Guest post by Sara Maranowicz, community programs director at Bohemian Foundation, a participant in StriveTogether’s Investing in Community Outcomes Network.
Nearly a year ago, my executive director and I signed up for what seemed like an interesting learning opportunity: Investing in Community Outcomes Network (ICON). This is my DIY story. Not DIY as in — I do it all myself without the help of professionals — but rather a story about how ICON helped me to roll up my sleeves, learn new tools, challenge my assumptions and step more fully into owning my part in achieving results at scale.
Our community, Fort Collins, Colorado, is not a StriveTogether Cradle to Career Network member, although we have learned many lessons from the StriveTogether staff and network partners. We are inspired by so many StriveTogether communities, and even though we didn’t really know what we were about to get into, we trusted the Cradle to Career Network and jumped in.
ICON introduced our cohort of funders from across the country to the Results Count methodology and so much more, not unlike the resources and training available to network partners. My learning curve was steep. The ICON team didn’t let us off the hook. Expectations were clear — practice and reflection were part of the deal. With new tools in hand, and definitely imperfectly, I began my apprenticeship in the intentional design of results at scale-focused meetings, conversations and exchanges. This work required structure, tools, discipline and tons of support from trusted allies. Our ICON peers, ICON coaches, my own colleagues and community partners so generously provided this encouragement and more.
I love data, outcomes and continuous improvement. Who doesn’t? To be honest, however, I typically viewed outcomes as something other organizations achieved and then reported on. I believed I was “data oriented” when I asked lots of questions, loved the learning and applied the knowledge to future work. My perspective shifted as I began to view everything about partner and colleague engagement more deliberately with a data and outcomes end-game in mind. Every sequence, every agenda, every role, every big piece of paper … every action … thoughtfully designed has the potential to move a result. I understand that data’s power is with the people who come together around it and how they use it to drive change. Now, however, I more clearly understand how I can actively support a community working to achieve results at scale — a shift to owning my part of the work in a new way.
If you’re taking the time to read this post, I’ll bet the bank that you are passionately committed to improving the lives of children in your community and across the country. Me, too. And because of ICON, I now think differently about the role I play to help our community use data and what it takes to achieve results at scale. Initially, as funders, we believed some of the insight gained through ICON would be relevant to some of our work. Turns out, we see new opportunities to apply our learning across our organization and beyond. We’re just getting started.
Sara Maranowicz is the community programs director at Bohemian Foundation, a private family foundation that works to empower citizens and impact communities through its responsive grant-making programs and special initiatives.