Over the years, the Social Innovation Forum (SIF) has extended its capacity-building support to nonprofit organizations located in the New Bedford area. For the first time, The Schrafft Charitable Trust and the Island Foundation joined efforts to create an experience for New Bedford’s nonprofit leaders through SIF’s Capacity Camp – a condensed version of the Social Innovator Accelerator. This is also the first geographically based capacity camp. In past years, this program has solely been issue-focused. One of the advantages of having a community-based Capacity Camp is the wide range of opportunities for partnerships and collaboration it presents for these nonprofit leaders.
Moreover, the program’s theme, “Work harder on yourself than you do on your job,” is even more relevant now because of the pandemic. At every session, we encouraged participants to reflect on their personal skill development in the context of the organizations’ needs.
The New Bedford participants include:
- Stephanie Perks, Executive Director, Coastal Foodshed
- Leslie Vicente, Executive Director, Discovery Language Academy
- Samia Walker, Program Director, Entrepreneurship for All
- Zack White, Executive Director, GalleryX
- Eric Andrade, Program Manager, Groundwork Southcoast
- Bernadette Souza, Executive Director, Youth Opportunities Unlimited
Participants learned much about their shared lived experiences and leadership. These organizations also represent a range of social issue areas within the New Bedford region related to: arts, education, youth opportunities, environmental leadership, entrepreneurship, etc. The focus on the New Bedford region allowed participants to think broadly about the collective impact they could have in their community.
Before our work with these nonprofit leaders, we worked with foundation leaders and consultants who had a special role in customizing the curriculum of the New Bedford Capacity Camp, which includes a series of seven professional development sessions, followed by an 8 - 10 months one on one coaching process with a professional executive coach, and a final piece on funder awareness and engagement. The sessions for the New Bedford Capacity Camp focused on the following:
- Session #1: Program Launch - conducted by SIF staff and Margaret Leipsitz, ML Consulting
- Session #2: Developing a Culture of Philanthropy - Understanding the Development Cycle conducted by Carolyn Copp, Founder, Donor Development Matters.
- Sessions #3 & 4: Communication Planning - Identifying the Audience and Messages that Motivate conducted by Niki Lamberg, Founder, Nicole Lamberg Communications
- Session #5: Cultivating Leadership - Working with a Board of Directors conducted by Christine Green, Principal Consulting
- Session #6: Leadership Development - Delegating and Giving Feedback conducted Etta Jacobs, Founder, and Principle, Power in the Middle
- Session #7: Mapping What’s Happening - Exploring How to Work Together conducted by Margaret Leipsitz, ML Consulting
Through these virtual sessions, we remained hopeful that we could help build a sense of community. We moved our in-person half-day sessions to two-hour Zoom calls. We prioritized the time participants could spend with one another having one-to-one conversations. Each of the sessions offers breakout groups that allowed participants to work in pairs and small groups to discuss issues and problem-solve together. In addition, we incorporated video and other interactive techniques to make sessions more dynamic. Participants were also motivated to meet each other outside the formal session, which helped deepen connections and shared vision for how they can serve the city of New Bedford.
Here's what some of the participants had to say:
Stephanie Perks with Coastal Foodshed expressed that “It can be difficult to find time to work on ourselves, especially when you are starting and growing a business. I loved my SIF Capacity Camp Wednesday mornings, which gave me a dedicated time to sit down with a cup of coffee and connect with other community leaders to brainstorm and learn how we not only help our communities together but also each other as individuals.”
Leslie Vicente of Discovery Language Academy shared that “The Capacity Camp has given me skills to effectively engage and communicate with my Executive Board so that together as a TEAM we can work towards the growth of our organization.”
Samia Walker of Entrepreneurship for All spoke about the broad impact of the program. She said, “Through the SIF Capacity Camp, I was given the opportunity to strengthen the relationship with my community, enhance personal and professional skills, and creatively engage with organizations that share the same mission, which is to activate our communities through empowering its members.”
Bernadette Souza of Youth Opportunities Unlimited was excited to meet new folks from the area. She said, “I thought I knew everyone in New Bedford, but this camp gave me the opportunity to meet Zach from GalleryX and Leslie from Discovery Language Academy. It made me realize that there's pockets that I still have to explore”
With the ongoing effects of the pandemic, it’s more apparent than ever that communities need strong leaders. This Capacity Camp will strengthen the leadership of these six New Bedford nonprofit leaders so that they can lead with the tools and resources to better serve their community. Lavinia Chase, Trustee of The Schrafft Charitable Trust, shared that “the Trustees at Schrafft decided that there were many smaller nonprofits in New Bedford that could benefit from what SIF teaches. By investing in the capacity camp at New Bedford, we felt more needs in the area could be addressed—food, language, development of young people, the arts, etc.” SIF’s Capacity Camps are a great way of directly giving back to the community and ensuring that nonprofit leaders who are on the ground feel supported in their work.
ABOUT THE AUTHORS
Margaret Leipsitz has a long history of supporting nonprofits and funders in Boston. Her work focuses on youth development, education, age-friendly planning, and workforce development.
Jimena Chavez has been at the Social Innovation Forum since January 2021 as the new Program & Events Co-Op. She is a junior at Northeastern University studying English and Communications with a minor in International Affairs.