Last March when United Way launched its conversation series, Faces of Poverty, our goal was to have an open and honest discussion about how living in poverty impacts the lives of individuals and families in our community. And while we weren’t sure where the conversation would take us, we felt a sense of responsibility as one of the largest funders of social service programs in the Twin Cities whose very mission is to build pathways out of poverty, to lead by example. Read the rest of this entry →
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The hard conversations are the ones worth having
There are some things we’d rather not talk about. Politics, race and religion are almost always off-limits. Approaching any one of these hotbed issues, even with the best of intentions, is a risky proposition. With a failing economy and eroding confidence in our government, is poverty yet another conversation we’d just as soon avoid?
As the online facilitator of United Way’s Faces of Poverty conversations, I continually ask myself if it’s possible to really engage the community in an unflinching look at poverty that elicits candor rather than apathy. Eager for fresh perspectives and ideas, having a dialogue of substance, particularly in a digital space, is a challenging proposition. But I remain convinced that it’s a vital conversation for our community and country.
Dubbed the ”poverty tour,” radio and television talk show host, Tavis Smiley, and Cornel West, professor of African American studies at Princeton University, took their anti-poverty message on the road to 18 American cities while promoting their book, The Rich and the Rest of Us. At the heart of their message is a plea for America to start talking about the plight of the poor.
Grant furthers Dayton Administration’s commitment toward providing
quality early learning opportunities for all youth
With half of Minnesota’s youth entering kindergarten unprepared, the State took a large step forward today to ensure all young children will have access to high quality early learning. At an event at the White House, Secretary of Education Arne Duncan and Secretary of Health and Human Services Kathleen Sebelius announced that Minnesota has won a federal Race to the Top Early Learning Challenge grant to advance early education efforts. READ MORE
Leadership for Collective Impact
Friday, November 4; Noon – 1 p.m.
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This is the first of two blogs exploring Collective Impact from the perspective of Dana Mortensen, Co-Founder/Executive Director, World Savvy: Think Beyond Your Borders, who attended United Front 2011. Part II will be posted here on United Front November 17.
At United Way’s annual conference, United Front 2011, I had the opportunity to immerse myself in contemplating the conference theme, Collective Impact. As an individual nonprofit leader focused intently on scaling the impact of my organization’s work, I welcome chances like these to get a fresh perspective on the bigger picture, the larger ecosystem that my work is a part of.
An impressive call to action from Mark Kramer began the day, when he encouraged conference participants to think beyond our individual approaches to solving entrenched societal problems. He pointed out, quite logically, that no single organization is capable of ‘solving’ big problems like health care, or education reform, and that the way forward is to come together under the banner of collective impact. Embracing a collective impact model requires organizations to abandon their agendas in favor of the same goals, specifically common agendas and measurement, and a commitment to tackle problems together. This model, he contends, depends on continuous communication and a backbone of strong leadership–a known and respected individual or entity that yields considerable influence in the community. He shared cases studies, including Cincinnati’s Strive initiative which is tackling quality education, as evidence of the power of collective action to make an impact. Read the rest of this entry →
Minnesota has submitted its application for the federal Race to the Top-Early Learning Challenge (RTT-ELC) grant. The application outlines a plan to close the persistent opportunity gap plaguing our state’s most high-risk children and families. The development of the plan was truly a collaborative effort between the Minnesota Departments of Education, Human Services and Health and was supported by a team of highly-knowledgeable and passionate experts in early learning and development. Thank you to everyone who contributed to this tremendous effort. To review the complete application, please go to Minnesota Race to the Top Application page.
Karen Cadigan, Office of Early Learning
Barb Yates, Early Learning Council
Leadership for Collective Impact
Friday, November 4; Noon – 1 p.m.
At United Front 2011, keynote speaker Mark Kramer discussed the power and importance of broad, cross-sector coordination to drive large-scale systems change. These collective impact initiatives require leaders at all levels to develop and use “21st century” leadership skills in their work. Webinar participants will explore the alignment between the trends in leadership and the adaptive skills required for collective action, and have a chance to participate in a simple self-assessment. You will leave the webinar with an awareness of 21st century leadership skills and ideas for how to further develop your own leadership. Download the presentation.
Critical Times – Critical Board Questions Webinar
Thursday, November 17; Noon – 1 p.m.
If you missed the Critical Times – Critical Board Questions breakout at United Front 2011, no need to worry. A version of this session will be delivered via webinar by MAP’s director of strategic development services, Christie Hammes. This session is designed to help executive directors and board members frame the questions and discussions that can propel their organizations’ work. Participants will learn about practices and tools to create powerful boardroom conversations that can bring fresh understanding to complex situations. Download the presentation.
About the Facilitator
Christie Hammes, MAP‘s director of strategic development services has nurtured the development of organizations and their executives, board members, and other leaders as consultant, trainer, coach, and facilitator — first through her own consulting firm, The Milestone Group, and since 2000 as director of strategic development at MAP. From an earlier career in the corporate world to more recent work in nonprofits, government and business, Christie has honed her leadership and organization development skills from work in all three sectors.
A colleague of mine on the West Coast recently quipped that nonprofit boards of directors operate at “glacial” speed.” I knew what she was talking about. Many boards of directors (and their staff leaders) are stymied by how to make sense of the rapid changes in funding streams, client needs, and external factors that are threatening the very existence of many organizations. Many nonprofit board responses can be best described as “stalled out” or “deer in the headlights.”
Chait, Ryan, and Taylor created a framework that has helped boards of directors grapple with the toughest challenges of governance in a model they call “Governance as Leadership.” Their model puts forth that boards of directors operate in three essential modes: fiduciary, strategic, and generative. They argue that boards spend most of their time in either the fiduciary or strategic mode and that neither of these modes is likely to yield the “sense-making” or fresh perspectives needed to grapple with the most daunting challenges of the day. And “sense-making” is truly what we need more of.
In the generative mode of governance, nonprofit boards are invited to reframe the questions that their organizations should be asking to reveal fresh approaches. Mark Kramer, the keynote speaker at United Front 2011, posed a timely and provocative generative question. He asked, “How would Steve Jobs reinvent the nonprofit sector?” Indeed, Chait argues that leaders exercise their greatest power by framing the issues that need to be addressed. A question thinly veiled in the Governance as Leadership model is “why do we relegate our finest thinkers – our board members – to a strict diet of binary choices fed to boards by well-intentioned staffs?”
This shift in thinking about the premier contributions of good governance requires a different kind of conversation in the boardroom – one that involves curiosity, different points of view, and disagreement.
Read the rest of this entry →
New Data Reveals that Communities of Color are
Disproportionately Affected by the Downturn
A forum exploring strategies for increasing financial security and opportunity in the Twin Cities and statewide. Speakers will include Mayor Chris Coleman, State Rep. Morrie Lanning, St. Paul City Council Member Melvin Carter, Minneapolis City Council Member John Quincy, Commerce Commissioner Michael Rothman, and other state officials and national experts.
When: 8:30 to 11:30 a.m., Tuesday, October 18, 2011
Northwest Area Foundation
60 Plato Blvd East, Suite 400
St. Paul, MN (click here for directions)
See press release