Policy Insights – Tech Competitiveness Requires Tech Access For Everyone

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Through a number of policy measures the United States seeks to expand tech competitiveness. However the majority of our future workforce, middle, high school and college students,  lack tech access, meaningful tech education and face increasing tech-driven marginalization. 

Millions of students across the country live in what has been termed STEM deserts – school communities without access to rigorous and engaging math and science courses. Black, Latino, low-income students in urban centers and rural areas are most likely to live in STEM deserts. 

Lack of STEM access is a critical equity issue in education, particularly for students in urban and rural communities, where access to high-level math and science courses is often out of reach. A small percentage of schools across the country offer computer science instructors and well-equipped technology labs.

Soon, the impact of students living in STEM deserts will not only be reflected in those students’ high school and college competition rates, but will also take a toll on the country’s economic competitiveness technological leadership and national security.

 

Policy Insights 

The US Senate recently passed the US innovation and competition Act of 2021 a $250 billion bill focused on investments in the technology sector with the aim of bolstering the country’s global competitiveness in advanced technological development. The bill also provides directive for an overhaul of the National Science Foundation a federal agency that promotes and advances scientific research.   Though a quarter of trillion in US-backed tech investment is nothing to sneeze at, China’s  investments far exceeds that of the US. China has a massive plan to surpass the US as a premier tech producer 2050. According to an analysis by the FBI, China allocated 15 percent of its gross domestic product on improving human resources from 2008 to 2020. China has already exceeded many strategic priorities for recruitment in foreign talent and state-backed venture capital investments. Comparatively the US innovation and competition Act of 2021  is a drop in the bucket representing a little over 1% of US GDP. https://www.hsgac.senate.gov/imo/media/doc/2019-11-18%20PSI%20Staff%20Report%20-%20China’s%20Talent%20Recruitment%20Plans.pdf

https://www.congress.gov/bill/117th-congress/senate-bill/1260/text 

Investment in developing and recruiting STEM must include significantly more funding and investments in education and technology access for all citizens. 17 million Americans lack access to broadband technology. And millions more are “under-connected” with limited access to devices or unreliable broadband access. According to a report by New America the majority of students learning remotely this year experienced disruptions in their education due to being under-connected. More than half (53 percent) of remote students experienced one of the following disruptions at some point during the past year.

Funding should include support and rewards for entities working to improve equity in STEM access. Including local and state government agencies as well all community based organizations, businesses. As explained in a 2019 Code.org Advocacy Coalition report: in most states, computer science is a new subject. In order to make computer science a fundamental part of the education system, states will need to create roadmaps to address a number of policy and implementation issues. The plan should articulate the goals for computer science, strategies for accomplishing the goals, and timelines for carrying out the strategies. Equitable access to K–12 computer science must be at the foundation of a state’s plan.

Data clearly shows that underrepresented minority students and rural students are less likely to have access to high-quality computer science content. If unaddressed, we will continue to exclude entire populations from this fast-growing field and miss out on the innovations and contributions that diversity promotes.

While academics continuously conduct advocacy and research around computer science access efforts to to date lack engagement of parents and communities. Students’ communities are the the environment in which students live, play and socialize. These environments play a major role in student success in STEM. Community-based organizations have a large role to play here. They are on the frontlines of filling gaps in public services. They provide safe spaces for children after school, with homework and tutoring support. They connect families job training and social benefits.  While there are some successful partnerships between schools and CBOs providing supplemental tech training, these relationships are not institutionalized and lack sustainable funding needed for such collaborations. 

A Note on the Infrastructure Bill 

The 1.4 trillion infrastructure bill that President Biden hopes to get through Congress is supposed to expand job creation and generate opportunities across many industries, however, our failure to prepare students in high school

The infrastructure bill is expected to expand access to broadband for communities with limited or no connectivity. The paradox here is that among the industries to be tapped to complete this work, there is a labor crisis due to the rapidly dwindling workforce to complete the work outlined in the bill. 

 

References:

US News. The US Must Address Disparities in Access to STEM Education. (2017)

https://www.usnews.com/opinion/knowledge-bank/articles/2017-05-10/the-us-must-address-disparities-in-access-to-stem-education

US Senate Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations Committee on Homeland Security and Government Affairs 

Staff Report: Threats to the US Research Enterprise: China’s Takent Recruitment Program 

https://www.hsgac.senate.gov/imo/media/doc/2019-11-18%20PSI%20Staff%20Report%20-%20China’s%20Talent%20Recruitment%20Plans.pdf

Advocacy.org 2019 State of Computer Science

https://advocacy.code.org/2019_state_of_cs.pdf

 

 

We Need Business Cooperatives Now More Than Ever – A Slideshow

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Data published by the Small Business Administration (SBA) late last year revealed that more than half of PPP funding went to just five percent of recipients. As reported in the New York Times a quarter of the dollars disbursed went to the top one percent despite the $349 billion program’s aim to ease some of the financial burden for the nation’s smallest businesses.

