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From the Vault: The Learning Journey

Tomorrow, we will be convening with change makers from all sectors at interCHANGE. In the spirit of multi-sector collaborating and collective impact, we are sharing this blog from the vault on building understanding in a partnership, originally posted Oct 13, 2015: 

blogI just spent the large part of the last two weeks at two very interesting and dynamic professional development opportunities; the Social Enterprise World Forum (SEWF) and the Tamarack Communities Collaborating Institute (CCI). These opportunities have filled my head with a lot of ideas, tools and have built new connections and many new possibilities. It is hard to summarize what I have learned and thought about throughout the last two weeks but one idea that has stuck with me was introduced by Adam Kahane at the CCI.

Adam Kahane talked to us about a “learning journey” as a tool to build a greater understanding between players in a complex system so that social systems change becomes possible. As Mr. Kahane described it, a learning journey is when individuals who are from different parts of a system or community go and visit the system together to learn more about each other, their perspectives, and how they are impacted by, and contribute to, the community. It is a literal walk together that Mr. Kahane has seen as an essential component in orienting people towards working on complex problems together. It is a tool to build shared understanding between members within a diverse group, community or society.

It is so simple, going on a walk together, but how often are we asked or interested in walking with someone we don’t understand, have an opposing view point with, or can’t identify with? I find that in professional circumstances the risk for these types of conflicts are high and are also avoided. We go into meetings knowing we may not agree and are unsurprised when we leave without a shared understanding of what needs to change. I have found myself thinking that for community or society to improve we just need to take a “walk in the other person’s shoes” however, I think what the learning journey approach suggests is that we should seek to listen to how someone else lives in their “own shoes”. It’s not about switching places, rather it is about experiencing that same place together and sharing perspectives.

More information on Adam Kahane’s approaches to social change and dealing with complex societal challenges can be found in his three books; Solving Tough Problems, Transformative Scenario Planning, and Power and Love and at REOS Partners.

Annand Ollivierre, Program Manager

Guest Blog: Building Successful Partnerships

The following blog is written by ECVO and originally appeared on their website on August 18, 2015.

Coffeeshop meetingThere is a growing demand worldwide from all sectors for greater competence in scoping and managing the partnering process, especially as many of the partnerships we are seeing evolve are non-traditional, cross sector collaborations.

Many of these partnerships are as a result of complex societal issues that cannot be tackled by one agency or sector in the traditional sense, and nor should they!! Thriving communities are dependent on all sectors working together to move the needle on these issues.

When we look at successful partnerships, we see that they are usually dedicated towards achieving common goals, with all members of the partnership working towards the same end. However, agreeing on a common goal does not necessarily mean that all members of the partnership expect to benefit in the same way. Different entities have different expectations about what they will gain. Ultimately reaching a shared understanding of those expectations is the first step toward finding the common ground necessary for effective collaboration.

Another characteristic of a successful partnership is frequent and effective communication that is ongoing, and honest. In the initial stages of developing a partnership, members need to be very forthright about their needs, what they can contribute to the partnership, and what their expectations are. Goals and objectives need to be specific and clearly communicated. Communication needs to be a priority between agencies as well as within agencies.

In building successful partnerships we often look for additional resources to help advance the process and this is where a partnership broker could help.  Partnership Brokers often act as managers of the partnering process by helping to initiate, develop, maintain, review, revise and support multi-stakeholder collaboration through a deep knowledge and understanding of what it takes to collaborate effectively. Skilled brokering can make all the difference to the effectiveness of complex networks, non-traditional alliances and consortia as well as partnerships.

An effective partnership requires an investment. It takes work but it’s worth it. We can do far more together than we can alone.

 

Interested in collaboration as a means of addressing complex social issues? Join Volunteer Alberta for interCHANGE on September 24th – a one day, multi-sector event offering a unique experience for government, business, and nonprofit attendees to share our knowledge and discover how we can collaborate better, together.

For more on partnership brokering, attend Partnership Brokers Level 1 Training offered by ECVO on October 26th-29th. Gain greater competence in managing the partnering process in a multi-stakeholder partnership – especially when working across sectors. interCHANGE attendees receive a $100 discount on Partnership Brokers Training.

 

Guest Blog: Time for Art

Interested in alternative ways to recruit volunteers? Learn more about Timeraiser in this guest blog post by Timeraiser Edmonton:

ArtistDoes art have value? We think it does – especially for nonprofits.

Timeraiser uses art as a way of bringing together volunteers with organizations in need of people power. It’s a silent art auction with a twist, asking attendees to bid their time to nonprofits in exchange for art that has been purchased from emerging Edmonton-area artists.

It’s a win-win scenario: artists are paid fair market value for their work, and nonprofits find the human capital they need.

The 2015 Edmonton Timeraiser is seeking local nonprofit organizations to participate in this year’s event.

Organizations will be given the chance to connect with potential volunteers in a fun and engaging atmosphere. Attendees can find out more about the work an organization does in the community as well as what types of roles are available. Nonprofits can learn what skills are available and whether a volunteer might make a good fit for their team.

VolunteersAfter the matchmaking is done, participants pledge up to 100 volunteer hours to the nonprofits of their choice in an attempt to out-bid other guests for a selected piece of art.

