Friday, March 12, 2010

Albany County Boards Initiative: My vision

Today, I am pleased to announce a major step toward the community boards initiative that I have long had and began to articulate here in November.

If you've been reading this blog for awhile, you may recall an entry I posted from the Cleveland airport in November, describing my desire to explore ways to support Laramie's nonprofits and their boards.

This was not a new dream for me. What was new was the support expressed in response to my post. By the time my plane landed in Laramie, the Facebook version of that post had attracted responses from friends who saw value in my proposal and offered to help move that vision forward. Within a couple of weeks, the seeds of Albany County Boards Initiative were planted.

The first step toward building local board capacity and community begins on March 23, at a networking event. "Greater than the Sum of Our Parts: Strengthening Nonprofits in Albany County" is a chance for our local boards to meet, share stories, identify common strengths and concerns, and begin to create a vision of what is possible when our nonprofits and the leaders that govern them have the support that they need and the opportunities to collaborate. The details:

March 23, 6:30-8 p.m.
Horse Barn Theatre, Wyoming Territorial Prison State Historic Site
Free and open to all Albany County board members
RSVP appreciated, not required, to albanycobds @ gmail.com.

Ultimately, whatever emerges must be the vision that participants create for themselves. But I'd like to share the starting point that I developed as I began envisioning what was possible. This is how I articulated that foundation (with significant support and inspiration from my classmates at the January Community-Driven Institute intensive consulting course):

Vision: Our vision is a community where residents are able to reach their full potential.

Mission: Our vision is a community where residents are able to reach their full potential. To bring that vision into reality, we create opportunities for building nonprofit leadership through active, vibrant, engaged boards.

Values: To guide our programming and decision making the Laramie Boards Initiative holds the following values:

  • We will be accessible to all who share an interest in the health of our nonprofits.
  • We will reflect the learning and community building needs of participants.
  • We will respect the diversity of our nonprofits and the boards that govern them.
  • We will be participant driven.
  • We will draw upon the talents, passions and experiences of participants.
  • We will enhance the quality of life in Laramie, through a strengthened nonprofit sector.

What might that look like, practically? Again, any activity that develops should come from expressed board member needs. But I do have ideas. Some possibilities that I might offer up as the group begins to envision what is possible in our community:
  • Regular face-to-face events focusing on networking and learning.
  • Formal learning opportunities, such as workshops on common governance concerns (e.g., accountability, board member responsibilities, community outreach, boards as community leaders).
  • An online resource where Laramie boards can go to share resources, ask for advice, discuss concerns, network, and engage in social learning.
  • A governance book club and other opportunities to form study groups that foster informal learning and exchange of ideas.
  • Ongoing conversations (face to face and online) that inspire a common vision of a strong, vibrant, caring community with leadership from our local nonprofit sector.
  • Promote board service as community leadership - engage new pools of potential board members, educate them about the rewards and responsibilities, and help to link them to the right service opportunities.
  • Create a mentoring program, matching new board members and veterans (perhaps across boards, to encourage connections) to help the former launch successful governance experiences.

That's my vision going into our March 23 conversation. What is your vision of what is possible in Albany County when our boards are supported and recognized as community leaders? Share your thoughts here. Better yet, join us on March 23 and help launch an amazing collaboration to make that vision happen.

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