This past month’s Inclusion Series wrapped up with Trans*, Gender Non-conforming, & Genderqueer: a workshop for allies. During the 3-hour workshop, we learned terms, context, and explored how to be an effective ally.
Sojn Boothroyd and Amanda Niven reminded us that vocabulary is contextual. Different terms carry different meanings across geographical and generational cultures. That being said, they provided definitions and descriptions for terms used in the workshop:
Trans – abbreviation for transgender
Trans* - an asterisk is sometimes added to the word trans to signify that trans communities are diverse and include many different identities
Transgender – someone who does not identify with the gender assigned to them
CIS gender – someone who identifies with the gender assigned to them
Gender non-conforming – someone whose appearance/identity does not conform to societal standards
Genderqueer – sometimes used to describe someone who defines their gender outside the constructs of male and female. This can include having no gender, being androgynous or having elements of multiple genders.
Nonbinary – someone who identifies outside the gender binary (i.e., male – female)
They cautioned the group that these terms are emerging and there are various viewpoints on their definitions and usage. We should not assume that one person’s words, identity, and definition apply to others. If you are unsure, then ask and be ready to listen.
Finally, we explored the concept of allyship. An ally is a person who helps to advocate for a particular group of people. Allies are knowledgeable about issues and concerns and may help build more supportive climates. They lead from the back, continually questioning themselves and learning as well as taking action to make their workplaces more welcoming.
This month we sat down for coffee with Bob Jorth, Executive Director of the Kalamazoo Promise.
Tell us how you got to where you are today
I’ve had a zig-zaggy career path with 30-40 jobs. So, in broad strokes, I received my bachelor’s degree in general studies from a small Iowa college and took a job in the aerospace industry doing quality assurance among other things. I eventually took a job with NWL – that brought me to Kalamazoo. While working there, I got a master’s degree in public administration and learned database programming. I later took a job with Secant and was working there when the Kalamazoo Promise job opened up. I believe that my background in databases, process improvement, plus my volunteer work with ISAAC and community organizing made me a good fit for the position, and I got it. So, while it’s been a winding and even somewhat tortured, route, it’s all come together to lead me here today.
What do you most love about the Kalamazoo community?
I arrived in Kalamazoo almost 30 years ago (January 1986). Having grown up in a small town (population 175), I love the small town feel of Kalamazoo – friendly, people know each other. I also like some of the big city attributes it has as well. I love that it’s a diverse community, and the location can’t be beat – so close to Lake Michigan, Detroit, and Chicago.
What guides or principles do you rely most upon?
I have two things I rely upon. First is the ability to listen. The older I get, the more I see the ability to listen well as an extremely powerful tool in relationship building, in understanding systems and processes, and in getting to the core of people’s needs. The second is to treat every person as a unique individual. We have about 1,400 Promise students in college, so I work with a lot of students and parents. I want to respect each one and attend to their unique situation. These are constant reminders for me. Third (I just thought of a third) is to understand what is really at the core of the organization that you’re working for. At the Kalamazoo Promise, the core mission is student success. If I stay focused on the core mission, it helps with decision making and with keeping all efforts on track.
Who was one of your mentors and what do you carry with you from that relationship?
I’ve had a bunch of mentors. Marianne Houston was one. She taught me the power and importance of deep listening. Many were college professors. The overall theme that I take from them is to have the self-confidence to do the job as I see it. It’s having confidence in myself that, if my understanding is clear and focused on the mission, then I can trust my instincts and move forward. Another take away from them is that no job is a small job. Each job deserves my very best effort.
What has been one of your biggest learning moments?
One big learning moment was the first time I was fired. It taught me that I’m replaceable. I know that this is true of every one in every job – it’s true of me today in my current job. Eventually, someone else will do this job. What this understanding does for me is to help me be less self-righteous and to not take myself too seriously.
What’s an average day like for you at work?