Public policy drives wealth in the United States. Business cooperatives are proven models for lifting up and sustaining marginalized communities during crisis. In our featured slideshow we highlight the economics of cooperatives, the role of public policy in wealth inequality and how shifts in public funding can expand access to collective economies for those who need it most. 

In the USA and overseas, cooperatives have excellent track record of economic resilience and success that should be targeted for public and private funding and procurement opportunities.

A Tool for Nonprofit Executive Hiring

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For most organizations, recruiting the right leader is a grueling process. A poorly designed recruitment process will yield applicants that aren’t the right fit and prone to turnover if hired. Making the wrong choices can be very expensive and time consuming. Not to mention the headache and stress of having to manage the termination process. 

According to researchers, the average cost of firing and replacing nonprofit executives is 10%-20% of the annual salary or $10,000 -$50,000. Yikes! This cost includes losses in productivity, loss of contracts, staff time, hiring expensive consultants to fill gaps in day to day operations and recruitment, hiring and onboarding costs. If you run a small to midsize nonprofit organizations this cost represents a large portion of the operations budget. Having to repeat this process within a short time frame can deal a huge blow to your budget. 

Beyond finding the right fit in this moment, our team at ILE urges leaders to recruit with the future in mind. This includes hiring candidates that will expand organization capacity long term by bringing new competencies, skills and industry connections, while demonstrating potential for future leadership succession. You also want to ensure that the candidate will stick around long enough to bring certain goals to fruition. 

To ease the process for leaders immersed in recruitment, ILE Consulting Group has created a series of worksheets that can be used to design effective and efficient recruitment strategy and processes.

Below, we’ve shared one of our worksheet that outlines competencies and corresponding behaviors. 

We suggest selection committees focus on specific behaviors and outcomes when evaluating candidates’ stated competencies. For instance have candidates describe examples of how they have demonstrated any competence or skill listed on their resume and the specific successes and outcomes yielded as a result of their actions.

Selection committees can use this worksheet to rank the top competencies required for short and long term goals; develop job postings, generate interview questions and questions for references. 

Our list of competencies is not exhaustive nor ordered. So use this worksheet as a reference. Share it with your team, constituents and stakeholders. Add additional rows and rank competencies and behaviors based on order of importance for your organization and your community. 

Are you currently recruiting at your organization? What tools are you using? We would love to hear from you. 

Recruitment Tool – Competencies and Behaviors 

Competencies

Behaviors

Rank Top Skills & Explanation

Critical Thinking

Connecting the dots across many factors simultaneously, consistent reflection, applies data and knowledge in the right context.

 

Talent Management and Development

Efforts result in good hiring and retention outcomes. Onboard, train and directly coach and mentor personnel or effectively assigns mentorship. 

Keep inventory of expertise and skills, effectively and efficiently delegates responsibilities, able to evaluate personnel performance and provide guidance on professional development.

 

Communication

Manage the production of oral and written internal reports for staff and stakeholders. Can produce publications and presentations for diverse audiences (clients, stakeholders, general public, founders). Communication promotes/reinforces organization brand and vision.

 

Organizational Skills

Plan, prepare and prioritize day to day operations and special projects. Anticipate problems and preemptively develop solutions.

 

Quantitative skills

Benchmark and quantify operations and program issues. Balance the use of qualitative and quantitative data.

 

Technology

Direct or facilitate staff training on technology use. Establish policies on the appropriate use of software applications. Proficient in relevant software applications commonly used by nonprofits for productivity, project management, database management, cybersecurity web content management or social media.

 

Regulatory processes/compliance

Direct and manage staff and consultants in completing reports for fund and contract compliance, state and federal reporting and filings.

 

Information Management

Direct and establish procedures for compiling and safeguarding, distributing and deleting organization information, files and artifacts.

 

Creativity

Marshal resources toward their most productive use. Foresee and plan for the future. Effectively communicates vision and successfully oversees its implementation. Demonstrate agility, converts challenges to opportunities.

 

Growth Mindset

Embrace challenges. Focus on amplifying assets within a community or organization to overshadow and mitigate deficiencies.

 

Systems Thinking

Map internal and external systems and the interplay between the two. Map systems interaction and impact on organizational practices, people, policies and vice versa.

 

Change management

Manage culture shift (behaviors, practices, rewards and repercussions) required to facilitate change. Establish benchmarks and metrics to track progress and impact.

 

Collaboration

Practice shared leadership, shares decision making with others. Values diverse voices. Seeks consensus and compromise wherever possible.

