A Fond Farewell to the Next Leaders Network

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Last week I shared the story of how our team decided to stop having staff meetings.

Today, we have other news to share with you.

Four years ago, we began incubating the Next Leaders Network, hoping to foster connection and learning among local young not-for-profit professionals. Since then, we’ve invested $30,000+ in the Network, developed a leadership team to steward its strategic direction, provided 34 learning opportunities and engaged hundreds of emerging leaders.

It’s a great concept. And yet – something isn’t working. Participation rates have been declining for some time. We aren’t attracting new members. The Network is not thriving.

After much deliberation, we’ve decided to stop hosting the Next Leaders Network.

We informed our members last week, and are now sharing the news with you. It’s bittersweet. The Network has fostered important relationships and catalyzed some incredible opportunities. It’s a difficult decision to end a program we (and others) have enjoyed and grown attached to.

This is a challenge many organizations face. It's been tempting to invest even more human and financial resources to try to make the Network succeed. Yet, it’s clearly not what we do best. From that perspective, stopping IS the best decision – both for our organization and the community.

I recently discussed this predicament with Amanda Fenton, one of our knowledge philanthropists. She shared with me a change model from the Berkana Institute. The theory is "as a current system nears its peak, a new system starts being born. People drop out and walk out, innovating something new". What a relief! In this context, it's okay to acknowledge that the Network isn't working. We can play a valuable role in “hospicing” the Network and acting as a bridge to whatever emerges next.

In this spirit, we have invited our members to step forward and evolve the Network into something different. Hopefully by stepping aside, we are actually clearing the way for a new – and potentially more successful – initiative. We’ll keep you posted!.

Has your organization considerined ending a program or initiative? What decision did you make?
What lessons do you have to share?

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