New Directions Blog

Creativity, Collaboration, and Networks

This blog shares ideas, stories, and insights about using creativity, collaboration, and networks to promote sustainability. Unless otherwise noted, blogs are written by Beth Tener.

13 March 2015

Boston Schoolyard Initiative: An 18-year Success Story of Collaborative Structures that Scale Impact

Written by Beth Tener, Posted in Collaboration, Strategy

An Interview with Kristin Metz

“The story of the Boston Schoolyards Initiative is one that needs to be shared and spread!” This was my thought after hearing a keynote speech by Kristin Metz about this initiative at the New England Environmental Educators conference last fall. Kristin graciously accepted my invitation to interview her for this blog.

For background, the Boston Schoolyards Initiative (BSI) was a public-private partnership between the City of Boston, public schools, and private foundations that created a collaborative structure and process to design and fund schoolyard spaces for play and recreation, outdoor classrooms, and curriculum integration at schools in Boston. The initiative ran for over 18 years, transformed 88 schoolyards in collaboration with local communities, with a total of $20 million invested. Thirty-two outdoor classrooms were built and 3 education programs trained 850 teachers. It’s initiatives reached 30,000 children a year. The BSI web site has lots of information and “before and after” photos of transformed schoolyards.

26 January 2015

Collective Impact at a Community Scale: United Way of Greater New Bedford

Written by Beth Tener, Posted in Collaboration

United Way organizations around the country are reinventing the role they play in their communities from their traditional role of fundraising for social service agencies through workplace campaigns. As this paper, Charting a Course for Change describes, United Ways are serving as a community convener, engaging local partners (e.g., residents, businesses, local government, social service agencies) to collaborate to make more substantial progress in key areas of education, income and health. This approach to collaborative community change draws on the framework of collective impact – where diverse actors in the community develop a shared vision, connect and coordinate action and measure the results over time.

10 December 2014

Using Events to Close Triangles

Written by Janne K. Flisrand, Posted in Facilitation, Networks

We have been experimenting with a technique to encourage and strengthen network connections at conferences. In this great blog post from our colleague, Janne Flisrand of Flisrand Consulting, she shares how it works and her experience using it at a recent conference. Janne is a network building facilitation consultant, based in Minneapolis. This is cross-posted from the Flisrand Consulting blog.

I’m supporting an emerging network, one focused on energy efficiency, water, and health in affordable apartment buildings. Recently, we had our first big in-person gathering of network participants. Because networks consist of personal relationships, we incorporated connecting activities.

The Closing Triangles Drawing, an idea I got from Beth Tener, was the run-away favorite.

03 December 2014

"Hold the Vision, Dad, Hold the Vision"

Posted in Leadership

I'm pleased to share this guest blog post from John Tener, my dad, who has been an inspiration to me in his persistence in working for positive social change over decades. 

"Tommy" Menino, 20 year-long mayor of Boston, died a month ago...  He was eulogized and buried on November 3, the day before the election.  His service as mayor happened to begin in 1993, the year I moved to Boston.  I saw and experienced daily his magnificent gifts of vision and leadership from my North End apartment, and my law office a few blocks away, directly across the street from City Hall, until I moved to a "leafy" suburb seven years ago, in 2007.

It will take a book, perhaps several books, to adequately describe and quantify the amazing impact Tom Menino had on Boston, this most magnificent of great cities.  His impact certainly cannot be adequately expressed in a short essay.

09 November 2014

Art of the Start: Strategic Questions to Build Focus and Engagement

Written by Beth Tener, Posted in Collaboration, Strategic Questioning

As I write this, I am on my way to a gathering of practitioners who work on networks approaches for large-scale social change, sponsored by the Garfield Foundation. We’ll be discussing the “art of the start” – how to navigate the early stages of an initiative. This is timely, as lately I have seen some of the common challenges in this stage, for example:

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