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There are No More Silver Bullets

To understand and address 21st century challenges, we have to become familiar with complexity, systems thinking, and resiliency.

There are no shortage of tools, resources, and information available to guide and support our capacity to tackle these challenges. At interCHANGE 2015, Mark Cabaj outlined the approach leaders need to implement when embarking on challenging, complex work.

MeetingTo start, we must move away from leadership that relies on a “born with it” attitude, to leadership attitudes oriented toward developing the capacities and capabilities of others to support authentic responses to 21st century challenges. For example, developing a leadership capacity for situational awareness or “knowing what’s going on around you”.

Leaders who increase their situational awareness are able to effectively identify issues as simple, complicated, political, complex, or chaotic. The capacity to differentiate between these types of issues begins to orientate leaders and teams towards appropriate responses. Issues that are often the hardest to shift (i.e. poverty, hunger, inequality, community resilience, sustainability, etc.) always fall in the complex category and these types of challenges require leadership capacity to engage in adaptive responses.

Adaptive responses are participatory, systemic, and experimental in nature:

  • Participatory responses engage multiple stakeholders and build broad-scale ownership and action. They are about gathering a wide sense of the multiple facets that make up a complex challenge and understanding the issue from multiple perspectives. Participatory approaches are inclusive, and stakeholders are instrumental in defining the problem and shaping the solutions.
  • Systemic responses begin by understanding a complex challenge by exposing the roots. They recognize the challenge has many interconnected factors and interventions in one area of the challenge will likely result in unanticipated outcomes in another area of the system.
  • Experimental responses aim to learn by doing and iterations (trial and error). The strategy or plan emerges over time as lessons are learned and new approaches are developed. Experimental responses are flexible and shift along with the context they are a part of.
    Adaptive responses move conversations away from silver bullet or cookie cutter solutions and into a new space where unpredictability is embraced, root causes and connections are explored, and diversity of perspective, knowledge, and experience is necessary.

For more information and resources on adaptive responses, check out the interCHANGE 2015 resources page.

Guest Blog: How to get to WOW – Exploring the Volunteer Alberta identity

Guest Post from The Met Agency 


 

The 86-year-old design legend Milton Glaser, creator of the identity below, once said, “There are three responses to a piece of design – yes, no, and WOW! Wow is the one to aim for.”

NY logo

The big question is, how do you get to wow?

When The Met Agency approached the challenge of the Volunteer Alberta identity, it was after an extensive research project where we learned many things about the organization, uncovered some fascinating insights, and helped guide the VA of the future.

One thing stood out. In order for Volunteer Alberta to be successful, they must be at the forefront of change. They need to be branded as visionaries.

What was required was a visual identity that reflects VA’s renewed reality as a future focused, vibrant nerve centre of information and resources—an organization with a core purpose to help other organizations build strong and engaged communities of the future.

The Met Agency follows a four-step identity process that identifies the vision of an organization, helps articulate it in a roadmap, develops creative concepts, then executes the final concepts in the form of logos, stationery, and a brand book. Want to see an excerpt from the new Volunteer Alberta Brand Book? Download it here.

VA

The VA identity was created using a single continuous line, the letters V and A are connected providing a sleek and modern look.

VA long

And the logo can expand to create a ripple effect that is symbolic of the VA influence on the organizations they serve. It’s about the future, and the role of VA as connector and influencer.

It is about wow.

Read more about the rebrand by visiting our website

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

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

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