 

Personal Growth

Practice reflection and personal goal setting, constantly pursues formal and informal professional development. Pursues coaching and mentoring. Effective at work-life balance.

 

Leading During Periods of Rapid Growth

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A colleague who leads a small nonprofit recently remarked that his organization has never received so much support and attention. However the circumstances are bittersweet. Like other organizations, this leader was wading through turbulent waters of management in the wake multiple challenges including the pandemic, racial unrest and climate change. As new donors coalesced around nonprofit organizations serving vulnerable populations.His organization, which supports minority businesses,  received large amounts of donations to ramp up his operations to support more clients.

For our colleague, this should be great news. His hard work over the years was finally bearing fruit! However, this period of rapid growth, while rewarding, can also challenging for leader faced with an increase in demand for services and more stakeholders to keep in the loop. 

Over the years at ILE Consulting Group we have gathered  a lot of great insight from  business leaders and nonprofit executives who have experienced great growth and great loss in business and organizational management.  We shared with our colleague some guidelines for leaders in a growth period that were shared with with us. Here are some highlights: 

Ask why you? And why now? – Why are donors interested? Why in your organization and your leadership?  Understanding their reasons for investing in you is key to keeping them invested long term. Assess all aspects of your operations that made success possible, and invest in your infrastructure to maintain momentum.  

Focus on values. Be sure to have written core values and check in often to ensure your team stays on track. Don’t lose sight of these values, even as things get really busy. We see this time and time again with products we love becoming wildly popular overnight then suddenly “watered down” due to a shift in values. As the company experiences rapid growth their values shifted  away from quality and engagement to quantity and profit. Losing an important aspect of your operation, can mean losing the impact you’re finally being recognized for. Be sure to maintain the high quality client communication systems or timely reporting to donors and stakeholders that made your organization stand out in the first place. 

Stay engaged. Keep clients and donors in the loop. Find ways of getting their input to keep them enrolled in your mission and vision. Especially during challenging times, people want to be part of something that makes them feel valued, where each encounter is an encouraging and restorative experience. Automated phone calls and online forms may be convenient or cost effective for larger companies (though it’s still not ideal) but for small organizations its all about building and maintaining great relationships. 

Assemble a great team and invest in each member. Maintaining great operations with high quality services requires having a good team in place.  Hire the best experts you can afford and get out of their way.  Engage the team in coming up with the playbook for getting things done and make sure they have the tools to execute. Create a culture of engagement, reflection, coaching and mentoring to weed out issues as they arise and keep everyone enrolled in the mission, vision and the organization’s future. 

Stay agile and adaptive. The world is changes at rapid speed. Management and planning is not like it was years ago where you had lengthy 6-month to one-year horizons to accomplish goals. As a company in rapid growth operating in a world of rapid change, agility and adaption is key as the needs of clients and the expectations for serving them shift at warp speed. Agile organizations are not siloed, they work in cross-functional environments, information is shared and exchanged freely with little transparency and clients are constantly tapped for insight and ideas for maintain high quality, effective services. 

Get a mentor. Leaders need support too! Seeking help from an experienced leader who has been where you are and can share tips for working through challenges as they arise. Harvard Business Review surveyed 45 CEOS and 71% said their operations improved as a result of mentoring and 84% believed they made decisions faster with better outcomes as a result of mentoring. So put your ego aside and seek support! 

Final thoughts 

Leading an organization during rapid growth can be extremely challenging. Being adequately prepared means having your core values in place, a great team for your operations, a system of engaging clients and stakeholders and regular mentoring to pull you through challenges. 

See our related post on the 5 Pillars of Capacity Building.#

 

ILE Consulting Group, LLC
Anasa Laude, Managing Director
Franky Laude, Director of Policy and Media 

The Retreat – Strategic Planning Part 2

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This is part 2 of our series on Strategic Planning. (Check out part 1 on the environmental scan here.) 

For an organization engaged in a strategic planning process, a well-planned, well-facilitated retreat can be an important step in generating ideas for moving the organization forward and developing an action plan to ensure that ideas are successfully implemented. 

Retreats are usually 1-2 day planning sessions with key leadership and staff. An external or internal facilitator is usually needed to ensure the gathering is productive. 

At ILE Consulting Group, we recommend preparing for the strategic planning retreat a few months in advance to ensure productive event with momentum to build on as you complete the strategic plan.  

Set intentions and expectations upfront, be clear about what you want to accomplish during the retreat, engage your facilitator and staff in setting the stage for success. 

  1. Conduct the environmental scan (more on this in part 1 of this series). 
  2. Produce a report on key issues, challenges and opportunities.  
  3. Create an agenda informed by the information gathered.  
  4. Select discussion questions (we provided a list of questions at the end of this post).
  5. Get buy-in – include all participants in planning – ask for their input on the agenda, activities. 
  6. Assign roles even small roles make it fun (i.e. time keeper, recorder, snack steward, organizer). 
  7. Build in time to create an implementation plan with written goals, tasks and a timeline to execute ideas discussed during the retreat. 

