The Neighborhood Associations of Michigan (NAM) Board membership engaged in a planning retreat on Saturday, 24 October 98 on the campus of Michigan State University. The planning retreat was facilitated by D. LaMont Williams of Community Design Endeavors, Inc.

The session was designed to stimulate dialogue amongst NAM board members. The dialogic process moves the membership toward shared understanding. Shared understanding is more than consensus building, and certainly more than discussion "where people talk back and forth with one another." By definition, dialogue is "the free and creative exploration of complex and subtle issues, a deep 'listening to one another and suspending of one's own views'."

The dialogic process is emphasized here as the cornerstone of an effective, continuous, planning process. For NAM to develop a self-sustaining, living planning process, there must be room for dialogue. If shared understanding is to be forged, members must be willing to engage in active, heartfelt listening. Moving your organization forward, toward shared understanding, means that your organization is moving forward with shared purpose. The higher the level of understanding existing between you will allow your group to be dynamic and take advantage of a multitude of integrated opportunities that exist relative to human capital and traditional resources e.g. money.

The planning session (attachment 1, agenda) consisted of the following components:

Motivation for Participation
NAM Board members are attracted to the organization for interests relating to self-sufficiency and self-determination; neighborhood stabilization and deterioration; political empowerment; individual community involvement; opportunity; and concern for neighborhoods as a personal place to live.

Organizational Expectations and Outcomes
Board members expect that NAM will develop a structure that will include regional statewide training's resembling the Community Leadership Initiative - Michigan's Best (CLIMB) model (attachment 3); develop a clear definition of how to work with local groups relative to their areas of interest and that local groups be able to connect with NAM on state level issues; seek direct involvement with legislature on relevant issues (e.g. matching, regranting); working plan that works (updating constantly), also identified as a living plan; add staff and organizational structure; offer training around measurement and evaluation; examine and assess role of 501(c)(3) and its' impact on dissemination; study the role of NAM as a fiduciary; develop strategic roles for youth within the organization; conduct feasibility studies (What have we done" What are we doing?); and establish a platform and framework for the millennium.

Team Building/Board Development (Fishbowl Technique)
The fishbowl technique is used to develop clear methods of communication between participants. The approach encourages active listening, clarification and explicitness. Members seated in the outer circle sit quietly and take notes relative to subject content, body language, and dialogue process rules. Inner circle participants tackle issues while learning the dialogic process. The next phase of the process is to then form one circle while the former outer circle members question, probe and analyze their understanding of the content of the dialogue and offer their critique of the dialogic process in action. The next step would be to reverse roles (or select new inner circle participants, depending upon the size of the group). Limited time allowed for one session.

Inner circle participants began with the issue of developing a clear definition of NAM. What is NAM? A participant ventured forth with NAM as an information provider that engages in leadership development. The clearinghouse concept was also mentioned. Members questioned whether NAM should be involved with local groups for the benefit of the specific local group? This line of thought led to much contemplation of how NAM might integrate the needs of NAM and the needs local organizations. The historical perspective of NAM was given and the group agreed later that historical information is extremely valuable for new members. Members struggled with a clear definition of NAM. This is extremely positive, for it forces the group to develop a shared understanding of what the organization should be. Current State/Issues Ideal NAM Obstacles to Development NAM Board Competencies and Strengths

Vicky Hurley

Dorothy Young Carol Wood Pat Watkins Nrena Hunt Edna Jones-Webb Charles Cooper Andre Reddick Maxie Jackson How to Get NAM Where it Needs to GO
For NAM to be an effective statewide organization that provides leadership and support to grassroots groups, while simultaneously networking politically on a complex local, state and national level - NAM (individuals and the organization) must develop a series of relationships and strategies that are interwoven into the fabric of the NAM mission. Demonstrating flexibility and accepting the principal of reciprocity are key. NAM must be flexible enough to deal with reciprocity. Understanding that within the complexity of developing relationships with individuals, organizations, funders, etc., all will look for "something" in return for working with NAM. It is within that "something" were dynamic opportunities will arise. Identify and capitalize on that "something" and your organization can not...will not fail. In fact, with patience, you will succeed beyond your wildest dreams. To make your dreams a reality, I recommend the following:
  1. Initiate collaborative working relationships with funders, Extension offices, community colleges and other organizations involved in community and leadership development state wide.
  2. Develop NAM staff and organizational structure.
  3. Develop community capacity through direct community development.
  4. Develop community capacity by providing learning exchanges that support civic participation.
  5. Develop evaluation component.
Laying Out the Vision
  1. Initiate collaborative working relationships with funders, Extension offices, community colleges and other organizations involved in community and leadership development state wide.
Initial steps: Immediately work with Neeta Delany, President of the Jackson Community Foundation to develop relationships with the Michigan Council of Foundations and the Michigan Nonprofit Association (Sam Singh). Mrs. Delaney is intensely interested in grassroots development. She is currently working to establish structures that will allow the Jackson Community Foundation to work with non 501 (c)(3) groups (Dr. Maxie Jackson is involved in this process - attachment 4). Mrs. Delaney's interest in NAM (she participated as a panelist during the '98 convention) and grassroots organizing, along with her professional involvement with the Michigan Council of Foundation, allows NAM a dynamic opportunity to seek partnerships around strengthening Michigan communities through the development of large scale grassroots mechanisms and structures.

