Posts Tagged ‘jewish community’

 

Downsize Institutions and Upsize Imagination

Posted on: June 4th, 2012 by Hayim Herring No Comments
Creative brainstorming

Photo: opensourceway, on Flickr

Kudos to Dr. Stephen Windmueller for his piece last week in eJewishphilanthropy, entitled to the unfolding of the third Jewish revolution. Windmueller provides us with a rich framework for analyzing major historical turning points in Jewish communal life, including the one that we’re experiencing now. I want to focus on one of his points – the one that preoccupies many in Jewish communal life today.

Money: who isn’t concerned about having sufficient financial resources to maintain or launch high-quality programs, needed services or simply pay for administrative overhead? Windmueller says it best when he writes, “the American Jewish system is a $9.7 billion annual enterprise that cannot be sustained as a result of the current economic realities.” (We should ask if it should be maintained, but that’s another issue!) It is no surprise that many of our institutions are being downsized. That’s a tough reality for those who are experiencing it.

Precisely because we have to downsize our institutions, we have to upsize our imaginations. All the money in the world wouldn’t solve many of our challenges if we continued to do things in the same way. So this transition can challenge us to think about how to do critical work differently and better. It can also help us prioritize the issues that will have the greatest impact so that we can focus on them and sunset less essential activities.

Upsizing our imagination is one strategy for making our way through the transition successfully. Another is embracing the idea that it is possible today to do more with less in some cases. And that’s a fact that is easy to forget in the current economic environment. For example, it used to take thousands of dollars to build a quality website. Today, a pre-teen can build a website without effort. When we wanted access to a book or periodical, we used to have to spend time going to the library. Today, the library is at our fingertips. One of the ways to do more with less is to fully exploit the advantages of time and cost savings that technologies enable.

I don’t want to minimize the pain that many are feeling as our Jewish community undergoes a major revolution. While this transition may cause momentary paralysis, I hope that it will ultimately energize us as we move further into the 21st-century.

Rabbi Hayim Herring

Collaboration: Myths and Realities

Posted on: March 31st, 2010 by Hayim Herring No Comments
In a recent article in Commentary Magazine, Dr. Jack Wertheimer noted, “Five years ago, during the economic boom, I conducted a series of interviews with some 40 knowledgeable observers of Jewish communal life. The more astute argued that it was only a matter of time before much of the Jewish organizational infrastructure collapsed under its own weight.”
Economics is finally driving a consolidation of organizations and services that was overdue. Now, funders and planners often gravitate toward two words in these times, collaboration and merger. Both have to happen, but when does collaboration make sense?
In this post, I want to define the term “collaboration” and explain when it is and is not a useful strategy. Collaboration is a mutually beneficial and well-defined relationship entered into by two or more organizations to achieve common goals. For example, a synagogue and a Jewish Community Center might collaborate in offering adult Jewish learning or teen educational programs. The purpose of collaboration is to improve the quality, frequency or accessibility of these programs–to provide a better experience for the constituent in some way.
Collaborations can do so because they increase available resources. That happens when the stakeholders in the collaboration have a commitment to mutually beneficial relationships and clearly-defined goals and a jointly-developed structure with shared responsibility, authority and accountability for successful outcomes. Collaborations are limited in scope, dealing with defined populations or issues. Regardless of how clearly-defined they are, if participating stakeholders do not develop trust, they are likely not to work well or last long.
I’ve learned that donors and staff often understood understand collaboration differently from one another. A donor may really be thinking “merger” when he or she uses the word collaboration, and a staff person may believe that one stakeholder is more “equal” than another in a collaboration. Also, donors may think that collaborations offer greater efficiencies and cost-savings, but that is not usually so, at least at the beginning. As any staff person with experience in collaboration can attest, they often take more time and don’t yield significant cost savings initially, or at all.
Collaborations can be beneficial when thinking about how existing and potential constituents can enjoy greater variety, convenience, accessibility and quality. They can also help strengthen community bonds by enabling friendships among individuals who normally don’t have a chance to meet one another. And, they can spur creativity by bringing together stakeholders with complementary experiences. When these opportunities for collaboration exist, then you know that you have fertile territory to pursue them.
I’ll look at some other organizational strategies for these new economic times. In the meantime, what has your experience been with collaborations? What benefits have you experienced and what challenges have you faced?
Thanks,
Rabbi Hayim Herring

In a recent article in Commentary Magazine, Dr. Jack Wertheimer noted, “Five years ago, during the economic boom, I conducted a series of interviews with some 40 knowledgeable observers of Jewish communal life. The more astute argued that it was only a matter of time before much of the Jewish organizational infrastructure collapsed under its own weight.”

Economics is finally driving a consolidation of organizations and services that was overdue. Now, funders and planners often gravitate toward two words in these times, collaboration and merger. Both have to happen, but when does collaboration make sense?

In this post, I want to define the term “collaboration” and explain when it is and is not a useful strategy. Collaboration is a mutually beneficial and well-defined relationship entered into by two or more organizations to achieve common goals. For example, a synagogue and a Jewish Community Center might collaborate in offering adult Jewish learning or teen educational programs. The purpose of collaboration is to improve the quality, frequency or accessibility of these programs–to provide a better experience for the constituent in some way.

Collaborations can do so because they increase available resources. That happens when the stakeholders in the collaboration have a commitment to mutually beneficial relationships and clearly-defined goals and a jointly-developed structure with shared responsibility, authority and accountability for successful outcomes. Collaborations are limited in scope, dealing with defined populations or issues. Regardless of how clearly-defined they are, if participating stakeholders do not develop trust, they are likely not to work well or last long.

I’ve learned that donors and staff often understand collaboration differently from one another. A donor may really be thinking “merger” when he or she uses the word collaboration, and a staff person may believe that one stakeholder is more “equal” than another in a collaboration. Also, donors may think that collaborations offer greater efficiencies and cost-savings, but that is not usually so, at least at the beginning. As any staff person with experience in collaboration can attest, they often take more time and don’t yield significant cost savings initially, or at all.

Collaborations can be beneficial when thinking about how existing and potential constituents can enjoy greater variety, convenience, accessibility and quality. They can also help strengthen community bonds by enabling friendships among individuals who normally don’t have a chance to meet one another. And, they can spur creativity by bringing together stakeholders with complementary experiences. When these opportunities for collaboration exist, then you know that you have fertile territory to pursue them.

I’ll look at some other organizational strategies for these new economic times. In the meantime, what has your experience been with collaborations? What benefits have you experienced and what challenges have you faced?

Thanks,

Rabbi Hayim Herring