A week ago I attended the National Conference on Volunteering and Service in Chicago. The best session I attended was presented by the Toyota Production System Support Center (TSSC) and the New York City Food Bank. Initially skeptical about corporations coming in to nonprofits to tell them how to operate, I was blown away by how this partnership actually worked. First of all, TSSC is actually a non-profit arm of Toyota whose mission is to share the Toyota Production System (TPS) model with nonprofits and community organizations. What’s in it for Toyota? They rotate Toyota staff members onto these projects to hone their skills in implementing the TPS. The greatest part about this for the nonprofit is that the Toyota employees learn through teaching. They train staff at the partner organization how to use the TPS, allowing for the greatest change to occur after they leave (the true hallmark of lasting change!)
Here’s a short clip about how TSSC is partnering with the St. Bernard Project in New Orleans to rebuild homes:
We heard directly from Daryl, a Director of Operations at the New York City Food Bank. His arm was twisted by NYC Food Bank’s CEO. Daryl was as skeptical as I was about accepting corporate advice on how to run a food bank. What could a car company possibly tell him about serving hungry people? Well, Toyota may know next to nothing about food preparation or human services, but in one week they were able to drastically reduce the wait time at the kitchen, so much so, that patrons no longer had to wait outside in the snow or sweltering heat. The change was so dramatic that longtime patrons were convinced that the kitchen was closed because they could no longer spot the line from a block away.
Here’s a video about the New York City Food Bank that gives you an idea of some of the challenges they face:
One takeaway that stuck with me from this presentation was when Daryl talked about coming to terms with accepting help from the TSSC guys. His staff actually said to him “Have a heart and look out for us”. Basically, once they realized the TSSC guys could help, it was time to put egos aside and accept that there may be a better way of doing things that you never thought of. This was huge, because it’s not enough for TSSC to have a better way of doing things. In order to actually embrace lasting change, all of the key players have to be willing to embrace that change and recognize when doing things differently will enable them to make a bigger difference.
Tree lined Michigan Avenue in downtown Chicago
This week flew by as I helped to facilitate our three day staff retreat and then took off on Saturday to fly to Chicago for the National Conference on Service and Volunteerism. Both events were stimulating and energizing, filling my head with too many ideas for how to make a difference at work and in the community. Unfortunately in the middle of the conference I got sick and missed a day’s worth of sessions, but I still had a great time overall. It was especially great to connect with past colleagues like Barb, Susan, and Kathy, and make new connections with AmeriCorps Alums.
A really cool fountain in Chicago that has changing images of faces that are lit up at night
Chicago is a really neat city. I’m decidedly not a city girl, but if I could choose one city to go back to and see more of, it would be Chicago.
While I was traveling to Chicago, Jay was starting his new position with American Conservation Experience. By the time I got home he had already left on his first field work trip to Dixie National Forest in southern Utah. He was very excited for the project and hopefully he will have stories and pictures to share when he returns on Wednesday.
Volunteering: Sharon gave a tour of Riordan Mansion on Friday. Sharon also continued promotion of the 20th Annual Made in the Shade Beer Festival.
Beer of the Week: The most prevalent local brewery in Chicago seemed to be Goose Island. I was very impressed by their Belgian style Matilda.
Something New: I explored downtown Chicago for the first time while Jay went on his first field work trip with ACE.
Highlight of Being in One Place: The chance to go away on a trip and actually have a home to return to!
NAVPLG, the National Association of Volunteer Programs in Local Government is a unique organization of volunteer managers who organize volunteers in Cities and Counties throughout the United States. I joined the NAVPLG Board at their Annual Meeting in San Francisco in 2009 and have enjoyed meeting NAVPLG members from around the country through my involvement with the association.
NAVPLG past and present Board members in New York City for the last National Conference on Volunteering and Service
When we arrived in Shreveport Louisiana a few nights ago and looked up our route to McKinney Texas, I suddenly realized that Plano Texas was directly en route. Plano Texas is famous in my mind as being the home of Robin Popik, one of the previous NAVPLG Presidents and a leader in the field of Volunteer Management. Robin is a professional volunteer manager, a leader in the field who is currently involved in the national debate over where the field of volunteer management is headed and how to bring in a new generation of leaders in volunteer management. I was glad to get a chance to have lunch with Robin and share ideas and knowledge about volunteering in local government.
Visiting Robin at her offices in Plano, Texas
Robin told me about a new program that the City of Plano has started called Helping Partners. This referral service program, funded by a HUD grant, brings together several community partners to identify, assess, and repair homes in Plano. Residents can apply for assistance with home repairs such as handicap accessible ramps, exterior painting, and fence repair. Next a volunteer team of assessors (made up of individuals from Habitat for Humanity, faith-based groups, corporate groups, etc) go to the home to identify what work needs to be done and what skills are needed to do the work. Then each project is matched with a volunteer team with the required skills. The City coordinates the match, keeping the homeowners information private until an approved volunteer group is selected. The initiative is ongoing, but they use “Love Where You Live” days to direct focus on the project. The last Love Where You Live effort assisted 77 homes.
We hope to come back through Plano in April on our way to our friend’s wedding in McKinney and may get a chance to participate in one of their big events such as Love Where You Live or Live Green in Plano.