On an average day I talk with several students and parents as well as attend to other calls and emails. I’ll have a couple of meetings. Then, there’s always some project to squeeze in between the regularly scheduled work.
What are the types of challenges/opportunities that keep you up at night?
My greatest challenge is the sheer number of students in our program – over 5,000 who are eligible for the Kalamazoo Promise. Again, my desire is to treat and respect each one as a unique individual, so I’m kept up by the need to keep up with workload. Another great challenge is how we, as a community, can address the disparity of success among minority students and to get more kids through high school and using the Kalamazoo Promise. Currently, I’m challenged in putting together our 10-year report.
How do you stay up-to-date on latest trends in your field?
Trends within the Promise field? It’s a pretty unique organization. That being said, I interact with people at colleges and universities to keep up on how to best facilitate student success. That’s our core. Yet, the Kalamazoo Promise is unique. What’s clear is that it’s a scholarship. Yet, the overall success depends upon the community’s citizens and organizations to help our students prepare for college…prepare to be successful. It’s something we can only do together. My hope is that the community is a bit sleepless about this, too.
What advice do you have for those wishing to have a long lasting career in the nonprofit sector?
Success in the nonprofit field is very similar to success in any field. Identify your passion and then be open to opportunities that will allow you to pursue that passion. It’s more about awareness than anything – self-awareness and opportunity awareness. I often tell students, “Don’t worry about your first job. Just get out there and see what doors open along the way. If you want to serve people, then start serving them and see where that takes you.”
What hobbies or outside interests do you enjoy?
I love the outdoors – the beach, mountains, ocean. I like being in “reasonably remote” areas (access is important). I enjoy riding my bike and writing poetry. I also enjoy spending time with family and friends.
ONEplace and the Kalamazoo Public Library (KPL) team up to present Kalamazoo Innovative Community Talks or KICtalks on Wednesday, August 26, at 5:30 pm at Kalamazoo Public Library downtown.
The 90-minute event features four brief (5-10’) talks highlighting their innovative efforts to serve and build the greater Kalamazoo community. A reception for enjoying conversation and locally-sourced food follows the talks.
The August 26 event will hear from four innovative efforts:
Children’s expression takes many forms and Read and Write Kalamazoo describes how their empathy centers provide a variety of opportunities for children to authentically express themselves. Utilizing small groups and collaborative adult interaction, they develop a culture where voice, perspective, and identity are valued.
Can Kalamazoo become the most physically fit community of its size in the nation? On the Move Kalamazoo believes it can. They will describe common barriers to movement, specific barriers in Kalamazoo, and their vision for getting us fit.
What does it mean to “be from Kalamazoo?” Remi Harrington of the Urban Folk Art Exploratory shares her fascinating story and will inspire all to seek what you need from our amazing community and claim Kalamazoo as your hometown.
When we talk of education, we rarely talk of educating the parents…as teachers of their children. Seeds for Success, a local affiliate of Parents as Teachers, describes how they collaborate with five area agencies to give kids – and parents – a better chance for success.
Quarterly KICtalk events are open and free to the public. To register, visit www.kpl.gov/ONEplace
Let’s get personal for a moment. Each of us has career aspirations. We want to do well, be successful, enjoy our work and feel good about our accomplishments. Many of us wish to make a lasting contribution and earn the respect of our colleagues. So, to those ends, I have one question for you:
How long is your long-term?
I recently finished a book that addressed one’s development in terms of five-year, even ten-year chunks. Imagine what you could accomplish if you approached your career and self-development in terms of ten-year chunks?
This goes beyond the job. Even if you’re approaching retirement, there are things you wish to do, contributions you wish to make, in your 60’s and 70’s. Of course, if you’re younger, it may be a stimulating exercise to imagine your life and career ten, fifteen or twenty years from now.
Why so long? It takes time to sink deep roots.
Whatever motivates you, gets you up in the morning, and pulls you through your day – plant yourself there. Learn about it and let tendrils of inquiry and understanding extend into the rich soil, in all directions, at all angles. Find others who share your interest and challenge each other’s assumptions.
