Developing a common language to communicate change

Developing a common language to communicate change

Posted on October 23, 2014 by Michael Corley, consultant with The Patterson Foundation

In my last blog about Recoding Organizational DNA, I discussed the common themes emerging for the challenging work these groups are pursuing: the need for direction, persistence, clear expectations and regular communications.

The lab on Oct. 17 was structured to help develop a common language based on an update of the Marbut 12-point plan and its success to date. (Oh, you didn't know about the success over the past 10 months?  That confirms the need for regular communication about the persistent work being done.)

During the lab, Wayne Applebee, the director of homeless services for Sarasota County, presented an update on the community's work over the past 10 months. The progress on family homelessness was impressive and proved that when nonprofits, government, media, business and citizens work together, much can be accomplished. Yes, there is progress, but there is still more work to be done. Wayne’s update created a common understanding and baseline among the lab participants that allowed them to break into smaller groups to "get some work done."

We divided the more than 50 lab participants into three groups: Board members, CEOs, and staff. (Peer groups are often the most effective in building relationships, establishing comfort and engaging in discussion). Each group had a facilitator whose role was to get the participants involved and to document the thoughts. Each group identified a "spokesperson" who would report out to the larger group.

We did this twice. The first breakout topic was: What should the citizens of Sarasota know about the success of the Marbut 12-point plan? The second breakout topic was: What services does your specific organization provide to move from enabling to engaging the homeless?

Each topic and breakout was intentional. The first to form relationships and create a common language for talking points, etc. and the second to build upon the newly created relationships for a discussion about what each group provides in this space.

If engagement can be measured by the noise level of the groups and the energy of the presenters, then we had engaged individuals most interested in developing solutions. Most importantly, we had members of 16 organizations, each with a different mission, aligning around a topic (homelessness) to create and embed change ... and creating the tools and words to make that happen.

photo credit: Tim Morgan via photopin cc

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