THE RUBBER HITS THE ROAD
Those of you who attended Annual Conference may recall the presentation given by AJLI’s Executive Director Susan Danish in which she read aloud a children’s story about a caterpillar
contemplating a metamorphosis into a butterfly.
The message was simple: the caterpillar could not expect to thrive in the world around her unless she took the brave leap into becoming a butterfly—a full-fledged being, admired for its beauty and grace, and capable of fulfilling all of its dreams. That story was a fitting metaphor for the transformation The Junior League is currently undergoing, a contemplative metamorphosis designed to ensure its relevance well into its second century.
To get a sense of where we are in this process and how and why it matters to individual Leagues and their members, we asked our own panel of AJLI specialists to explain what transformation means to them and how it’s currently manifesting itself within The Junior League:
“From my perspective, organizational transformation of Junior Leagues and the Association means keeping our core values—our Mission, our Vision, our unique ability to develop decades
of women as community and civic leaders and their heritage of creating community change, and making sure that how we do that is in sync with our more connected, fast-paced, complex world and the more demanding lives of women today.” Susan Danish, Executive Director
“We are re-branding The Junior League as a forward-thinking organization with a Mission that is both relevant and essential in today’s world.”
“One thing that occurs to me, although it’s not in ‘my area’ of administrative work, is the curriculum around community impact. At conferences we never used to offer a workshop time with no choice of workshop, but we do now because we think that Leagues being able to identify and focus around an area where they can have real impact in the community at the same time they are developing community leaders is fundamental. We also had not really had sequential workshops, that is, where the knowledge gained in one was needed for a full understanding of the knowledge being imparted in the next one (or the next . . .), and we have been doing that in the community impact area.” Martha Ferry, Chief Financial Officer
“What I see as most transformative about the Strategic Roadmap has been the willingness of everyone to step outside what we know in order to imagine entirely new ways of living the Mission. The Action Learning Teams are an excellent example. Instead of attempting tactical fixes (What if we shortened/lengthened the new member orientation program?), the ALT reps are asking powerful ‘what if’ questions (What does a new member need in order to be engaged?) that eventually will lead to entirely new ways of thinking. This is not easy, neat or predictable work, which is in and of itself transformative. Yet, because these 79 women are willing to try something very new, I am excited at the promise of the changes that lie ahead… changes that I believe will ensure the vitality of The Junior League Mission for a long time to come.” Anne Dalton, Chief Officer for Strategic Initiatives
“In the 2011-2012 League year, transformation encompasses several initiatives that both better communicate and share our knowledge with individual League members and re-brand The Junior League as a forward-thinking organization with a Mission that is both relevant and essential in today’s world. Some of these initiatives include redesigning our internal and external websites into more user-friendly and articulate online repositories offering essential tools and resources to all members and communicating the message of our transformation to the community at large. In addition, we are activating a Web conferencing and scheduling tool that facilitates meetings and trainings for Leagues; we are developing widgets that will enable Leagues to feature timely and informative content on their websites without having to invest in costly and time-consuming content generation. And finally, we will be reaching out to all League members for the first time via our new All Member Email initiative.” Laurie Dodge, Director of Marketing and Communications
“We have to be careful not to miss the larger point, which is that issue-based community impact as a platform is a means to an end, and that end is to fulfill our Mission.”
“Since launching our issue-based community impact curriculum series we have seen a remarkable shift in our mindset in which we’ve re-oriented ourselves toward making an amazing impact in our communities. But we have to be careful not to miss the larger point, which is that issue-based community impact as a platform is a means to an end, and that end is to fulfill our Mission, which is to create opportunities for our members to develop into expertly trained and seasoned community and civic leaders.” Janine le Sueur, Director of Education and Programs
“Thanks to the insights we learned through the research for the Strategic Roadmap we know that contemporary women are looking for ways to deepen their community and civic leadership through training and hands-on, practical experiences. This marriage of formal and informal learning is what makes The Junior League experience so unique. Thanks to our transformation, AJLI is poised to capture the very best elements of both in our new curriculum and delivery systems. No longer focusing exclusively on formal in-person training geared towardLeague leaders, AJLI will be delivering online learning including real-time online workshops and webinars as well as online workshops that can be completed at your own pace and will appeal to any League member, regardless of placement. In addition, AJLI will be developing a new comprehensive curriculum that reflects the most current thinking on adult formal and informal learning providing members with ‘just enough information ‘just in time’ when they need it. This will continue to drive innovative delivery systems and the development of outstanding community and civic leaders.” Becki Fleischer, E-Learning Consultant
“If Leagues are going to transform their longterm financial sustainability they will have to look at all financial areas and especially at how they generate income. Best practices dictate that diversifying your fund development is essential to compete for today’s charitable dollars.” Carol Scott, Chair of AJLI’s Diversified Fund Development Task Force
Membership has declined after peaking in the early 1990s. AJLI embarks on a period of fact-finding. Extensive internal analysis and a comprehensive quantitative research study yields some critical insights: an untapped pool of prospects in the general population; a crowded landscape of competitive nonprofits that appeal to existing members dissatisfied with their Junior League experience; The Junior League hasn’t kept pace with the changes in women’s lives.
THE VISION AND ROADMAP
AJLI Board proposes a new Vision Statement that is adopted by the Junior Leagues. AJLI works with a Steering Committee and The Monitor Institute to seek input from Junior League members. They identify the organization’s most pressing challenges and distill them into five key questions. They recommend solutions that must be explored by League leaders who participated in Design Teams.
Together 11 Design Teams are dedicated to specific topics including Membership; Governance & Management; Community Impact; Online Learning; Sustainers; Civic Leadership Audit; and Communications. After months of lively discussions, the Design Teams aggregate their findings into four concise statements articulating what the transformation of The Junior League might look like and how community impact at the League level might be maximized.
THE STRATEGIC PLAN
The knowledge gleaned from research, the new Vision and Roadmap is interpreted and refined into a definitive Strategic Plan, which guides the Junior League’s transformation into an innovative and adaptive learning organization calibrated to foster community and civic leadership, thereby solidifying the organization’s position in the nonprofit sector.
ACTION LEARNING TEAMS (ALTS)
A best practices-based research and development model, the 13 ALTs (comprised of 79 Leagues) help us think about who we are and what we do, and how we might improve our value proposition to women. They explore issues in Membership, Governance & Management and Community Impact.
FRAMEWORK OF EFFECTIVE LEADERSHIP FOR COMMUNITY IMPACT
The Leagues’ approach to community and civic leadership development is clarified through the Framework of Effective Leadership for Community Impact, which is intended as a collaboration between AJLI and individual Leagues to support member development while cultivating a vibrant network of Junior Leagues. It fulfills The Junior League’s Mission and Vision by fostering sustainable, high-impact programming.