsibilities and the expectation that we are adults and need to act appropriately.
I suggest that we need to intentionally find ways to experience joy in our lives. We might start by flying a kite, stomping though mud puddles, or having a pillow fight. In my consulting work on coalition building, I’ll ask workshop participants to humor me by engaging in a fun activity. It may be a role-play on meeting dynamics where folks assume the various roles and personalities that they experience in their real meetings. It may be singing the first couple of lines of a song that exemplifies their collaborative work (For example, “A Hard Day’s Night”; “The Long and Winding Road”). It may be creating a headline that they’d want to see in 10 years about the success their coalition has achieved. Whatever the activity, once people let go of inhibitions, they rediscover joyfulness! It energizes the room and everyone in it!
I’d love to hear about your reactions to this idea and learn about how you create joy in your life and work!
Posted on 20 Nov 2014
I’ve been hearing the term “community engagement” used more and more lately. Although it was defined in a publication by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in 1997, the second edition of Principles of Community Engagement really seems to be catching on (CDC, 2011). Since community engagement often involves partnerships and coalitions, it seemed like a good topic for my blog!
What is Community Engagement?
Community engagement is “the process of working collaboratively with and
through groups of people affiliated by geographic proximity, special interest, or similar situations to address issues affecting the well-being of those people” (CDC, 1997, p 9). The goals of community engagement are to “build trust, enlist new resources and allies, create better communication, and improve overall health outcomes as successful projects evolve into lasting collaborations” (CDC, 2011, p. 3). Coalitions, partnerships and other collaborative efforts are the catalysts that help mobilize resources, influence systems, change relationships among partners, and change policies, programs, and practices (CDC, 2011, p. 3).
What Does It Look Like?
Community engagement can take many forms and include organized groups,
agencies, institutions, or individuals that are engaged in health promotion, research, or policy making. Community engagement can also be seen as a continuum of community involvement. The following figure, modified from the International Association for Public Participation shows how a specific collaboration is likely to move along a continuum toward greater community involvement, and may evolve into a long-term partnership that focuses on a wide range of social, economic, political, and environmental factors that affect health (CDC, 2011, p. 8).
Why Should We Do It?
Engaging community members in developing projects increases their level of awareness, allows them to advocate for their ideas, and offers a way to gather advice based on the their expertise and experiences. Further, when communities are engaged at the beginning and throughout the project, people are more receptive to the outcome and are capable of implementing change and maintaining partnerships longer (Virginia Cooperative Extension, 2012).
How Do We Do It?
The following principles should guide you in what to consider prior to engagement, what is needed for engagement to occur, and what you need to do to make engagement efforts succeed (CDC, 2001, p. 45-53). I was delighted to see that the Community Coalition Action Theory (CCAT) (Butterfoss and Kegler, 2002; 2009) was recognized as a cornerstone in tying community engagement to theory since its 21 propositions support these principles (CDC, 2011, p. 94-95).
1. Be clear about the goals of the engagement effort and the populations and/or
communities you want to engage.
2. Become knowledgeable about the community’s culture, economic conditions,
social networks, political and power structures, norms and values, history,
demographic trends, experience with efforts by outside groups to engage it in
various programs, and the community’s perceptions of those initiating the
3. Go to the community, establish relationships, build trust, work with both formal and informal leaders, and seek commitment from community organizations and leaders to create processes for mobilizing the community
4. Understand that collective self-determination is the responsibility and right of all people in a community. No external entity should assume it can bestow on a community the power to act in its own self-interest.
5. Partner with the community to create change and improve health.
6. Recognize and respect the diversity of the community.
7. Identify and mobilize community assets and strengths and develop the community’s capacity and resources to make decisions and take action in order to sustain community engagement.