Before long, you’ll find that what started as an isolated inquiry has turned into a complex network of interconnections. As you examine it, you’ll see how to craft it, deepen it, and make it your own.
This community needs what you have to offer.
It only takes a few years…and it’s exhilarating!
Leader development sits at the core of all our efforts. At ONEplace, we define a leader as someone who takes full responsibility and ownership for his/her role, developing the skills, knowledge, connections and awareness needed to fulfill that role, listens and learns from others, and teaches and shares with others. Or, to put it in a phrase:
Leaders keep learning.
An article in the recent McKinsey Quarterly reminded me of a fascinating, yet disturbing aspect of learning: neuroplasticity. It fascinates me because, thanks to fMRI’s and other imaging techniques, we’re being flooded with new insights and knowledge. It disturbs me because, like many of you, I continue to draw upon concepts of the hardwired brain, left-brain/right-brain preferences, and the fine art of multitasking – all which have been debunked.
Neuroplasticity – the brain’s ability to change its physical structure and functional organization – changed the game.
We now know that the brain rewires itself (makes new neural connections) when we learn new things. This happens at any age. We also know that everyone utilizes both sides of their brains without strict preferences and, in fact, the brain is more active than we previously thought. Further, calming practices (such as mindfulness or meditation) actually generate more brain matter in the executive functioning areas of the brain giving us a greater capacity for complex thinking. Again, this happens at any age.
Recent brain research offers us more and more insights into brain functioning, learning capacity, and so much more. Furthermore, it’s giving us direction in what we can do to keep our minds sharp and nimble (e.g., See Ten Habits of Highly Effective Brains).
All this reminds me of a humbling and challenging notion: knowledge is dynamic.
Facts change. Theories come and go. Best practices become past practices. And radical notions end up being mainstream. The world, with all its varied and wonderful parts, keeps changing. And the good news is: your brain can handle it.
P.S. Keep up on brain research and effective brain building practices at SharpBrains.com
Emerging from this July Fourth weekend, one phrase sticks with me.
We say it in the Pledge of Allegiance as both an aspiration and recognition that, once the debate is done, the votes are tallied, and the commitments are made, we act as one. On the world stage, there is only one USA voice.
This understanding is scalable, too.
It’s true for states, cities, neighborhoods, organizations, boards, senior management teams, departments, and even individuals. Each may puzzle out its myriad of daily routines, acute concerns and seasonal celebrations. Internal debates may rage on, but the entity acts as one.
Leaders know this.
Leaders occupy seats both in the balcony and on the stage, observing the forest and navigating amongst the trees. They know this about their organizations: presenting unified services to the public while dismantling silos in-house. They know this about their boards and leadership teams: encouraging stakeholders with a focused message while mining productive conflict and encouraging debate inside the conference room.
They also know this about themselves.
Leaders in any position recognize that we bring all of who we are to every situation. We may separate and compartmentalize our activities, behaviors, concerns, et al to analyze and understand them. Yet, on the ground, where life is lived, we must acknowledge and manage the swirling, indivisible mix of thoughts, emotions, and behaviors; choose our path; and move forward. We may understand things in categories, but we function as one.
One nation (one city, one organization, one board, one person), indivisible: it’s how we want it, and it’s how it is.
“I’m having coffee with….”
How often do you say that? Monthly? Every other week? Weekly? More?
Having coffee, tea, lunch, a drink, etc. with a nonprofit colleague means you’re making connections, and these connections energize your work and your organization.
Even if the conversation is purely social, you’re deepening your relationship. This makes it more likely that you’ll pick up the phone and call this person when you need to sound out an idea or concern. You’ll also be on each other’s radars when a future conversation touches on an issue or opportunity of mutual interest.
The idea of “building your network” sometimes gets a slimy reputation when it’s seen as serving one’s own interests and careers. Don’t throw out the proverbial toddler with the mud puddle! Developing relationships across the nonprofit sector, and especially your particular corner of the sector, is critical to your organization’s impact and your cause’s success.
