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Archive for the ‘Leadership’ Category

cross posted on my new blog: Service Driven

This service-oriented road trip, Service Driven, has been in the our minds for about a year, but a new twist was added just over a month ago.  On the IBM Service Jam in October, one of the participants mentioned that StartingBloc was a really successful new program for young social innovators.  Having never heard of it before, I checked it out and was impressed by the people associated with it and their stories of social change.  I applied, and two weeks ago I found out that I was accepted!

Learn more about StartingBloc from this Fast Company article, or by watching this 2 minute clip:

So now I will be spending the middle of February in Los Angeles, surrounded by 109 other young people who are just as energized about making a difference and having an impact as I am!  I am hopeful that it will be the perfect precursor to our adventure.

If you would like to support me in attending the Social Innovation institute, you can sponsor me HERE.  This would also be a great alternative this year to Christmas or birthday presents since we are downsizing in anticipation of our trip.

To support StartingBloc in offering more scholarships for 2011 Fellows, vote for them in the Pepsi Refresh Challenge HERE.

 

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Lately I have been stuck on the question of what it really means to be a contributing member of society.  How do you improve a community?  What can an individual do that actually has a big impact, not only today, but in the long term?

As an individual volunteer, volunteering as part of an established program, you have the opportunity to make a difference in someone’s life.  However, a community could not exist on volunteers in volunteer programs alone.  What is the role of business leaders?  What about elected officials?  What about people who save their money, buy a house, have kids, and put a real effort into raising their kids well and paying their bills on time?

Is there one particular role or action that has the potential for great impact?  I am starting to think that the small business owner who fills an actual business need and creates a sustainable operation which pays a living wage and provides health benefits to employees is our winner.  If we had more people like that, we wouldn’t need so many social services programs.

I was listening to a program on NPR the other day about a town in the West that had been booming until the Recession hit.  They mentioned that the Starbucks had closed down in town and nothing had taken its place.  In the same story they mentioned that the fancy locally-owned Italian restaurant in town was now offering $9.99 all you can eat pasta specials.  What I took from that story was that the local restaurateur adapted and did what he/she needed to do to stay in business and continue to operate.  He/She may have had to cut hours or even let a few people go, but they wer still in business.  Starbucks employees on the other hand were out of luck.  Perhaps if there had been more local business owners in the town, there would have been fewer job losses?

What do you think?  Who adds wealth to the community?  What roles or people are important for strong communities?

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One of the hallmarks and nightmares of the ODKM program, is our use of a research process and paper we call the “PRAE”.  From the perspective of the grad student that is forced to write these papers, PRAE is a four letter word that elicits fear and anguish.  However, when I was at our Learning Community on Sunday and had a moment of enlightenment, I realized that when I have finished grad school, I will be grateful for all of the practice of what is really experiential learning.

The PRAE is based on David Kolb’s work on experiential learning.  The idea is that you can work through a cycle to take your “concrete experience” (what happened at work for example), reflect on it, conduct research based on the questions that arise, and then create an action plan for testing your new insights.  In this way of thinking about self study, your experiences in life are always potential for a learning cycle.  At the same time, your actions are really experiments in life, which, if you choose to reflect on, you can learn from.

Experiential Learning Cycle

When I am done with grad school (wow it sounds great to say that), I will continue trying new things, asking “what” questions, reading, being curious, and making choices about how to act in a given situation.  Now, when I leave a meeting thinking, “how did that go so wrong?”, I realize that I have the skills and technique to actually pursue an answer and enter the next meeting more aware.  Maybe there is something to this whole school thing…  now if someone could please remind me of that when I have 3 PRAEs due this semester, I would appreciate it.

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Back to follow up from the National Conference on Volunteering and Service for a moment….

Besides the professional volunteer managers and national service members, there were for profit companies and celebrities at the conference.  As the service movement gains popularity, and volunteering is seen as cool, many companies and brands are looking to partner.  Last fall, the Entertainment Industry Foundation worked with individual celebrities as well as TV producers to promote service through their programming and PSAs.  In most cases these partnerships are win-win.  The celebrity or company gets good PR and the organization has greater visibility and may receive donations, volunteers, or free marketing.

At one of the first sessions that I went to, CauseCast showed this video from Ben Stiller:

This video and the type of civic activism that it represents is seen as a win for the service movement.  This model rests on the following assumptions:

Assumption: celebrities will be perceived as more trustworthy than the average joe and therefore a better spokesperson for your cause

Assumption: having a celebrity promote your cause will help your cause

Discussion / Reflection Questions:

Are those assumptions always correct?

Is Ben Stiller a volunteer leader?

Most volunteer policies say that you can not volunteer to do the same work that you do for pay.  For instance, a County social worker can not volunteer to screen homeless clients.  Ben Stiller is an actor and he is now acting on behalf of a cause.  Is he being paid?  By whom?

If he is not compensated are there labor law considerations?

Can you be paid or receiving material benefit and still be a volunteer leader?

Is the definition of volunteer leadership more about your actions, or about your intentions?

Is the concept of “being” the same as intentions?

Do celebrities who are promoting causes while also promoting their own brand muddy the waters of volunteerism or is this a great innovation in the social sector that changes the paradigm of giving?

That’s a lot of questions I know, but I have far more questions when it comes to this model of volunteer leadership than I have answers.  I would appreciate your insight or suggestions for other reading on this topic.