Last year’s Timeraiser helped raise more than 4,000 volunteer hours for the nearly 30 nonprofits in attendance. This year’s event, the 7th Edmonton Timeraiser, is on track to be just as successful and will feature 20 nonprofits from a variety of sectors.

Nonprofit selections will be 50% curated by Edmonton Timerasier and 50% selected by jury. The jury will consist of individuals that are involved in Edmonton’s nonprofit and volunteer communities.

The 2015 Edmonton Timeraiser will take place Thursday, November 5, 2015 in the lobby of the new EPCOR Tower. This volunteer fair and silent art auction will also feature music and entertainment from local performers and culinary delights to fuel the fun.

Calls for nonprofit applications close on Monday, September 14, 2015.

Apply today and let Timeraiser help you build your volunteer force!


Interested in Timeraiser’s approach to volunteer recruitment and want to learn more? Read the previous Volunteer Alberta blog on Sam’s experience with Timeraiser Edmonton.

Not in Edmonton? Learn more about Timeraiser Calgary and Timeraiser Wood Buffalo.

Is the New Era Already Here?

FutureThe emergence of a new era is arriving in the form what some are calling the “fourth sector”.

Entrepreneurs, driven by a desire to contribute to the social good, are ushering in the arrival of this era by developing sustainable, social purpose business models or as referred to in the Harvard Business Review, For-Benefit Enterprises. Meanwhile, the boundaries between government, business/corporate, and nonprofit/social sectors are blurring and organizations are combining business approaches with social good with more frequency.

So, what about those of us working inside the other three sectors?

You may be hearing more and more talk of social responsibility, collaboration, and collective impact. Maybe you are actively working on community development as part of your day-to-day business. Maybe you are working to sustain your finances through developing your nonprofit into a social enterprise. Maybe you are looking at new ways to deliver traditional services, hoping to reach broader audiences and create more meaning.

Maybe you are ready to move from discussion to action and step into that new era.

That’s how we’ve been feeling about our work here at Volunteer Alberta. Our practice has always been to monitor trends, absorb research, and share links to emerging thought leadership with our membership. Our desire to move forward has motivated us to surround ourselves with people and organizations who are on their way or already there.

It’s why we decided to create interCHANGE, an event designed to assemble Albertans around really big ideas. We’ll start by gaining a common understanding of recent shifts in organizational behavior across the three traditional sectors. With a shared contextual understanding of the blurring lines between the sectors we will explore the community systems we live within and begin to find relationships and shared solutions that will help us all move forward.

interCHANGE is inspired by our vision to see Albertans come together for the common good. Working to create vibrant communities is complex work and involves people contributing across all sectors. While we are focused on promoting volunteerism and serving the nonprofit sector, we know that in order to build a strong, engaged, and connected society, we need to work across sectors, better together.

Around our office we’ve begun to regularly ask the question ‘who else needs to be here?’ Maybe you do.

If you are ready to step into the new era, please register to join us in Edmonton, Alberta on September 24th, 2015.

Katherine Topolniski
Volunteer Alberta

Rebranding: Hard work. Big results.

Guest Post from The Met Agency 


The Met Agency Advertising and Design Studio has had the opportunity to work with some pretty remarkable people in equally remarkable companies. From helping launch the Jiffy Lube oil change chain in Canada to helping redefine human service organizations like Terra Centre or Compass Centre for Sexual Wellness, each project inspired us to do great work.

jiffy

terra

compass

When our friends at Volunteer Alberta approached us to help in their rebranding journey we were quick to jump on board. We had experience working on the Serving Communities Internship Program (SCiP) branding as well as other VA work over the years.

SCiP

Rebranding is a bit like a trip to the psychiatrist. There are lots of questions to ask and a lot of listening. There are issues that get uncovered and what seems like insurmountable problems dealt with. And there is always some level of intervention in the process. It’s why I love what I do—helping organizations make sense of what they do and how they do it.

the met icons

With Volunteer Alberta, our agency used our Brand Story process to help identify where they came from, what makes them unique, their personality and what they were willing to fight for above all else. In this process there is always some level of chaos, frustration and unrest. That is what happens when you go through therapy. You unload. It’s healthy.

By their own admission, Volunteer Alberta had issues. Many of these issues were uncovered in the Brand Story process, which is surprisingly fun and interactive. Everyone is safe to share the good and the bad, uncovering the things that hold them back, and helping to reshape what they aspire to be.

Then the tough part happens. Organizations have to live their brand.

Cultural rejuvenation is a powerful piece to the process. By helping organizations like Volunteer Alberta engage their team and their clients, they can now communicate with certainty. They can execute the elevator speech without thinking. And they are all heading in the same exciting direction. After all, branding is managing communications at every touch point. So we need every touch point to be on the same page.

Rebranding is hard work. No doubt.

But it is worth it.

 

In our next blog we will discuss the development of the Volunteer Alberta identity/logo and process behind rebranding visually. Watch for it next month!

James Morrissey is the principal of The Met Agency, a full service advertising and design studio in Edmonton.
Visit: www.themetagency.com
Contact: morrissey@themetagency.com

Not-for-profit Web Consulting & Digital Marketing by Adster Creative