A community of collaboration
Some community members advised, “Moshe, don’t do it.” They were referring to my interest in putting a consultant’s proposal on the table in the first in a series of leadership meetings to map our community’s future more intentionally.
Despite this bona fide advice, I felt compelled to engage community leaders in conversation to assess action plans beyond what any organization could do on its own. To usher into the mix of solutions, a community-wide enterprise plan to uniquely address the needs of what we call home in Jewish Michiana.
My thinking was that through a collective forum, the Town Halls last year, FED Talks this year, and now drilling down into Community Leadership meetings, we could tackle big-picture growth and sustainability challenges and begin to prioritize actions, evaluate options, and consider possible investments.
To this end, I introduced a community engagement consultant who presented a proposal at the Community Leaders’ meeting. The thrust of the proposal: attract and retain young Jewish people in and to our area (akin to the enFocus model for those who attended FED Talk 3).
To my delight, two dozen community members showed up on a Thursday evening. We heard a story about Jewish belonging. We shared our own stories of Jewish belonging. A proposal was presented, and a robust Q&A followed.
The post-meeting feedback was constructive in that many people thought the proposal was not the right approach for one reason or another. Knowing what we don’t want is equally important to understand what we do want. What do we want? We have a consensus to begin a collaborative process of drawing a larger circle around our own organizational and individual objectives.
Successful community planning is both imaginative and implementation focused. It requires teamwork based on shared values and goals. An image that comes to mind is interlinking gears in differing sizes, moving at different speeds, each continually informing the other.
Community planning is an iterative process that is about people. And people are at the heart of the Federation’s three-year community development plan. The community plan answers the question, “where do we want to go?”
Feedback from the meeting highlighted that working together to develop solutions to fulfill our infinite community potential is not a “present one proposal and done” proposition. More creative and analytical efforts are required – as is a deeper understanding of why and how young Jewish people engage “Jewishly.” While humans are hardwired to cling to what we know, it will be imperative to move beyond the old model of synagogue affiliation as the only measure of engagement in our faith.
According to recent surveys, an organization’s best planning efforts for organizational transformations have a one in three chance of succeeding. This low success rate has yet to budge in over a decade.
What separates successful transformations from the rest? Research confirms there is no silver bullet. The single most significant differentiator is the amount of effort put into the transformation.
Yes, effort will be required. And this endeavor must include a clear-eyed financial assessment of what we as a community can support. Infrastructure is expensive. Buildings are expensive. Professional staff are costly. Security is expensive. Our Community Master Plan should address each of these issues and much more.
If we fail to plan collaboratively, we are planning to fail. If we make a half-hearted attempt, we will fail. That is why I did what I did at the Community Leaders meeting. Was it a mistake? I do not think so. But if it was, I hope in the coming year, I’ll make more mistakes in service to community development, because if you’re making mistakes, then you are making new things, trying new things, learning, and pushing yourself to create change.
My goal as an effective leader is not to avoid making mistakes; it’s that when I do, I’m humble enough to admit it and learn from them. Organizations that take a holistic approach to transformative actions are over twice as likely to succeed in moving closer to their goals.
And we will move closer to our goals because our Jewish Federation is truly built on the cause of community building, and every other objective is subservient to it. Working with our community partners, our unique ability is to gather meaningful information about our community because we deal with people at our core. The Federation’s quest for transformative change is to relate to people as to where they are or want to be. How we relate to people – this is our superpower.
In the final analysis, Jewish community involvement is essential in order to build the foundation and framework for creating our Community Master Plan. We would be wise to consider the following:
What is our Jewish community doing well?
When you think about a vibrant Jewish community, what do you imagine it to look like?
What do you think gets in the way of us creating a more vibrant Jewish community in the future?
In what ways, if any, do you feel connected to Judaism, Jewish practice, Jewish institutions, and the Jewish community?
When you think about the future of the Jewish community, what gives you hope? What concerns you?
I look forward to continuing this conversation, which is absolutely vital for our future, with the entire Jewish community and our valued community partners. Together, and only together, will we be able to successfully secure our collective vision for a vibrant Jewish community here in Michiana.
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