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Pay attention to that board behind the curtain: 2013 YNPN board retreat

The YNPN-TC Board BondsOrganizational transparency is key for businesses and nonprofits to operate successfully, unless you want to run things like the Wizard of Oz (a lying magician who rules through smoke, curtains, and quid-pro-quo agreements). YNPN Twin Cities is no Oz, and we are eager to share about the inner workings of our board, including our most recent board retreat in June. This year’s retreat was my first, but from what I hear, every YNPN board retreat is different, fun and makes the leadership team stronger. I can say all of my expectations were met—and then some!

As a zero-budget, quite resourceful nonprofit, we usually recruit from within our membership to find a facilitator for our annual board retreat, held each summer. The opportunity to facilitate a board retreat is hopefully a win-win: the board gets pro bono facilitation, and the YNPN volunteer gets valuable professional experience. This year, Carl Atiya Swanson of Springboard for the Arts took on the task of facilitating our retreat. Board member Lauren suggested him knowing Carl has a background in theater performance, nonprofit administration, and is currently working toward an MBA at UST. Carl did not disappoint—in fact, he wowed us through and through.

The retreat planning committee saw this moment as an opportunity to revisit YNPN-TC’s current strategic plan. We are in the middle of a three-year plan, and we want to be sure we consistently checking in with the plan to monitor progress, and adapt and adjust as needed. During our next board meeting and subsequent committee meetings this summer, we will look at the ideas that emerged at the retreat, and solidify a plan to ensure we meet our strategic goals. Things are already in motion - I just had a meeting last week with board member Katie about an idea she has that came out of our retreat discussions!

One of the most powerful and engaging activities for me during the day was an exercise called “visual networking.” This active exercise was designed to helps us see how we as a board are connected to each other. Carl asked us questions like “who do you work with the most?” or “who do you most want to learn from?” or “who do you think has the best sense of style?” Then, we each had to touch the shoulder of one or two people who fit that description for us. Each question resulted in a web of people and the web was different each time. For some questions, one person was a hub with all other hands touching him (I’m looking at you, Brian!). For other questions, distinct nodes popped up, and showed us how our work together can get siloed by committee membership or length of service on the board. Some results were hilarious, and some were quite… well… touching. As a new board member, this activity helped me feel a deeper sense of belonging within the group. It also showed me a peek into the incredible relationships already existing within the group. I look forward to next year’s retreat so I can see how we all have progressed and evolved in the interim.

This fall, we will open a call for new board member applications. If you want to be part of this amazing group of passionate and compassionate leaders, please keep your eye out for our call for applications. If you have any questions about what else YNPN board service entails, please give a shout to me or anyone else on the board. This group exists to serve you, and wouldn’t exist without all of our contributions!

What questions do you have for the YNPN Twin Cities board? How can we help engage you in our work?

photo by Carl Atyia Swanson


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