Areas of Focus 

Having meaningful discussion questions is helpful to focus the conversation and make sense of the information and data presented. 

After receiving data on internal and external factors that impact the organization’s work, the tendency is to jump right into generating lists of strategies and solutions. However to get the most out of the retreat and the strategic plan process overall we advise reaching consensus on 3-5 focus areas. 

Once the team is in agreement on the goals and areas of focus. We recommend conducting a workshop for each focus area to establish an operations or implementation plan.   

Strategic Planning in turbulent times 

In the age of COIVD, political unrest and natural disasters most organizations are baffled by increasing volatility in their sector, and the pace at which change happens. Planning for this “new normal” is key for sustaining impact and success. 

For nonprofit or mission-based businesses strategic planning may be needed to respond to emerging conditions at the organization including:  rapid growth due to surge in clients or additional donation,  new demands or new services needed to respond to the changing needs of clients, transition in leadership or board, changes needed in  – may all warrant a strategic planning process sooner than later. 

Though usually held in person, virtual retreats are now the norm. With a skilled facilitator on board, you can have a productive retreat in person or online. 

Discussion Questions 

Select 5 -7 discussion questions for small and large group sessions during the retreat. 

Questions on Strategy 

Does your organization have a clearly state list of strategic priorities?

When was the last time you reviewed or edited your strategic priorities? 

Are your current initiatives and projects aligned with your strategic priorities? 

Has your strategy been translated to specific actions? 

Do you have a well-defined strategy, a clear written statement of where the organization is headed? 

When was the last time you reviewed or edited your strategic priorities? 

Are your current initiatives and projects aligned with your strategic priorities? 

Are your strategic priorities complimentary or do they seem to conflict?

Questions on Capacity 

What competencies are needed to fulfill your strategic priorities? Tip: Benchmark the sector and rank your organization against each competency.

List each of your operations and where these competencies are reflected. Where in your operations is it missing? 

How might you build competency and capacity where it’s most needed? 

Is talent management/recruitment aligned with priorities?

How often do leaders discuss the organizations accomplishments as well as shortcomings and aspirations with staff? Are all staff privy to this information? 

Questions on Industry Leadership 

How might you share what you’re good at with other similar organizations? 

In what ways are you taking the lead in your sector, in the types of services you offer and how you deliver and execute? 

Questions on Impact 

Is your value proposition important to clients and stakeholders? 

Does every one in the organization agree on what the value proposition is? 

What unique services do you bring to your service population? 

Are you seeing the outcomes you desire for your organization and your constituents? 

Questions on Culture 

How often do leaders discuss the organizations accomplishments as well as shortcomings and aspirations with staff? Are all staff privy to this information? 

What transformation is needed and how do leaders and senior management engage the team in change? 

To what extent is the entire team enrolled in the vision and mission?

How do leaders keep the team excited and engaged in the work, build excitement about the future?

How are wins celebrated, even the small ones?

How are stakeholders and clients engaged – does this align with your core values?

How does this interaction serve your brand? 

Part 3 … Coming Soon.

In our 3rd and final post on strategic planning we will do a deep dive implementing the strategic plan and sustaining momentum long after the retreat. 

In the meantime be sure to check out our post on 6 Attributes of High Performing Teams.#

ILE Consulting Group, LLC
Anasa Laude, Managing Director
Franky Laude, Director of Policy and Media 

Environmental Scan – Part 1 of Strategic Planning Series

Resources

 

Nonprofit Strategic Planning

 

Why Strategic Planning ?

As a nonprofit leader it is important to periodically check in on where your organization is going, why your services matter and whether you have the right operations and processes in place. Sometimes these answers become somewhat vague over the years. Shifts are occurring more rapidly with massive societal change. For instance the global pandemic, climate change and the new spotlights on racial discrimination and economic inequality are rapidly shifting client needs, donor interests and public policy. Luckily, strategic planning can help us affirm our role, where we want to go and get us on track to that destination.

Data on Nonprofit Strategic Planning and Shared Vision Across Stakeholders

Likelihood of Nonprofit Having a Formal Process for Measuring Leadership Performance Due to Having Recent Strategic Plan

Research on nonprofit leadership conducted by the Concord Leadership Group, LLC revealed: 

77% of nonprofits with a written strategic plan agreed their nonprofit had a vision understood and shared across stakeholders, only 47% of nonprofits without a plan agreed a unifying vision existed. 

Nonprofits with a strategic plan more likely to have a formal process for measuring leadership effectiveness (75% vs. 50%).

