Hello…Is this thing on? For some reason I feel like I’m at microphone standing in front of a podium about to give a speech. I get really nervous when I speak publicly. The one exception is when I’m in front of parents and young people – the audiences, population, the group of people I’ve spent the bulk of my non-profit career in front of, standing in solidarity with and usually working behind the scenes for. To a certain extent those are my people. It wasn’t until I worked for an amazing civil rights organization in Los Angeles did I truly get what it meant to support my people holistically and comprehensively. It wasn’t enough for me to work narrowly on education issues. I needed to think more broadly about the other factors that impacted teaching and learning. Working for a civil rights organization that employed multiple strategies to support communities of color allowed me to see the importance of also strengthening and fighting for voting rights, language rights, workers rights, access to high quality pro-bono legal services, immigrant integration services and leadership development. I learned that working for educational equity meant that I needed to support parents and young people with wrap around support services. While at this organization in Los Angeles, I also had the opportunity to work collaboratively with other external partners from different parts of the county that served different communities. It was one of the most difficult and rewarding experiences of my career.
I left Los Angeles and that organization over five years ago, moved (back) to the Bay Area, worked for two non-profits up here and found my way back to my beloved Los Angeles organization. However, I’m in a very different position and work with an additional three sister organizations. The Los Angeles organization along with organizations in Chicago, San Francisco and Washington D.C. have come together under a common name to be able to collaborate more effectively and build a stronger and more cohesive human and civil rights infrastructure on a local, regional and national level. I am responsible for fund development activities when all the affiliates work together jointly.
Writing the above actually flowed out of me but I’m starting to feel conscious of the mic again as I think about my project and sharing parts of what I’m up to and my work that I’m still thinking through. I’ll try to be a good student here and answer the questions I was assigned.
My goals over the next four weeks are:
- To identify tools that support effective collaboration (and are relevant and worth using in my current work) and to find grantmakers who would be interested in supporting the kind of collaboration we are engaged in
- To be able to point to concrete examples of effective collaboration and be well versed in the how and why of collaboration
- To enroll my colleagues in the idea that effective collaboration can help us accelerate and deepen our impact
The key questions I have about my project are:
- What policies, principles, agreements do effective collaboratives employ that are worth trying?
- How much of our work should be focused on building in opportunities to support the development of relationships, personally and professionally, across our affiliation?
- What role can or should I play to demonstrate the power of our affiliation?
I guess another key question is: How many do-overs do I get? I came up with these key questions and goals last Wednesday and confirmed the other night that these are in fact the key questions and goals of my project. But now that I’m looking at them formatted like that, I’m not so sure.
I think I’m done for now. How do I sign off?
I need to remind myself to breathe.