Through the process of developing relationships, NAM will discover the needs of funders and will be able to identify the availability of resources. Further, within this process of relationship building, NAM will be able to match the goals and desires of funders to the goals and desires of grassroots groups where applicable. Remember - most funders do not know how to work with grassroots individuals and groups. Board members can position NAM to fill this void of misunderstanding by acting as a bridge or translator between funders and grassroots, by assisting them to develop shared understanding and a common language.

As these relationships develop and NAM members begin to understand the desires and goals of funders, NAM should begin to lay out strategies for development and collaboration that will promote the aims of grassroots and funders. NAM's development will allow funders to focus their resources to further build capacity for civic involvement in Michigan.

Next step: Attend Grantmakers/Grantseekers X Conference, "Powerful Alliances: Partners for Change," on May 17 & 18 at the Novi Hilton in Novi, Michigan (attachment 5).

Nam members should attend this conference in force to listen, learn , identify opportunities, seek common ground and disseminate information about NAM's mission and future.

Next step: After the Conference (sometime in June or July), invite a targeted group of individuals to a round table dialogue regarding NAM and its role in grassroots community development. Invitees should include (but not limited to):

It is at this meeting where NAM will be prepared to lay out an agenda.
  1. Develop NAM staff and organizational structure.
Administration and staff (roles) for NAM - for NAM to carry out its mission, administration and staff are essential. Ideally, NAM needs administration to coordinate state wide activities. Staff are needed to perform direct liaison/outreach work.
Scenario A. Technical Assistance for Long Term Organizational Development.
    1. Contact with Grant Writer to develop proposals to develop the NAM long term vision.
    2. Contact with Evaluator to include evaluation as a natural part of project.
Develop the "process of assessing the work" (p.35). According to the CLIMB model "evaluation is an extension of critical reflection...evaluation activity is useful not only for the information it produces but also for the contribution to community capacity building it provides: the process of assessing the work in which the group is engaged, evaluating fairly and non-defensively what has worked well and what needs improving, is a way to practice and build community leadership. (p. 35).

"CLIMB's approach to evaluation shares much in common with the emerging theory and practice of empowerment evaluation (Fetterman, 1994). Empowerment the use of evaluation concepts, techniques, and findings to foster improvement and self-determination...It is designed to help people help themselves and improve their programs using a form of self-evaluation and reflection. (p.35).

Evaluation method taken from New Approaches to Community Leadership Development: Lessons Learned from the CLIMB Experience, Markus and Ramsey, January '99, Extension Bulletin E-2687.

Scenario B. Seek initial funding (two years). Present 2 year work plan in conjunction with Scenario A.
    1. Administrator
    2. Assistant
    3. Liaison
    4. Travel
    5. Office Supplies
Scenario C. Seek existing Federal resources existing mechanisms to support NAM mission. With a collaborative effort developed around community capacity building and solid theoretical frameworks in hand, seek federal resources that complement the NAM mission.
    1. HUD Community Builders (attachment 6).
      1. Mainline staff support.
      2. Community liaison supports clearinghouse concept and learning/training models in conjunction with NAM mission and staff.
    1. Vista Volunteers (attachment 7).
      1. Mainline staff support.
      2. Community liaison supports clearinghouse concept and learning/training models in conjunction with NAM mission and staff.
  1. Develop Community Capacity through direct community involvement.
    1. Use the Natural Neighborhood Helping Networks (NNHN) "council/clearinghouse" model as a tool to work with local communities without being overly intrusive. The council/clearinghouse structure is shown as attachment 8. The role of NNHN is to connect, disseminate, inform, and facilitate. Membership for NNHN will vary greatly as community members become aware of the organization and its' focus of strengthening the entire community through improved communication. We expect that members and other organizations will "tap" into NNHN on an "as needed" basis. NNHN is not positioned as the new leadership organization, it seeks to be a network organization. Therefore, there is not focus on membership, the focus in on communicating with varying sectors of the community.
    1. Develop community capacity by co-creating the infrastructure for civic involvement.
    2. Identify and interact with local resources (the following resources exist in most communities. These institutions continue to examine their role in community development).
      1. Michigan State University Extension
      2. Local Community Foundation
      3. Community College (attachment 9)
    1. Important concepts to be integrated into the NAM mission
      1. Matching: Providing matching funds to complement grassroots fundraising efforts, including non 501(c)(3) groups.
      2. Fiduciary: Provide or identify financial services for constituents.
      3. Regranting: Providing resources to grassroots groups.
      4. Translators: People that act as bridge builders between the formal and informal worlds.
      5. Community Guides: Within local communities, individuals that act as "informal" guides leading alienated and disenfranchised people to life sustaining resources.
      6. Dialogue: Communication with the emphasis on understanding.
  1. Develop community capacity by providing learning exchanges that support civic participation.
    1. Develop Regional/Statewide learning for grassroots capacity building.
    1. CLIMB Model, learning through "gatherings." Train local leaders in high level values and principles that enable them to go back to their communities and engage holistically.
    2. Community Development as a business.
      1. Filtering local issues through diversity, state, and national lenses.
    1. Build in learning opportunities for clearing house meetings.
    1. Program planning
    2. Dialogue
    1. Create spaces for dialogue with external and internal relationships

  1. Evaluations/Outcomes (Diagrams 1-4)
    1. NAM will move people from a single issue focus to an understanding and appreciation of larger community issues and the impact of those larger issues on their communities.

    3. The creation of NAM outreach structure sets the stage for NAM comprehensive vision.

    5. The plan attempts to integrate existing resources wth sound theoretical principles relating to civic participation.