Monday, June 6, 2016

Changing Places, But Still Focused on Change

I work to create change and it’s time to change my work. I will stay in the change business, but where and what I work on will be different.

On July 1, I will stop being a full-time employee of the Fund for Our Economic Future. I will use my time and talent to help leaders and organizations catalyze enduring, positive change in their communities. Through my business, Civic Collaboration Consultants LLC, I will provide training and support services to leaders and organizations who want to use cross-sector collaborations to create the kind of positive change we can see, feel and touch when we walk out the door in the morning.
“Cross-sector collaboration” is how independent organizations, institutions and individuals assume shared responsibility for achieving shared goals.

Through coaching, workshops and presentations I help leaders better understand:
  • Why cross-sector collaboration is necessary to solve wicked, persistent problems within our communities
  • When cross-sector collaboration is possible
  • How to create the conditions for effective collaboration · The capacity and process needed to support effective collaboration 
  • And the leadership skills demanded to launch and sustain such collaborations.
In addition, Civic Collaboration Consultants provides technical and staff support to design, develop and implement new and evolving cross-sector collaborations.

I am fortunate that my first client will be the Fund. I will provide support to a few key Fund initiatives, including work in Akron – a community that both embraces collaboration and is experiencing a remarkable transition in civic leadership. I will also serve the Fund by providing collaboration coaching and training to its staff, members, grantees and partners.

I look forward to expanding my client base in the months ahead. I am having exciting conversations with leaders inside and outside Northeast Ohio at foundations, United Ways, advocacy organizations, leadership development organizations and planning agencies. I expect a few of those conversations will turn into interesting projects.

Nine plus years at the Fund provided me with an all access pass to an amazing learning laboratory for collaboration. The Fund itself is a collaboration. The Fund supports collaborations. And several Fund members support collaborations separate from their work with the Fund. This concentration of collaboration gave me the opportunity to work on numerous and diverse efforts. Their scope range from bringing change neighborhoods to creating alignment across multiple states. The Fund’s work is focused on collaborations that improve job creation, job preparation and job access outcomes. I’ve been fortunate that Fund members have also asked me to help build collaborations that create change in other areas, as well. One of the many lessons I learned while working and observing collaborations in such diverse areas as public health, youth development, early childhood development, education and the environment is that how collaboration works is pretty much the same regardless of what change is sought. Effective collaboration – which is far different from its more common cousin, “coblaboration” -- requires a potent mix of leadership, capacity and process.

The Fund itself embodies this mix. For more than a decade a handful of foundation executives, including the Fund’s current chair Brian Frederick of the Community Foundation of Lorain County, have exercised the leadership necessary to encourage dozens of independent grantmaking organizations to pool resources and assume shared responsibility for achieving common goals. That the Fund has no peer across the philanthropic world is a testimony to the effectiveness of its leadership. A small staff, more than ably led by Fund President Brad Whitehead, provides the capacity to perform the critical functions that make collaboration possible. And the diverse members of the Fund have created a process that builds trust, fosters shared learning and gives all of its members an equal voice in its decision-making.

Working with Fund members and staff changed the way I look at our communities, how I work with others and what I know is possible. I am blessed to be able to continue to work with them, and to have the opportunity to share the lessons they have helped me learn with others inside and outside of Northeast Ohio. Over the next few months you will be hearing a lot more about Civic Collaboration Consultants LLC. In the meantime, if you’re interested in learning more about how I can help you catalyze enduring, positive change in your community drop me a note at or @ccarsonthompson.