Organizational Development

The Heart of the Story: Grameen America

I'm excited to be working on a national storytelling campaign for Grameen America.  Grameen America is the leading micro-finance institution in the US.  Today, Grameen has lent over $482 million dollars to over 75,000 women in 11 cities across the United States to start their own businesses.

This week, I joined up with Grameen’s national staff to lead a creative marketing and communications strategy session to inform the storytelling series that we are setting out to capture.

To build a strong storytelling campaign, it’s important to invest time upfront to bring stakeholders together, listen, and develop a holistic understanding of the key themes that matter most.  Once we have this base, it determines how we work in the field to surface the people who truly embody Grameen’s mission.

Here is what we did this week with Grameen America:

1.Bring Stakeholders Together.

It’s critical to bring a diverse group of people to the table, representing a broad set of perspectives and expertise.  We worked with Grameen to gather leaders from their national fundraising, operations and communications teams.

2. Active Listening

 In order to understand who Grameen is and the impact they are creating, we need to listen.  In our session with Grameen, we listened to each participant share what inspires them on a daily basis and keeps them doing what they do.  We listened to every person around the table share amazing stories of women whose lives have been transformed through the Grameen community.  Grameen staff, some who have been with the organization over eight years and and others only 3 months, all talked about the direct impact they witnessed in the lives of women and their families.  As active listeners, everyone around the table took notes.  Everyone listened for key words that got to the heart of the stories and moved us as an audience.  Listening to understand, instead of listening to respond, allowed these key words to surface.

3.Identify Themes

After active listening, the team put the words they had gathered on the wall.  These words represented the essence of the Grameen America story.  They shared who the Grameen women are, the barriers they have overcome, the dreams they have realized, the communities they have fortified and the confidence they have built.  Putting these key words up on the wall clarified for the team which themes were most important to express in the storytelling series.

We led this session with Grameen so we could have clear themes to develop in our storytelling series.  But the benefits go much deeper.

Takeaways

First, this session was great for teambuilding.  Staff members felt more connected to each other, more connected to their own motivation, and charged up to bring what they discovered back into their daily work.

Second, building this storytelling campaign in partnership with a diverse team of national staff creates broad ownership, allowing insights to spread more organically through the organization. 

Finally, this session clarified overall communications strategy.  The team discovered more powerful ways to express Grameen’s mission and impact.

Next Steps

We are now heading into the field to capture the stories of women who have thrived because Grameen gave them a real opportunity to build their own American Dream. 

Get In Touch

I'd be happy to customize similar strategies for your organization. You can contact me here.

Behind the Scenes: Divest-Invest and The Educational Foundation of America

I'm on a mission to capture exciting stories from investors around the country who are moving their money out of fossil fuels and into climate solutions.  

The Educational Foundation of America was one of the first foundations to join Divest-Invest Philanthropy.  This week, I'm making a short video featuring EFA's board members and executive director discussing their ethical and financial commitment to support the new energy economy.  

And we had fun, too!  

System-Change: The New Green Economy

People's Climate March, NYC 2014

People's Climate March, NYC 2014

My whole career has been dedicated to systemic change.  I am led by a deep passion and persistent optimism to believe that it is possible to design a healthcare system, or an education system, or a justice system that actually serves communities in a positive way.  

What does it take to change systems?  Usually, it's money. Changing where the money goes in the system.  Different input, different output.

That’s why I’m super excited to be doing some work with Divest-Invest Philanthropy.  Divest-Invest is a movement among philanthropic leaders to divest their holdings from fossil fuels and re-invest in climate solutions.  So far, 500 institutions and 50,000 individuals - managing assets in excess of $3.4 trillion-  have pledged to move their money out of the industries that are directly contributing to global warming and to invest instead in renewable energy, energy efficiency, clean tech, sustainable agriculture, water conservation, energy access and climate justice initiatives.  

This is system change at work--an active re-allocation of funds that can change the economic game and lead the transition to a new sustainable economy that protects our planet and the communities most at risk.  

So what does that LOOK like?  I'm only a few weeks into my project with Divest-Invest and I'm already stoked about all the exciting investments that participating foundations are making.  Here are a few examples:

Expanding the Market for Sustainably Sourced Food

In Portland, Ecotrust is strengthening the regional economy by creating direct relationships between urban and rural food producers.  This allows high quality sustainably grown food to reach wider local distribution and become more affordable.  On top of an online platform that connects food growers to local markets and restaurants, Ecotrust is also building The Redd, a working hub that will give farmers a place to sell to large local buyers, like hospitals and schools.   

Photo: Ecotrust

Photo: Ecotrust

Transforming Fuel-Guzzlers into Hybrids

Lightning Hybrids is company that retrofits the biggest polluters on the road-- buses, delivery trucks, shuttles and other large vehicles-- and turns them into hybrids, making them more fuel efficient and reducing harmful emissions.  

 

Converting Urban Spaces to Farmland

Boston-based Green City Growers is turning unused space in grocery stores, sports facilities, assisted-living facilities and corporate offices into small food-producing farms.  To date, Green City Growers have grown "over 140,000 lbs of organic produce, valued at over $500,000, donated 4,000 lbs of produce, & worked with more than 6,000 people on urban farms & gardens which cover less than 2 acres of space combined."

Photo: Green City Growers

Photo: Green City Growers

Foundations, pension-funds, universities, insurance companies, cities and faith-groups who divest from fossil fuels and re-invest in solutions like these are leading the way for a powerful green economy.  Together they are showing that when money is moved in alignment with values over pure profit, it is possible to change the system.

Unlocking Gifts and Dreams

This summer, I consulted with New Day Church to develop an organizational and leadership development series called Gift and Dreams.  

I designed unique creative tools to help New Day members identify their individual talents, share their collective dreams for their church, and explore areas for new growth

New Day had a blast with the series.  Check out what they had to say!