Friday, September 11, 2009

Empowerment and Self-reliance: Building a Sustainable Congregational Learning Model

Empowerment and Self-reliance: Building a Sustainable Congregational Learning Model (A White Paper Forthcoming from Knowledge Communities)
Knowledge Communities worked with Congregation Beth Israel (Charlottesville, VA) to build the grassroots-lead community learning program called Shabbat Connections.

Naava Frank of Knowledge Communities collaborated with Congregation Beth Israel (CBI), the only congregation in Charlottesville (VA), to build their award winning Shabbat Connections Program (SC). The collaboration reaped numerous insights, new ways of working and a program that exceeded everyone’s expectations for two-years, supported by funding from the Legacy Heritage Foundation.

KC facilitated monthly phone calls with congregational staff, Rabbi Dan Alexander, Ms. Ellen Dietrick and Rabbi Tom Gutherz. Their words attest to the effectiveness of KC’s role in the program.

Rabbi Dan: Naava is a good listener and synthesizer and asks provocative questions. We valued the way Naava's questions created a different perspective for us, so we could get outside of ourselves. Sometimes the perspective she brought was philosophical and helped us get beyond the mechanical mode of how to get the program done. There was value to having a person outside that we had to explain things to. It helped us think it through and explain it to ourselves.

Rabbi Tom: A useful trick that we learned was to ask “What goal do you want to accomplish” as opposed to “How do we get things done?” Then we planned starting at the end and met our goals.

Ellen Dietrick: Naava really listened to us and joined with us, understood our perspective and worked with us. A lot of pieces were new, including focusing on questions, the reflective component, evaluation afterwards. These gave us new frameworks and tools. We often “use her lines” e.g. Naava would say ..

Look for the white paper in the upcoming weeks. Sign up at our website:

Monday, September 07, 2009

Incentives - Its a Whole New Ball Game

The recent McKinsey article about "How companies are benefiting from Web 2.0: McKinsey Global Survey Results notes the change in incentive structures for effective adoption.

"Many companies experiment with Web 2.0 technologies, but creating an environment with a critical mass of committed users is more difficult.3 The survey results confirm that successful adoption requires that the use of these tools be integrated into the flow of users’ work (Exhibit 5). Furthermore, encouraging continuing use requires approaches other than the traditional financial or performance incentives deployed as motivational tools. In the Web community, status is often built on a reputation for making meaningful contributions. Respondents say informal incentives incorporating the Web ethos, such as ratings by peers and online recognition of status, have been most effective in encouraging Web 2.0 adoption. They also say role modeling—active Web use by executives—has been important for encouraging adoption internally."

1. The kind of incentives that work are those that involve recognition rather financial incentives. In an era where time and attention are scarce resources, attention in the form of recognition is the highest accomplishment.

2. Peer ratings and online recognition require a community, network, or audience engaged with each other in an ongoing way in which one develops a reputation. The new incentives are contextual and connected as opposed to financial incentives which have often (though not always) rewarded individual accomplishment. The new incentives are usually less concrete and more intangible, collectively awarded as opposed to managed by those holding the most power and more individualized as opposed to standardized.

3. Role modeling requires a leader to "be the change you want to see."

What are the implication for leadership of this new "incentive" system? Is "incentive" the appropriate word or is this something different? I think that the new system values new leadership skills and values -- listening, integrity, ego contraction and an awareness of your interconnectivity with others. What do you think?

Tuesday, September 01, 2009

Is Branding Dead:

Thank you Jeff Brooks, creative director at Merkle, for his blog post - Is Branding Dead

And Gary Wexler from for his post to the Chronicle of Philanthropy about Jeff's Blog. (cited below)

"As soon as a client calls me and says,“We need to brand,” I know I have a potential client who has no clue what marketing is about. Branding has become the term de jour. Particularly in the nonprofit sector, branding is irrelevant. Nonprofit clients don’t need marketing to brand; they need marketing to help create three results—fundraising, advocacy, participation. That takes a lot more critical thinking, change and internal collaboration than branding. They say “branding”—-you better head for the hills. '

Although some disagree with Jeff and Gary I support their perspective. It is less important to focus on branding than it is on engaging your constituents and stakeholders in an authentic way. I thank Gary for calling us to focus on the core issues we need as non-profits (or as Hildy Gottlieb calls them - Community Benefit Organizations).

Facilitators of Communities of Practice are constantly refining their skills for authentically engaging stakeholders, advocating for their communities and stimulating participation. So lets substitute the word Branding with "Community Building." And next time you meet someone who tells you they are a 'community builder' stop and listen - you may have a lot to learn!