Source:  The Concord Leadership Group LLC. (2016). Home | The Concord Leadership Group. https://concordleadershipgroup.com

The strategic plan explores basic questions such as: 

Why do we exist?

What do we do (day to day)?

How do we do it ?

Are we doing it well? 

How much does it cost and how do we fund it?

Who do we engage in implementing the strategic plan and how?

In a series of upcoming posts we will provide a snap shot of our approach to strategic planning including from the environmental scan to the implementation plan. 

Contact us to learn more about our work with nonprofit organizations and mission-based businesses. We would love to hear from you. 

Part 1: The Environmental Scan: Gathering context, internal and external

After initial meetings with executives, board and key staff to learn about the organization and what they hope to get out of the strategic planning process, we begin diving into the environmental scan.  Environmental scans are instrumental in planning an organization or program’s future priorities, it can be particularly relevant to strategic planning projects. The Environmental Scan helps us project out in to the future with the following questions in mind: What does the future hold and how prepared are we? 

There are several frameworks that are often used to help with this task. One of the most well-known is the SWOT analysis which stands for Strengths and Weaknesses (internal to your organization), and Opportunities and Threats (external to your organization). A twist on SWOT is SOAR (Strengths, Opportunities, Aspirations and Results. which focuses on leveraging organizational strengths . A third framework for environmental is PESTLE, which refers to Political, Economic, Social, and Technology, Legal and Environmental issues. 

We use a combination of frameworks depending on the organization and their needs. 

Major questions we investigate during the environmental scan include:

  • What’s going on in your sector. How are best practices changing? What are the new benchmarks? What technological changes should we be aware of? 
  • What data is available and what is it telling ?what are the trends (over 3-5 years)? Are you producing the outcomes we want to achieve? Where are your clients coming from? How are you doing with fundraising and donor retention? 
  • Demographic, economic, and social changes. What are the impacts of rapidly evolving issues such as pandemics, climate change, racial injustice and gentrification impacting the communities we serve. What demographics are most vulnerable? What is the impact on your donors and strategic partners? 
  • Opportunities. Are there unmet needs we can address? Are there new funding streams or Partnerships we can tap. Are there policy changes coming down the pike that will benefit organizations you can take advantage of?
  • Threats.  How will cuts public funding impact your work? How will problems with public infrastructure make it harder to serve  your clients? 
  • Is there overlap between your program and other similar programs? Does this create competition for donors and clients?. Is there an opportunity to partner and offer complimentary services?
  • Impact. What kind of change do you want to make?  Do your beneficiaries and stakeholders share this vision? To what extent have we been successful? 
  • Capacity and resources. What do you need to improve your operations, in terms of competencies and experience, technology, and processes?

Use these questions to guide your approach for conducting interviewing  beneficiaries, board, staff, donors, volunteers, partners and other stakeholders. gathering data and establishing benchmarks. 

Interviewees for Environmental Scan 

Interviewee 

Perspective 

Beneficiaries 

Impact of your organization on their lives, services provided by other programs and unmet needs. 

Quality of client engagement and communication at your organization. 

Stories of engagement with your organization that can provide insight on impact, strengths and weakness in service delivery.

Personal experience changes in access to public subsidies, rising costs of food, medicine or housing – insights on demographic, policy and social trends. 

Board 

Level of board engagement and competencies.

Insight on organizational leadership, fiscal health, and overall capacity.

Staff

Insight on strengths and weaknesses in operations and process. 

Insight on demographic and social trends, knowledge of emerging regulatory issues.

Access to data on client intake and outcomes, donor engagement and costs.

Donors 

Organization’s readiness / capacity to adapt to trends in the sector, changes in funding and policy coming down the pike. 

Partners 

Knowledge of trends in your sector and concomitant sectors  that could indirectly impact your organization’s operations.

Volunteers

Insight on the quality of volunteer engagement at your organization and untapped social capital.  

After conducting interviews we work with organizational leaders to prioritize some of the issues raised and generate a list of additional research questions and types of data we want to explore. This information is synthesized into a report and presented to leadership and board. This report will help set the stage for the next step in the strategic planning process – the planning retreat. 

In our  next post, Strategic Planning part 2 we dive into our approach in prepping and facilitating the planning retreat. 

In the meantime, take a look at our other posts and please send your comments. We would love to hear from you. 

If you’re interested in discussing opportunities to work with us, contact us today! ##

6 Attributes of High Performing Teams

Resources

Image: Forming, Storming, Performing, Norming

Leaders assemble teams to complete essential functions such as program administration, human resources, accounting and facilities maintenance. 

For the purposes of this post: teams are multiple employees (and external stakeholders) who work together on distinct high performing teams is essential in successfully serving communities. Mission-based programs with low performing teams will not yield intended social outcomes and can tarnish the organization’s relationship with their clients, funders, and other stakeholders. 

