Saturday, January 30, 2010

Becoming an individual - and organizational - change agent

What does it take to be a community change agent, as an individual or organization?

I’ve been immersed in the question of community change since the moment I landed in Tucson for the Community-Driven Institute’s intensive consulting course. But it’s very familiar concept for me – and a centerpiece of my nonprofit life for the last 26+ years.

Delivering needed community services is a vital role. It saves and enhances lives. But service delivery is only half of the process. For many of us, and for many of our organizations, changing the environment is the larger purpose. If we are driven by a vision of a community where everyone is healthy and able to reach his/her full potential, change is essential.

This week, as I was pondering my individual change agent role, a post from Third Sector Connector caught my eye. This post, Laura Deaton's "17 Hallmarks of Community Change Agents" sparked thinking about existing strengths - in myself and in many of Laramie's social service agencies - and where there is room to move toward greater effectiveness and power.

Do you recognize your nonprofit somewhere in Laura's hallmarks? Do you recognize your board's strengths? Do you see yourself and your specific contributions to changing our community?

I do see myself, in ways that made sense before I went to Tuscon for my CDI immersion and with new clarity that that experience has created.

I already saw myself in #15, fostering a learning culture. I've long seen the potential in applying my expertise in adult learning to facilitate spaces where Laramie's nonprofit boards can explore and expand their understanding and appreciation for their unique responsibilities. That relates closely to my potential to support the kind of professional development, mentoring and coaching opportunities that Deaton describes in hallmark 16.

Today, I know that I can support new ways to engage community stakeholders, to facilitate the external focus of hallmark 13 and movement toward a shared vision of greatness for Laramie. I understand the value of asking the right questions (hallmark 8) and, thanks to my CDI mentors and peers, I have a better sense of what those questions are and how to facilitate discussions that lead to better decisions for our community.

Most of all, I am anxious - and better prepared - to play a role in building an environment of nonprofit inquisitiveness (hallmark 7), where we can tap the incredible, creative minds of those who lead our nonprofit community to create something wonderful for our citizens.

What change agent strengths can you contribute to create a stronger, more vibrant Albany County?


Laur Deaton said...

Debra - So glad to have helped inspire this reflection.

Laura (@3rdSect)

Debra said...

What a great gift to the nonprofit sector that was, Laura. I learn something new from everything you post and share on Twitter. That particular piece really resonated, for a range of reasons. timing could not have been more perfect, both for me personally and for the local boards initiative we're launching soon in our community. Thanks!