Today I realized that I am one of maybe 8 people representing faith-based organizations in the room for the Non-profit Management Institute. The blank, disinterested or occasional nod from people I meet when they asked about my "organization" told me a lot. This is a good reality check for someone who lives most of her life inside the church bubble.
I did have a really interesting conversation today with a guy from Australia who spent the day before the conference talking to homeless people in San Francisco. He learned that they are all on social media – networked homeless people who are passing the word on where to get a meal, shower or even a job opportunity! Never underestimate what you can learn by mingling with people at conferences.
So the presenters were stellar again today. I am struck by the strong prophetic voice of every speaker who were clearly on the leading edge of their field. I’m thinking carefully about what it means for the church to be a player in anticipating the cultural changes, human needs and problem solving frontiers. So — the ah-ha moments:
1. Crash Course in Creativity – by far my favorite session (actually the last of the day) was worth the whole trip here. Tina Seelig’s new book "inGenius" outlines a framework for problem solving that makes the point that in today’s world, innovation and creative problem solving are more important than ever to succeed. She introduced a new model called the Innovation Engine which explains how creativity is generated on the inside and how it is influenced by the outside world. I bought her book and read half of it at dinner.
She quotes Einstein as saying "If I had an hour to solve a problem and my life depended on the solution, i would spend the first fifty-five minutes determining the proper question to ask, for once i know the proper question, I could solve the problem in less than five minutes."
The Innovative Engine includes: knowledge, imagination, attitude, resources, habitats and culture.
2. Using Brand Democracy and Affinity to Drive Your Mission by Nathalie Kylander, Harvard University
This session started with clarifying the different way non-profit organizations use branding compared to for-profit organizations. The big differences are:
a. The distinctive sources of pride that nonprofit leaders have in their organizations and
b. The distinctive roles that brand plays inside these organizations to create cohesion and build capacity.
My mind went first to our synod – do we have a brand? If so what is it? and then to congregations – should congregations have a brand? How is that different from mission, vision, etc.
She explained that nonprofit organizations are most powerful when the organization’s internal identity and external image are aligned with each other and with its values and mission. It makes me realize that we have a lot of work to do here. She talked about: brand integrity, brand democracy, brand ethics and brand affinity all in alignment with values and mission. I really look forward to thinking more about this one with our staff.
3. Strange Bedfellows: Leadership, Trust and Collaboration by Akaya Windwood
This session was the closest we got to a spiritual experience because Akaya was a fantastic spiritual guide – I kept thinking, would she mentor me? She was engaging and worked us hard, pushing total strangers to spill their guts about important life lessons on trust to make the point about the value of collaboration. I could picture her working with pastors, helping them get over their "Lone-Ranger Mentality" for true networking.
4. Forces for Local Good: Applying the 6 Practices of High Impact Non-profits with Heather McLeod Grant
Every single one of these practices are a growing edges for our congregations and our synod life together. Yes, I bought the book. I think you will agree that these are essential yet not always our best game as Lutherans:
a. Share Leadership
b. Inspire Evangelists
c. Nurture Networks
d. Advocate & Serve
e. Make Markets Work
f. Master the art of Adaptation
I feel exhausted and energized at the same time from the depth of information I am processing after these two days. The trajectory of our synod’s strategy on growing leaders is becoming clear to me. Tonight I am mainly thinking, wow, why have we waited so long to get serious about leadership development?
Tomorrow I have one half day session called "Collaborative Leadership: Learning with Horses" before heading home. I am praying that I don’t actually have to ride a horse to learn with one as that would be an even bigger stretch for me than the high ropes courses I’ve been on! With any luck I will be able to report on this adventure with out having been injured physically, mentally, emotionally or spiritually. Stay tuned!
Assistant to the Bishop
TX-LA Gulf Coast Synod, ELCA
12941 I-45 North Freeway, Suite #210
Houston, TX 77060-1243
281/873-5665 ext. 101