Wednesday, July 31, 2013

How to be a leader in your field

What does it take to move from fighting for your piece of scarce resources to boldly helping everyone who shares your goals succeed? 

I've had the honor of consulting with the FATHER Project at Goodwill/Easter Seals for the past 4 years, facilitating strategic planning, evaluation, communication, and helping set up systems for expansion. The FATHER Project continues to grow as a leader in the state and national fatherhood field. Here is some of what I've learned from them about how to be a leader in your field: 
A FATHER Project community outreach team

  1. Help your competitors succeed: The FATHER Project partners with dozens of other organizations who serve low-income fathers, doing collaborative fundraising, with a focus on building a movement to support fathers, not just to expand programs.  
  2. Think big and bold: Last year, the FATHER Project went from one location to six locations throughout Minnesota. In the next three years, they plan to partner with other organizations to serve all regions in Minnesota. The big visions have attracted many partners and substantial funding.
  3. Engage leaders from large systems and among those you serve: The FATHER Project has intentionally developed mutually beneficial relationships with local, state, and national leaders in Child Support, Employment Services, Early Childhood, and many other fields. At the same time, the program has developed a leadership track for the fathers who receive services. Now a large team of powerful former program participants do public speaking, community outreach, mentoring of other participants, and more.
  4. Cultivate and connect champions for your mission: Earlier this week, the FATHER Project brought together 100 of its staff, partners, participants, and government leaders to connect with each other and build a common vision of fatherhood in Minnesota. Each of these leaders is supported to be a champion and entrepreneur for this vision in their own area of influence.
  5. Measure the long-term impact of your work: Many forms of evaluation are a top priority for the program, including a multi-year random-assignment study that started this year. A return on investment study by the Wilder Foundation showed a long-term financial return of $3.41 for every dollar invested in the program.
  6. Do what you say you're going to do: In 2008, we completed a strategic plan that included expanding to new cultural communities and new locations in Minnesota. Unlike many organizations, the FATHER Project was disciplined and rigorous in their implementation, and have accomplished almost all of their goals.
 I'm increasingly passionate about facilitating networks of many organizations that are finding new ways of collaborating to achieve common goals. Let me know how I can support you to be a leader in your field. 

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