After many years of consulting and teaching project-based courses, we here at ILE Consulting Group have seen a fair share of team successes and breakdowns. Team breakdowns do not have to be permanent, however. In fact, with the right attitude, tools, and support teams can overcome failure and become to highly functioning teams. 

Building teams poised for success requires establishing clear measurable goals, values and direction upfront. Friction is to be expected during the formation of teams as individuals on the team work to get on the same page, adjust in their role on the team and learn how to interact with their fellow teammates.

There are numerous issues – internal and external- that impact team success. The six most common factors that can make or break a team, in no particular order, include:

1. Values. Being on the same page about why this work matters, how you’ll get it done, how you’ll treat each other. Having a values system ensures team cohesion when things get tough. To establish values leadership and team members should generate a list of values. Continuously checking and reflecting on the team’s adherence to its values is essential. Teams should use a scorecard to measure performance. When the team scores low on a particular value, address this problem immediately before it escalates and causes further damage to the team psyche and productivity. 

2. Mindset. Researcher Carol Dweck coined the term “Growth Mindset”, which describes underlying beliefs about the potential for success. Teams that emphasize a growth mindset share the belief that no matter the odds, success is possible. A growth mindset keeps team members enrolled and invested in the project despite the challenges that will inevitably arise. In addition, particularly on teams in nonprofit organizations, growth mindset places a high value on the latent talents and assets within the communities they serve (i.e., the belief that all children in our community can and will succeed when adequately supported).

The opposite of Growth Mindset, according to Dweck is a “Fixed Mindset”, which describes a set of negatively underlying beliefs. Negative thinking is to be expected from time to time, especially when teams are overwhelmed or in conflict and cannot see the light at the end of the tunnel. Leaders can aid their teams in adopting a consistent growth mindset with continuous coaching and regular reflection. 

3. Communication and Information Exchange. Sharing information is two-fold in the following ways: 1. Ensuring that all members of the team have access to files, data, reports, and other organizational assets are crucial to team success. Lack of information or organizational artifacts can result in unnecessary delays, and often results in duplicating work that has already been done, which wastes time and money. 2. In addition, transparency is becoming increasingly important in the mission-based and public service sectors. More and more constituents, community stakeholders, and employees and demanding openness past and current challenges. No matter how bad the news, keeping team members informed, builds trust, agency, or sense of empowerment keep them committed long-term despite the obstacles along the way. 

4. Vision and Direction. Having clear direction on what needs to be done and how to go about it is a must for team success. Having clear vision and direction reduces conflicts about how to get things done. Conflict slows the team down and hinders productivity. Having a picture or vision of the future is key in keeping the team enrolled in the mission and drive motivation and productivity from day- to- day. 

5. Resources. While mission-based organizations are often resource-strapped, operating successful social programs require money and talent. Employees of nonprofit organizations experience burnout as a result of “having to do more with less” with no additional insight. One way to address this is through strategic partnerships and resource pooling with other organizations. This may include sharing space and admin staff to eliminate or reduce overhead, or outsourcing certain functions that can be managed by other agencies. 

6. Team Size. The size of the team can pose challenges as well. Teams of three to five are often preferred due to ease of decision making, as it is often difficult to get larger teams on the same page. Smaller teams allow for better efficiency in distributing work and holding members accountable.

If a program or project requires more than five team members to accomplish tasks the team should be broken up into smaller ‘sub-teams’ based on the tasks.

What Individual Team Members Believe They Need to Be Successful

At ILE, our team has had countless conversations with employees of various organizations and companies about their experiences in the workplace. Leaders and employees prioritize these three needs:

Agency. Employees want to feel as if their talents and efforts matter. As a team member, they want to be understood by their fellow team members. Being heard and having their ideas and contributions acknowledged is also important. They want to feel as if their work has meaning and contributes to a high-level mission. Team members need to feel as if they have a part to play in bringing this mission to fruition. 

Emphasis on self-care and personal development. Many employees we have spoken with report enjoying work settings that emphasize self-care and personal growth. Having bosses that allow for flexibility in work schedules to address individual or family needs, having access to professional training and education, and a boss that checks in on them were all highly valued. 

Coaching and mentoring. Beyond their role as a team member, employees also want specific direction and coaching regarding their responsibilities to the team, the organization and the community. Having one on one time with leadership or personnel that can support individual team members in mapping out both team goals and individual professional goals, reflecting on their achievements and working through challenges are all highly valued. 

The image above illustrates a commonly referenced concept of team evolution: Forming, Storming, Performing, Norming. This concept is commonly applied to new teams, in a linear manner. However, in reality, this process often repeats itself over the course of team work, and resembles something closer to this: 

Image: Team Cycles. Norming, Storming, Re-forming, Reflection, Performing.

