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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.

 

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

Working together to co-create a better future

tm-tm  photo on flickrThis September, Volunteer Alberta is hosting interCHANGE, a multi-sector event bringing together leaders from all sectors – government, business, nonprofit, and community – to collectively make a positive impact in Alberta communities.

We know collaborating is difficult. We know working together poses challenges. We also know that our communities are complex, and that we are all invested in their health and vitality. We originally published the following blog July 23, 2014 on the scope of what collaboration can achieve – and why it is so important that the nonprofit sector leads the way:

There has been a recent development in the world of electric cars that’s got me thinking about strengths and opportunities in the nonprofit/voluntary sector (NPVS). On June 12, 2014 Elon Musk, the CEO of Tesla, announced that the company “will not initiate patent lawsuits against anyone who, in good faith, wants to use our technology.”[i] Essentially Tesla released their patents for others to use, for me the questions are why and what is the broader lesson for us in the NPVS? One of the reasons cited as to why Musk chose to do this is that, due to the increased pace of technological innovation, there is a new challenge for innovators where the highest hurdle innovative organizations often face is no longer the theft of their ideas, but rather the development of new markets for those ideas to flourish[ii]. Tesla seems to be indicating that in order to move to electric car based transportation, we need to create the infrastructure and technology to support that market. In other words, Musk is basically saying is “the old system isn’t working, creating a new way of life is a big challenge, too big for one company/person to solve so let’s work together to co-create a better future.”  For me it is from this mindset that I see the connection to the NPVS and why I believe the sector is increasingly well positioned to be a strong voice and essential contributor in the emerging economy.

It seems to me that the NPVS is increasingly stating that the “challenge is bigger than me” (whatever that “challenge” may be) and is continually moving to a place where co-owning and sharing the burden of the challenge is the norm. There is the growing realisation that the challenges our communities face and the resources to sustain the fundamental structures of a resilient society are bigger than one organization, one program, one person, one sector. In fact with the NPVS, everywhere I turn collaboration is the word/approach mentioned as the way forward. We are all increasing familiar and participate in collective impact initiatives, social labs, cross-sector collaborations and partnerships, to mention a few. Although the constant barrage of these collaborative opportunities could make us weary and/or sceptical, there is growing evidence demonstrating that the NPVS is achieving measurable impact through collaboration.[iii] It is this collaborative mindset, the sharing of ideas/approaches, the scaling out and up of social innovation, which is the emerging economic model in the 21st century.  The sharing/collaborative economy is growing and turning the “traditional” economic and social systems on their heads in small but increasing pockets of our society.[iv]

I see Tesla and Elon Musk’s releasing of patents as a further indication that the collaborative/sharing economy has significant momentum. Now is the time for the sharing of ideas across and within sectors and the co-ownership and co-creation of innovative solutions (social and technological) for addressing large systemic challenges. The NPVS is an early adopter of this emerging model as we have an intrinsic understanding that the most effective approaches need to be shared, reused, and improved to have the most transformative impact. Let’s continue to share with each other and further overcome our need to act in a proprietary manner especially when we know that challenges we are trying to solve require constant innovation and the efforts of many.

[i] http://www.teslamotors.com/blog/all-our-patent-are-belong-you (July 23, 2014)
[ii] http://www.forbes.com/sites/realspin/2014/07/17/rethinking-patent-enforcement-tesla-did-what/ (July 23, 2014)
[iii] http://www.fsg.org/KnowledgeExchange/FSGApproach/CollectiveImpact.aspx (July 23, 2014)
[iv] http://www.web-strategist.com/blog/category/collaborative-economy/ (July 23, 2014)

Annand Ollivierre
Volunteer Alberta

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