High Expectations Exceeded!

Photo of Att. Eliot Berry teaching a class at the ROC Leadership Institute in 2018

The inaugural ROC Leadership Institute at Southern New Hampshire University last weekend followed our nine-year participation in the excellent Community Leadership Institutes (CLI) with NeighborWorks® America. The impact of those events came to be called “the magic of CLI.”

Achieving the magic of CLI at our own ROC Leadership Institute was high hurdle.  

Nonetheless, after our last CLI in L.A. last October, I just knew that our 10-year-old organization and the nearly 100 applicants for too few training spots were ready to host a ROC-focused institute. That didn’t mean it would be easy.

In seven short months, we planned and executed – in the words of one participant who just emailed me – a great array of “phenomenal” workshops. She wrote, “We came away very excited and enthusiastic to put what we learned into practice.”

Now, there are a lot institutes and trainings, but none aside from CLI achieves the level of participant engagement that we just did. Participant-centered learning is our training approach, and evidence of its effectiveness was demonstrated in the level of conversation between ROC leaders from start to finish last weekend.

Trainers keep workshops centered on the topic but participants ask a lot of questions and talk a lot. One ROC leader said, “I love to watch my wife when she comes to these – normally she’s quiet in groups but not here – here she’s engaged and talking like no place else.”

These are long days – travel to and fro and two full days of workshops. Yet, the energy level was high the whole time, including during check out on Sunday morning!  

I am very proud of our trainers, the national and CTAP staffs as well as invited trainers. They recognize that the experts are in the room. Give some people the floor and they can’t help but lecture. That’s not the case with these trainers!

The University campus and the facilities are new and beautiful and being on a campus was appropriate for all of the learning going on. And, what I miss most about going to school, there was endless conversation and debate about matters of importance, and learning from peers.

We also had some excellent large group sessions that were recorded and are available online. We kicked off with our traditional community leader introductions on Thursday night. That’s always a highlight, and it gets everyone on stage on the first night.

We kicked off Friday morning with a panel featuring the ROC Association’s three Directors – Natividad Seefeld from Park Plaza Co-op in Minnesota, Lorie Cahill from Green Acres in Kalispell, Montana, and Kim Capen from Medvil Co-op in Goffstown, NH. Please watch their discussion. It is inspiring.

Lorie implored people to consider running for the ROC Association and ROC USA Boards and raised up a group challenge: “What can we do about the poor condition of some of our neighbors’ homes?” That topic was picked up in a workshop and is now a conversation online at myROCUSA.org. Check it out and weigh in. 

Natividad spoke about solving some legislative challenges with how co-ops are treated in Minnesota. She spoke of the co-op’s and Northcountry Cooperative Foundation’s work with state senators onsite at Park Plaza to find a legislative fix. A Republican and Democrat shook hands in the Park Plaza office to “fix this because it’s not right.”

Kim talked about how leaders need to build member engagement and volunteerism into everything you do – from Board meetings to social events. He also spoke compellingly on changing our language as a way to change our view of ourselves and our communities. “The word park does not appear in any of our documents, and we don’t own mobile homes, we own manufactured homes,” he said.

At that point, I asked the group: “Stereotypes about this housing stock, your communities and you yourselves is a real problem and it’s unfair. How many people here want to do something to change the perception of your homes and communities and fellow members?” Julie Eades, president of the New Hampshire Community Loan Fund, speaking at the inaugural ROC Leadership Institute

Everyone in the room raised their hand. (I have no idea how we’re going to do that, but I committed to bringing some great minds to it over the next 60 days and coming up with a way to move the needle. Stay tuned. I have 57 days left!)   Andrea Levere, president of Prosperity Now, speaking at the inaugural ROC Leadership Institute

Friday night featured Juliana Eades, President of the New Hampshire Community Loan Fund and Andrea Levere, President of Prosperity Now. Juliana is ROC USA’s Board Secretary and Andrea is our Board Chair. Juliana played the role of historian and Andrea framed up the current Strategic Plan and raised up our 10-year goal of 500 ROCs and 30,000 homeowner/members! We have some work to do!

Please watch their presentations. They’re two stellar leaders with passion for serving communities.

Elvis followed their presentations, which delighted some in the crowd. (Not everyone loves Elvis, but at least we all had a good laugh to go along with the birthday cake!)

I blogged about Howard Brodsky’s address on Saturday night in my last entry. He lifted our chins up and urged us to stick together because we can accomplish so much more together than individually. He proved that with numerous stories and statistics.

We know we’re better together. We know that we’ve only just begun and that ROCs only get more affordable the longer they own the property. Scaling up to generate more benefits for co-ops in our network is absolutely where we are headed. And, as we do, be assured, ROC leaders will be deeply engaged in the governance, leadership and strategy because the experts are in the room! ROC on!