8. Prepare to release control of actions or interventions.
9. Know that community collaboration requires long-term commitment by the engaging organization and its partners.
Butterfoss, FD and Kegler, MC. (2009). The Community Coalition Action Theory. In DiClemente, R, Crosby, L, Kegler, MC. (Eds.) Emerging Theories in Health Promotion Practice and Research, 2nd Edition. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass Publishers.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (20011). Principles of Community Engagement, 2nd Edition. NIH Publication No. 11-7782. Washington, DC. http://www.atsdr.cdc.gov/communityengagement/pdf/PCE_Report_508_FINAL.pdf
Virginia Cooperative Extension. (2012). Community Engagement. Petersburg, VA: Author.http://www.uvm.edu/extension/community/buildingcapacity/pdfs/community_engagement_handout.pdf
Posted on 17 Nov 2014
Posted on 01 Aug 2014
Posted on 08 Jul 2014
Members are the lifeblood of a coalition or partnership. Recruiting individual and organizational members is essential to building a solid foundation for your community work. Consider the American Cancer Society’s Preparation, Planning, Recruitment, and Retention method.
Preparation – Member recruitment should be carefully planned and ongoing. Understand why your coalition needs members. What health or social change does this coalition plan to promote? What does the coalition need members to do? Analyze the volunteer trends in your community. People today lead busy lives and are looking for specific opportunities with definite timeframes and ones that offer concrete achievements and tangible results.
Planning – Assessing the needs of the coalition is critical when recruiting members. What strengths does the coalition have? What challenges does it face? What types of individuals and organizations would complement the coalition’s strengths and help overcome it’s challenges? Conduct a gap analysis – what organizations and individuals are missing from your coalition table that could make your coalition more diverse and responsive to community needs. Conduct a skills inventory to see what critical skills or resources are needed. Develop a position description and a formal letter of invitation to join the coalition.
Recruitment – Coalitions should develop a recruitment plan when seeking new members. Methods of recruitment include: personal contact or face-to-face meetings with community leaders, conducting or attending public meetings/trainings, door-to-door visits, street outreach, conducting community assessments and distributing recruitment notices via print or social media.
- Customer value – What benefits will the member get from this opportunity?
- Costs – How long of a commitment is this position? How much time per month?
- Communication – What is the most effective way to reach potential members?
- Convenience – How can we make this position easy and attractive?
For existing coalitions, the same concepts apply for improving and diversifying coalitions to become agents of change for the community. Establish recruitment as an ongoing task for the coalition’s Steering Committee. When calling on prospective coalition members, use the buddy system – involve someone who has a relationship with the candidate. Rehearse your presentation prior to asking community leaders to join the coalition. When making “the ask”, be sure to:
- Personalize the interview
- Show your commitment to the cause
- Provide a position description
- Provide positive feedback about the candidates abilities
- Focus on the benefits, while acknowledging the barriers of the position
- Emphasize support for the position
- Provide incentives
Sometimes, cold calling prospective coalition candidates cannot be avoided. Emphasize the candidates’ match with your mission. Acknowledge how valuable their time is and empathize with their readiness to commit. If now is not a good time, perhaps later would work better – leave the door open.
Retention – Membership is likely to be maintained in coalitions that pay attention to members’ needs and desires for meaningful involvement. Retention is all about cultivating a relationship with that member. Coalition leaders and members need to spend time with new member to get to get to know them. Team building and relationship building principles apply to this aspect of coalition management. New members need to feel acknowledged as valuable assets and the coalition needs to be flexible with its expectations. Research indicates that public recognition is vital to the majority of volunteers. Recognition may take many forms – formal or informal, tangible or intangible – but it must be the appropriate for the member. Consider having an annual awards ceremony or day of recognition for all coalition members.
Recruitment is a never-ending task – as soon as you become comfortable with your membership as it stands, you will miss opportunities for growth and positive change. Likewise, retaining members means being in tune with what members need to remain committed and active.
Coalitions Work Resources
Buddy Program for Member Recruitment. http://coalitionswork.com/wp-content/uploads/Buddy-Program-for-Member-Recruitment.pdf
Seven Tips for Retaining Coalition Members. http://coalitionswork.com/wp-content/uploads/SEVEN-TIPS-FOR-RETAINING-COALITION-MEMBER1.pdf
Coalition Member and Leader Inventory. http://coalitionswork.com/wp-content/uploads/SKILLS-INVENTORY-WORKSHEET.pdf
Coalition Member Gap Analysis. http://coalitionswork.com/wp-content/uploads/Coalition-Member-Gap-Analysis-Activity.pdf