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Break Out of Your Box

September 25, 2012

By Kyle Jansson

It’s amazing what you can see when you break out of a box or silo.

When I broke out of my normal routines two weeks ago and attended the Eastern Oregon Nonprofit Conference, I was amazed by what I saw. Hundreds of people from as many organizations attended, and many of them were struggling with the same kinds of issues as most heritage organizations.

Take time to break out of your box soon.

The most amazing aspect of the conference was to see organizations that are not normally partners busy talking with one another looking for ideas and possibilities: People interested in economic development talking with food banks; Social service providers talking with libraries; Watershed groups talking with faith organizations.

A few heritage organizations were there, too. Everyone seemed to want to improve their communities and was looking for critical facts and partnerships to make that happen.

I was pleasantly surprised to see several heritage groups at a session on “Courageous Leadership: Identifying and Tackling Strategic Issues Facing Your Organization.” They listened to others talk about the need for a clear focus on vision, a willingness to look at hard realities, the ability to change, and the need to bring others along with you through difficult times.

In workshops like this and in conversations, there were references to the collective impact approach to communities. That’s what Fay Hanleybrown, the keynote speaker, talked about, too. She emphasized that organizations need to be willing to let go of their organizational egos and work with others in order to solve the community’s real issues. She identified five key parts of the collective impact approach:

  1. A common agenda and focus.
  2. Shared measurements of what you are trying to solve.
  3. Mutually reinforcing activities.
  4. Continuous conversation among the participants.
  5. Backbone organizations, or to have one or more organizations with the capacity to hold the effort together.

As I listened about the collective impact approach, I thought of many different ways that heritage organizations could support solutions to issues for which they are not often associated: literacy, hunger, business development, unemployment. And then I realized not only was I out of the box, I was thinking outside the box.

Take time to break out of your box soon. You’ll be pleasantly surprised at how refreshing and beneficial it can be.

Kyle Jansson is the coordinator for the Oregon Heritage Commission, part of Oregon Heritage.

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