Sunday, March 21, 2010

Community focus

As I've continued to ponder the possible with this week's launch of the Albany County Boards Initiative, a wise and wonderful friend from Canada shared a bit of inspiration that has helped to expand and deepen that vision.

The blog post that Gayle shared, written in 2008 by Rich Harwood of the Harwood Institute, offered "10 keys to living united in America." They offer a worthy framework for any community-level effort - including our boards initiative.

While one can find merit and links to the initiative in each of the 10 "keys," four are resonating deeply for me right now.

Rooting the work in "public knowledge of our community" (key 2). Whatever might emerge from this broader boards effort must begin and end with a vision of a healthy, vibrant community where citizens are free to live to their fullest potential. Anything that comes from this initiative needs to bring us closer to that community-focused vision.

Building around "galvanizing projects" (key 4). Our board members are action-oriented people. We need to identify projects that will be simultaneously meaningful to our community, our nonprofits, and individual board member participants. Advancing a healthy community vision is the bottom line. But there should be very real value experienced in connecting to create something bigger than ourselves or our individual organizations.

Recognize and draw upon board members' boundary-spanning role (key 3). Reaching out on behalf of our organization is a critically important board responsibility that often gets lost in the shuffle of "urgent" agenda items. However, it may be the most important role for not only organizational leadership but also community leadership. It also is where a community-wide board initiative can have the greatest potential impact: reaching across organizational boundaries to advance the health and welfare of our community. It a place to model, and appreciate, the boundary-spanning role of governance and what it creates for our organizations and our community.

Telling and creating "stories of hope and change" (key 9). Finding the stories is only half of the equation. Learning from them completes the circle. There is community value in sharing our organizational stories, learning from from each other's successes and the ways in which we overcame obstacles. There also is value in finding connections between the stories shared across organizational lines.

But think of the generative power of creating new stories of hope and change while we work together for community good. Think of the stories we could tell as a community - of doors opened, citizens engaged, collaborations created, relationships built, services enhanced - as a community of committed board leaders.

Only time will tell how the Albany County Boards Initiative moves forward and how our community will be better because it did. On Tuesday, that potential becomes more real, and the vision of what can be possible brighter and more vivid. Entering that process with a clearer understanding of where the greatest impact might lie creates a canvas from which great things can happen for Laramie and the organizations that exist to make it a better place to live.

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