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At the National Conference on Volunteering and Service this morning, Beth Kanter and Allison Fine introduced a new model for volunteer leader engagement (though that is not how they referred to it).  Kanter and Fine, in their new book, The Networked Nonprofit, describe a new phenomenon that has accompanied the rise of social media.  They coin the term “free agent” to describe social media savvy and socially minded folks who raise awareness, money, support, or elicit action on behalf of a cause or organization which they support.  These free agents are able to mobilize their networks using free tools for causes they care about.

With the rise of social media, there are new ways of connecting to each other and new ways for individuals to demonstrate leadership.  Social media savvy, well connected folks can leverage their online networks to support a cause that they are passionate about.  Or, as in network weaving, individuals can play a critical role within their social network by connecting people and ideas to generate new partnerships and action towards social change.  In the first example, which Beth Kanter and Allison Fine refer to as “Free Agents”, the individual is often front and center.  He makes a commitment, speaks out about his cause, or even pledges to ride naked (almost!) in the DC area if his connections will follow him in his effort. (see video for a great example)

Most of the time the individual is moved to act, but may or may not have extensive knowledge of the cause or solution he is trying to help.  I see the growth of free agents as a push back against the professionalization of the service movement.

How do these free agents fit into the overall picture of the service movement?

Are free agents the volunteer leaders of the future?  How do nonprofits embrace free agents while also continuing to create more structured opportunities for volunteer leadership?

How does the connection someone has with their online networks affect their relationship to local in person networks?

References:

Network Weaving, http://www.networkweaver.blogspot.com/ June Holley

The Networked Nonproft, Beth Kanter & Allison Fine

The Networked Nonprofit session, National Conference on Volunteering and Service

Nonprofit Network Building, Case Foundation

The End of Nonprofits as we know it session, National Conference on Volunteering and Service

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In my Leadership class, a couple of my classmates presented on leadership in virtual work environments.  They showed the video below and one excerpt caught my attention … watch the first minute to see what I mean.

This IBM employee works virtually from the Fire station where he is a regular volunteer.  Genius!!  As more and more companies and government agencies go completely virtual, this may open up a whole host of possibilities for volunteers.  In fact, one concern I have heard of potential virtual workers is that they would prefer to have an office setting or be around other people when they work.  What if a small nonprofit could supply the desk space in exchange for a regular commitment of volunteer time.  This could be a very symbiotic relationship.

One example… an IBM employee that has great technical knowledge works from the offices of a small nonprofit in exchange for “on call” hours in which they make themselves available for technical assistance or training.  As long as the employee is doing project based work that is very flexible, it should work out well.

What do you think?  Could you envision scenarios in which a virtual worker could volunteer in a new way?

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Community Volunteer Network LogoTomorrow night, Community Volunteer Network will be celebrating another great year of volunteer engagement and community building.  The social committee has put together a fabulous event at Hard Times Cafe to recognize past, current, and future volunteers.  I want to use this space to give a shout out to the volunteer leaders for CVN who put so much passion and time in fulfilling CVN’s mission.

On this occasion a special thank you goes out to Kelly Corbally, the Social Chair for 2010.  Under Kelly’s direction the social committee has tried new things like the CVN Kicks Grass kickball team.  The social component of CVN is vital to its success and Kelly brings new ideas, organization, and calm to the position.  Joining her are Lisa Dorsey and Sara Abramson.  I really appreciate that Lisa was able to transition from a chair role last year to being in charge of the Monthly Meetups this year.  It is challenging as a volunteer to be open about the level and ways in which you are willing to commit to an organization / cause.  In Lisa’s case, I think this has worked out beautifully.  I appreciate that Sara has stayed involved with CVN with gradually increasing responsibilities since I have been the Liaison.  She has many different talents and interests and has done equally well as being an activity leader and the new Committee of 100 liaison.

In addition, our new Chair of CVN, Tiffany Kudravetz has been a great asset to the social committee in preparing for this celebration.  Her enthusiasm and contagious optimism are fantastic!

If you would like to know more about the celebration, here are the details below from Tiffany, quoted from CVN’s blog: http://arlingtoncvn.blogspot.com

By now, you’ve probably heard about our upcoming Summer Celebration and you may be wondering what it’s all about. Well, it’s a little like our regular monthly meet-up because we’ll be getting together at a local restaurant to get to know each other, sign up for events, and learn more about CVN.   However, the Summer Celebration is actually so much more than our regular gatherings because it celebrates the many accomplishments of our volunteers over the past year — and that’s where you come in! Whether you volunteer every weekend, once in a while, or are just starting out, we hope you’ll join in the fun.

In case you’re not yet convinced, here are the top five reasons to attend:

5. There will be plenty of free food (including vegetarian options) and sodas.

4. There will be door prizes, including gift certificates to local restaurants!

3. You can hear from an awesome local leader, Courtney Reeve, who is Executive Director of the Greenbrier Learning Center in Arlington. She’ll share how the work of volunteers like us makes a huge impact in the community.

2. We’ll present awards to our All-Star MVPs who have made extraordinary contributions to CVN over the past year.

1. We’d be nothing without our volunteers and this event is for YOU! Please let us thank you in person.

Now that you’re convinced, here are the details:

Tuesday, July 13th, 2010

6:30 – 9:30 p.m. (formal program starts at 7 p.m.)

Hard Times Cafe, across from Clarendon Metro

Facebook invite: http://www.facebook.com/event.php?eid=134810513212326

We hope to see you there!

Tiffany

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