Three Intentions to Set for Your Collaborative Work - Bob Woodruff Foundation

Three Intentions to Set for Your Collaborative Work

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As of November 1, 2020, National Veterans Intermediary (NVI) is called the Local Partner Network. Older content may reference our original name.

If you’re into New Year’s resolutions, you probably set some a couple of months back. (And if you’re like me, you’ve long since broken them with the help of Netflix and Super Bowl treats.) It’s not too late to set a few intentions to make this your collaborative’s most productive year yet. Here are a few ideas:

1. Make time for professional development

Whether your collaborative work is your full-time job, an additional duty, or volunteer passion project, there are certain skills required to lead in the collaborative environment. Systems thinking, communication, dealing with uncertainty, facilitating inclusive discussions, and managing asynchronous work are just some of the skills collaborative leaders can improve with professional development and practice.

If you can prioritize the time and funds to attend workshops, conference, or courses, that’s awesome. If you can’t, NVI offers our local partners free shared learning opportunities in the form of webinars and web convenings (and scholarships to partner events a few times a year). To get started on choosing the right programs and events for you, visit our calendar page to find some upcoming offerings. We’re especially excited about a portfolio of special classes NVI will offer free of charge, online, that will help our local partner collaboratives expand their knowledge of and capacity for collective impact. Stay tuned for an announcement in the next month!

But let’s face it: You’re busy. Your commitment to professional development practice doesn’t always mean you can take an hour here and there, and doesn’t have to mean a week away from your desk (although there are palpable benefits to attending conferences and courses in-residence). Professional development can also mean squeezing in a little reading, listening during your commute, self-paced courses, or even watching a talk during your lunch break.

Some tips to help you follow through:

  • Prioritize one or two skills at a time, then pick courses and content focused to those areas. You’ll make more headway and have an easier time implementing change and seeing your growth if you’re not spreading yourself too thin.
  • Plan to apply what you learn, so that your learning doesn’t remain in the theoretical realm. Choose a takeaway from each reading, video, podcast, or class, and commit to practice it during your next meeting.
  • Build a braintrust and use it for accountability. Whether it’s a buddy or two from your collaborative, or collaborative leaders from another NVI local partner.

2. Keep your organization up to speed on your collaborative work

For people who aren’t full-time backbone organization employees, the amount of time devoted to your collaborative work varies vastly. Some people may have participateing in collaboratives as part of their job description. Other people may have to fight for the time away from their desks to participate. Whatever your situation, it can benefit both your organization and your collaborative for you to share what you’re doing with  the other stakeholders. collaborative.

After you attend a collaborative meeting or event, make sure to debrief your work team on anything new. A quick one- or two- minute digest at your staff or team meeting can keep your organization in the know about both the progress and outstanding needs of your collaborative.

If you have the support and interest of the team, a next-level way to keep them looped in is to ask before meetings and events if there’s anything you should share. Maybe your organization is opening up corporate giving, is looking to volunteer as a staff outing, or needs to outreach clients for a new program outside your purview. Keeping up this loop of communication takes a little bit of planning and a smidge more energy, but the payoff for both your organization and your collaborative can be worthwhile.

3. Perfect your elevator speech

To make the greatest impact, your collaborative needs community support. But how can they support your work when they don’t understand it…or don’t even know it exists? It’s a little tough (okay, impossible) to describe collective impact in 30 seconds, so focus specifically on your collaborative’s work. Keep it positive (you know the brokenness or inefficiencies of the systems you’re working to fix, and the competition that sometimes prevents working together, but those topics weigh down your message). Here are some notes to work in:

Your collaborative’s name. This sounds obvious, but it will be key to people finding out more later if they’re interested.

Hi, I’m Rhi. I’m an Air Force veteran and a member of the Maine Military and Community Network.

Start with the people you serve, whether it’s veterans, service members, families, caregivers, survivors, or some combination of those groups. People are more likely to be moved by the impacts of your work in their lives than the details of how it happens.

Maine has a high population of veterans, and our guardsmen and women are regularly deployed. For the past 10 years, MMCN has been collaborating to support Maine’s servicemembers and veterans. We find that, by coordinating our efforts to serve them, we’re able to have a much greater impact in the lives of veterans and military families than when we work separately.

Emphasize the representation of all sectors–and the communities you serve–in your work. Savvy donors and funders like to see buy-in from stakeholders, and cross-sector stakeholders are even more compelling.

The great thing about MMCN is that we’ve got representation from veterans service organizations, nonprofits, healthcare, the business community, education, government and most importantly, lots of veterans. The variety is the key; without it, we wouldn’t be able to do things like host Maine’s largest veterans conference where we offer continuing education credits on veteran-focused topics for service providers, veterans, and community members.

End with a call to action tailored to the audience. What can they do to help? Should they follow you on Facebook? Can they come to a meeting? Are you looking for volunteers for an upcoming event? Make sure the call to action is appropriate given how “warm” the audience is.

Our local chapter meets at USM if you’d like to join us next time. Our next quarterly meeting is February 19th at 2:00!