Organizational Pilates

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Today's guest bloggers  are Anil Patel, Executive Director and Jen Grebeldinger, Program Manager of The Framework Foundation, possibly better known for their Timeraiser events across Canada. And in the name of full disclosure, Volunteer Vancouver does work with the Timeraiser crew so it's a tainted, but genuine full endorsement that I can offer on everything these guys touch. Their model of engaging all their stakeholders, via their Civic Footprint, might be one of the coolest things I've ever seen.

Quick Propaganda from the authors: We are quite excited to be a few days away from the 2nd Vancouver Timeraiser. If you don't know what the Timeraiser is, imagine a silent art auction where folks bid with community service rather than money. Dozens of last year's art winners will collect their artwork and celebrate their accomplishments, inspiring participants this year to pledge and participate. Visit the website to find a Timeraiser near you!

We are also very excited to be in Vancouver because we love working with Volunteer Vancouver. They are leaders in a larger, national movement to re-frame leadership and capacity building in the sector. To give credit where credit is due, our own capacity building work has directly benefited from their thinking. So, the balance of this article builds on Virginia Edelstein's earlier posting Share and Share Alike (Thursday August 20th, 2009), as we discuss the ways we've learned to share institutional knowledge at our organization.

Organizational Pilates

As a not-for-profit operating in several timezones, we need to have accessible, collaborative documents available to our staff and volunteers regardless of their location. In order to be agile, expand the Timeraiser program, and further develop Civic Footprint, we need the ability to share and edit documents from anywhere. Like many not-for-profit organizations, we operate within a limited budget, changing staff models and shifting technologies. How do you build a strong organizational core when some or all of your organization's knowledge can leave with a single staff member? It can also be extremely challenging to invest in new technologies, software languages and social media tools without full-time support and maintenance of these technologies.

We have been doing a series of organizational exercises to address some of these challenges. The exercises are called Organizational Pilates.

Organizational Pilates is a management practice of making pieces of our internal operations and external programming easy for people - especially volunteers - to engage with. We have developed a series of information portals that concisely present relevant information to each stakeholder group. These portals make it easy for our staff and volunteers to update content and makes new information available in real-time for others to use.

Organizational Pilates gives us the operational wherewithal to be resilient and agile. Resilient by making sure decisions are being made with the most salient information possible, and agile because the entire staff works off an integrated information management platform. Very few silos exist. Therefore, if a new idea springs up, we can evaluate that idea against our existing programming. If we move forward, the new project can easily be integrated within our existing management structure.

Examples of the portals that we've developed are:

We are proud of how our organization's knowledge is presented publicly, and deeply value the open-source nature of our work. Having our data and resources open and available provides better opportunities for feedback from experts in a variety of fields, and gives organizations looking for ideas instant access to the strategy, files, code and other information.

This open-source model significantly increases the accountability and transparency in our work. This approach clarifies our vision to multiple stakeholders effectively. And perhaps most importantly, we are able to engage skilled volunteers quickly and at a level of productivity that we could not have handled before we started our daily pilates work outs.

If you're intrigued by the work of my friends at The Framework Foundation and want to learn more, please contact Jennifer Grebeldinger. Or - meet them face to face this Thursday by joining us at Timeraiser!

t: 604 875 9144
f: 604 875 0710
1183 Melville Street
Vancouver, BC V6E 2X5


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