Team cohesion and productivity can suffer due to various challenges prompting a need for the team to reflect regroup, air out frustrations and challenges and get back on track. 

In mission-based work, teamwork can be especially challenging due to limited resources relative to community needs. All teams experience cycles of highs and lows. However, there are many ways of supporting teams and each member to ensure success despite the challenges. 

Read our related posted on the 5 Pillars of Capacity Building.

ILE Consulting Group, LLC
Anasa Laude, Managing Director
Franky Laude, Director of Policy and Media 

5 Pillars of Capacity Building

Resources

Capacity-building strategies facilitate the development of organizational infrastructure and assets needed to efficiently and effectively advance an organization’s mission long-term. Capacity building is not a short-term process. It is future-focused and ensures the organization can continue to generate social value and produce positive community outcomes well into the future. 

Capacity-building efforts can include the following five focus areas: 

Personnel development which equips all members of the team with the training and resources needed to complete their tasks. Building team capacity also includes leadership succession planning to explore the organization’s future needs and begin mapping out a strategy to prepare current staff or recruit new staff to fulfill these roles. 

Technological development ensures that the organization has access to the hardware and software available to serve their community, measure program impact, and report the results through multiple channels of communication. 

Community engagement can be a powerful, multi-faceted capacity-building tool to ensure that the organization maximizes social and human capital. Often nonprofit leaders overlook untapped talent in our communities such as senior residents with valuable knowledge and life experience or professionals that offer quality pro bono services. Community engagement can also create a future board or workforce pipeline and create opportunities for grooming future leaders and team members of the organization.

Board development can ensure that each board member has a specific role that is clearly defined and aligned with their talent, resources, and interests. Each board member should have a performance rubric for tracking and progress reports. 

Finally, as the pandemic and other recent crises have demonstrated, capacity building strategies must include disaster resilience.  Any organization serving vulnerable populations such as low-income families, seniors, or special needs communities should assess organizations capacity scenarios during pandemics, cyberattacks and natural disaster emergency operations. This preparation might include using your facilities as a shelter or staging area for emergency personnel, preparing non-perishable foods for distribution or purchasing generators or solar panels as back up during power failures. Obtain access to multiple buildings and vehicles across a wide radius in case your main facilities are inundated or compromised during a significant storm event or other natural disaster. Coordinate with other organizations, businesses, and building owners in the area to ensure access to multiple locations for sheltering displaced populations and for, storing and staging food.

Based on our experience, these are five of the essential capacity building focus areas that organizations must consider. Depending on your organization -the people you, serve as well as emerging trends in politics and demographics – there may be variations on the strategies presented here. 

Capacity building efforts should begin with a meeting with your team, your core constituency and key stakeholders to discuss concerns about the present and future needs of your community.

 

Entrepreneurs and Local Economies

Resources

 

Entrepreneurs and Local Economies 

Several years ago, one of our co-founders, Anasa Laude, had the unique opportunity of collaborating on a project with Professor and Entrepreneur, Ray Garcia, and his colleagues at the University of Pisa focused on promoting entrepreneurship among students in Italy. The project resulted in a publication of articles written by educators and entrepreneurs, including myself, as well as video lectures and case studies.

Entrepreneurship can be a viable vehicle for social and economic mobility for traditionally marginalized groups. Often, when we hear the term entrepreneurship, we tend to think of the Zuckerbergs and Gates of the world. However, entrepreneurs come in many shapes and sizes. Beyond the titans of the social media industry, there are everyday men and women providing goods and services in our neighborhoods – the hair braiding shop, the restaurant, the tailor, and the corner store.

These enterprising individuals help create viable local economies. They provide local jobs, creating opportunities for groups who often struggle to find work such as ex-convicts and new immigrants. In addition, business owners contribute to local tax revenue and add to the vibrancy and safety of their blocks.

They are neighborhood anchors upon which culture and traditions are created – the safe, fun pizzeria for kids to gather after school, the buffet where families celebrate birthdays, the food truck line where colleagues catch up, or the bodega that serves as a rallying point during emergencies.

Launching and running a small business is not without its challenges. The hours can be grueling, capital for start-up costs, and ongoing operations are not always readily available. Also, ebbs in the external economy impact disposable income and consumer spending. These issues create a situation wherein businesses are often unable to predict revenue and cash flow – money needed to pay employees, purchase supplies, and inventory while keeping food on their tables.

Mitigating the vulnerabilities of small businesses requires continued public support in addition to deeper tax breaks for lower-income entrepreneurs. In the USA, though limited, there are grants and low-cost loans for small businesses administered through philanthropic institutions and government agencies. When and where they occur, these public investments have tremendous social and economic returns for neighborhoods as a whole.

