In this episode of the Nonprofit Leaders Network Podcast series we welcome Ellen Rosenthal of Conner Prairie, close to Indianapolis, Indiana.
Conner Prairie has transformed from a very traditional outdoor history museum into a vibrant, busy family and educative destination, providing immersive learning about nature, technology, arts and crafts and the natural environment, all in a historical context. They are also the summer home of the Indianapolis Symphony. With visitations last year of just over 360,000 they are now one of the most visited outdoor history museums in the country.
Here are some of the highlights from our talk:
RETHINKING PURPOSE OPENS DOORS TO GREATER IMPACT
We believed at Conner Prairie that we were educating visitors by spewing information at them, but we were turning them off; they really didn’t want to take in reams of information when they were trying to have a fun day out. So we had to rethink what we were really trying to do, what was our mission and function in the community.
We used taped recordings of honest visitor experiences to show how they were confused and bored with our current offering, and how, when we changed that to encourage people to explore, be hands-on, and follow their interests, it resulted in much deeper engagement and satisfaction. It enabled us to move from what we thought we were doing into understanding what we really could accomplish, and that became the start point for our transformation.
STOP ASSUMING – AND HAVE A GREATER IMPACT
As hard as we try as organizations to make assumptions about what our clients, customers or visitors think, until we really observe their behavior, stopping talking to ourselves, and honestly look at what is happening we will not get a true picture. We have to go beyond focus groups and traditional feedback forms, and find ways to look at how people are actually behaving, responding to our offerings. It is hard to do, but essential to bring about true transformational change.
BE PATIENT. BIG CHANGES DON’T HAPPEN OVERNIGHT
At Conner Prairie we started this change in 2003. It probably took six or seven years for everyone to be really on board, including managing a significant governance dispute; when you start something like this you are in for the long-haul. Alongside the mission and offering change, there was a lot of other realignment and skills diversification happening at the same time. When you are working at capturing the hearts and minds of the employees and volunteers at a non-profit through periods of major change it can be a long and hard process. Their motive for being with you in the first place relates directly to their own identify and their belief in what you are doing. Being sensitive to that and making significant change to your organization takes time and sustained effort.
Visit www.SocialGoodInstigators.com for the transcript and additional show notes.
ocialGoodInstigators.com for the transcript and additional show notes.
Our guest this episode of the Nonprofit Leaders Network Podcast series is Mark Clark, CEO of Generations for Peace, the leading global non-profit peace building organization, which he joined in 2011. Mark has been a corporate lawyer and served as a British Army Officer, and his diverse experience includes humanitarian and emergency relief work, sustainable development, youth leadership, post conflict transition and democratic governance.
Generations for Peace is dedicated to sustainable conflict transformation at the grassroots level, and empowers volunteer leaders of youth to promote active tolerance and responsible citizenship in communities experiencing different forms of conflict and violence across the Middle East, Africa, Asia and Europe.
Here are some of the highlights from our wide ranging discussion –
Permanent Change Requires Long-Term Commitment
Peace building is a long-term process. It needs long-term commitment by us to the volunteers we are supporting and to their communities. Over the last eight years we have trained just under 8,900 volunteers with an average age of between 25 and 35. We want to be working in communities with them for many years, and to really see a deep transformation of the conflict dynamics in any particular case, and be able to seize emergent opportunities for progress as they arise, year-by-year.
The Adaptive Change Process
We focus is on where we can start to build relationships via our youth leaders, knowing that their influence may be small at the beginning. Starting with a focus of just moving from A to B, then B to C and so on, adapting to change as we go. We use the adaptive process of gaining trust, gaining acceptance, and gradually rolling out different forms of activities to allow our volunteers to really gain access to people throughout the chain of influence in their locations.
Finding Funding for Non-Definite Processes Requires Education
Our adaptive, step-by-step approach means that we have to make a big effort to educate our donors. We have to have evidence of the impact our actions are having. Are they sustainable, are they cost effective? With those big questions in mind, we devote a lot of energy into our monitoring and evaluation; of the people running programs, direct participants and also the wider community who are touched or impacted by those directly involved. That depth and breadth of review gives much richer, more compelling data and evidence.
Being Adaptable Means No Mistakes (Just Learning Experiences)
We have an organizational culture where making mistakes is okay. To learn from those mistakes we include in our program cycles space for learning and reflection. If you can build that into your routines and the way your teams work, then you have the opportunity to turn what may seem to be mistakes into, probably, the most valuable learning that will drive your innovation and implementation.
Find more information on the podcast at www.SocialGoodInstigators.com.
Davy Irby the founder of Surge International is our guest in this episode of the Nonprofit Leaders Network Podcast series. Dave has travelled the world as a soccer coach, or football coach as it would be called in other parts of the world. He is a missionary using the powerful platform of soccer to share a message of love and hope in over fifty countries. Holder of a USA Soccer A Coaching license and a Masters degree in Teaching, Dave founded Surge International in 1991. Surge currently works in eight countries, including Burundi, where Dave is headed next.
To access a transcript and links to resources mentioned in today’s interview visit http://nonprofitleadersnetwork.com/nln10/.
We covered a wide range of subjects in our discussion. Here are some of the highlights.
DEVELOPING A VISION
Often, vision is a process. The vision for me was God given. I was coaching soccer and I began praying for what God would want me to do, and one of my players said. “Why don’t you bring the soccer team down to Mexicali with our outreach group to play some games …a game in the men’s prison and the boy’s prison in the village?” So we did, and that first step of faith of a five-day trip led on the following year to a twenty-three-day jaunt to five or six countries. I felt called into youth soccer full time without knowing hardly He was doing it. I think the vision shapes over time and it changes and morphs as you stay with it.
We measure the impact that our work is having both through informal feedback that we receive by staying, for example, in the trenches looking into peoples eyes and seeing the how privileged we have been to bless them, and through some formal processes we have in place. We get written reports from, say, Burundi of things which are happening when we are not there and other forms of feedback. Mostly though we kind of have a feel after years of doing this what’s working and what’s not, and that combined with the feedback helps us decide whether to continue with a project or not.
KEEP FAMILY FIRST
I am what I’d call a random visionary. I am all over the place, and there are no set hours. When you run nonprofits I think you really need to manage your time. You need to ensure that you make time for your family, as well as everyone else you tend to want to help. Set aside time, make formal appointments in your diary, carve them out time; sit down face to face as a family communicating with no other distractions, which in this day and age is hard. These are things that I think have really helped.
Find more information on the podcast at www.SocialGoodInstigators.com.