The ROI on relationship building is huge and…better yet…it compounds. Don’t believe me? Not sure where to start? Ask me to coffee and I’ll explain it…ask nicely and I’ll buy.
When this email arrives in your inbox, I’ll be on retreat with a several others. Called Courage to Lead, this retreat creates space for each person to relax, rest, and listen to the quiet voice of their own wisdom.
I cherish these times.
For the past two years, I’ve been on retreat at least once every quarter. It’s an opportunity to declutter, recharge, and reconnect with what’s important. It helps me align my deeply held values with my actions and activities…to merge soul and role.
It’s also something I can carry with me. The retreat works on the principles of the Circle of Trust as developed by the Center for Courage and Renewal in Seattle. These principles (e.g., extend hospitality, listen deeply, ask open honest questions, maintain confidentiality) can be carried and practiced outside the retreat center – in the home, in the workplace…anywhere. And yet...
their power is greatest on retreat – in a community of solitudes.
You know this. You’ve experienced the synergy of several people working together. Each has his/her own unique task or challenge, but the energy of everyone doing their work creates a spirit that motivates and sustains. It’s awesome and invigorating.
This week’s retreat is a pilot for ONEplace. We’ll evaluate the experience and plan how to move forward from here. I anticipate other Courage & Renewal experiences to come through ONEplace in the near future.
Last week, Tamela Spicer (The Intentional Catalyst) presented a Management Track workshop on Event Management. During the session, we dissected the finer points of holding a fundraising event. Here are a few points to consider.
First, it’s all in the planning. My experience with nonprofits (and everyone else) is that we commonly don’t think through the details before taking on a new project. Tamela supported that opinion and advocated detailed planning (don’t forget the post-event follow-ups in the plan) and document everything as you work the plan. It helps track this event and plan for the next one.
A second key to success is making sure your volunteers have a great experience…a Wow! experience. This is respect and good hospitality for the volunteers, and it’s a great investment in building your reputation. Give them a great answer to the inevitable question, “How’d it go?” If this is done well, then recruiting volunteers for the next event will be that much easier.
One more highlight: make sure your event shows your core purpose. It can be popular and fun, but if people don’t know what they’re supporting then you’ve done little to connect with that donor.
And a final word: don’t be afraid to challenge yourself. If you meet all your goals, you may have planned too easy.
Like most of you, I struggle with how to get the word out. How do I best let people know about the services we offer and encourage them to take advantage of them? Marketing. It’s important, yet it’s elusive and often stays on the back burner.
In a recent Entrepreneur article, Jurgen Appelo points out that we no longer need broadcast-based marketing (“Hello everyone! This is what we do!! We are very cool and awesome! Hello?!”).
He sets out 3 rules of marketing for the 21st century:
“Pull, don’t push. Make sure that people can find you using Google, social network and/or market places. Attract them with great content.
“Show, don’t tell. Make sure people can see with their own eyes that you are awesome. Those who are cool and remarkable don’t need to say it.
“Share, don’t beg. Don’t annoy everyone with 20th-century marketing tactics. Thanks to transparency, when you behave like a beggar, everyone will know.”
Two comments. First, I must underscore Appelo’s assumption that your marketing includes “great content” and that your organization is “cool,” “remarkable,” and “transparent.” Great marketing cannot make up for a great organization, so your best marketing strategy begins with becoming a great organization.
Second, if I could add one more word to his list, it would be targeting. Marketing is no longer a numbers game – connecting with 0.5% of a huge mailing list. Rather, it’s a strategic game – smaller lists, higher response rates.
Strategy requires more thought, more planning, more testing, more tracking. Yet, over time, we’ll learn where our audience resides and what messages motivate response. In short, we’ll become more relevant.
P.S. Find out more by participating in the upcoming Marketing Makeover 2015 webinar.