In Fall 2018, ILE Consulting Group launched an economic initiative in Harlem. We facilitated a series of focus groups and workshops with residents, business owners, nonprofit organizations, and elected officials. Participants shared their concerns, their dreams for their neighborhoods, and the role they want to play in expanding economic opportunities for future generations. Drawing from these discussions, ILE Consulting Group designed an economic initiative. We will be sharing more about this work in the coming months.

Below is a link to the book I referenced earlier, entitled Startup Social Dynamics. To make it widely accessible for educators and NGOs, it is available free as a PDF. Take a look, let us know what you think. #

 

 

A Recruitment Plan for Uncertain Times

Resources

For most organizations, recruiting the right leader is a grueling process. A poorly designed recruitment process will yield applicants that aren’t the right fit and prone to turnover if hired. Making the wrong choices can be very expensive and time consuming. Not to mention the headache and stress of having to manage the termination process. 

The average cost of firing and replacing nonprofit executives is 10%-20% of the annual salary or the position or $10,000 -$50,000. Yikes! This cost includes losses in productivity, loss of contracts, staff time, hiring expensive consultants to fill gaps and recruitment, hiring and onboarding costs. If you run a small to midsize nonprofit organizations this cost represents a large portion of the operations budget. Having to repeat this process within a short time frame can deal a huge blow to your budget. 

Beyond finding the right fit in this moment, our team at ILE urges leaders to recruit with the future in mind. This includes hiring candidates that will expand organization capacity long-term by bringing new competencies, skills and industry connections, while demonstrating potential for future leadership succession -you also want to ensure that the candidate will stick around long enough to see all of this to fruition. 

To ease the process for leaders immersed in recruitment, ILE has created a series of worksheets that can be used to design effective and efficient recruitment strategy and processes.

Below, we’ve shared one of our worksheet that outlines competencies and corresponding behaviors. 

We suggest selection committees focus on specific behaviors and outcomes when evaluating candidates’ stated competencies. For instance have candidates describe examples of how they have demonstrated any competence or skill listed on their resume and the specific successes and outcomes yielded as a result of their actions.

Selection committees can use this worksheet to rank the top competencies required for short- and long-term goals; develop job postings, generate interview questions and questions for references. 

Our list of competencies is not exhaustive nor ordered. So use this worksheet as a reference. Share it with your team, constituents and stakeholders. Add additional rows and rank  competencies and behaviors based on order of importance for your organization and your community. Use the last column to evaluate the candidate on each competency and relevant behavior. You may decide to edit a few sections to suit your organization’s needs. 

Competencies

Behaviors

Rank Top Skills & Explanation

(Complete this section for each candidate) 

Critical Thinking

Connecting the dots, consistent reflection, applies data and knowledge in the right context.

 

Talent Management and Development

Efforts result in good hiring and retention outcomes.Onboard, train and directly coach and mentor personnel or effectively assigns mentorship. 

Keep inventory of expertise and skills, effectively and efficiently delegates responsibilities, able to evaluate personnel performance and provide guidance on professional development.

 

Communication

Manage the production of internal reports for staff and stakeholders. Can produce publications and presentations for diverse audiences (clients, stakeholders, general public, founders).Communication promotes/reinforces organization brand and vision.

 

Organizational Skills

Plan, prepare and prioritize day to day operations and special projects. Anticipate problems and preemptively develop solutions.

 

Quantitative skills

Benchmark and quantify operations and program issues. Can balance the use of qualitative and quantitative data.

 

Technology

Direct or train staff on technology needs. Establish policies on the appropriate use of software applications. Proficient in three or more software applications commonly used by nonprofits for productivity, project management, database management, web content management or social media.

 

Regulatory processes/compliance

Direct and manage staff and consultants in completing reports for fund and contract compliance, state and federal reporting and filings.

 

Information Management

Direct and establish procedures for compiling and safeguarding, distributing and deleting organization information, files and artifacts.

 

Creativity

Marshall resources toward their most productive use. Foresee and plan for the future. Effectively communicates vision and successfully oversees its implementation. Demonstrates agility, converts challenges to opportunities.

 

Growth Mindset

Embraces challenges. Focuses on amplifying assets within a community or organization to overshadow and mitigate deficiencies.

 

Systems Thinking

Maps internal and external systems and the interplay between the two. Maps systems interaction and impact on organizational practices, people, policies and vice versa.

 

Change management

Manage culture shift (behaviors, practices, rewards and repercussions) required to facilitate change. Establish benchmarks and metrics to track progress and impact.

 

Collaboration

Practices shared leadership, shares decision making with others. Values diverse voices. Seeks consensus and compromise wherever possible.

 

Personal Growth

Practices reflection and personal goal setting, constantly pursues formal and informal professional development. Pursues coaching and mentoring. Effective at work-life balance.