ROC USA’s first “ROC Only” Leadership Institute was an Outstanding Success

I arrived Thursday afternoon, driving up I-93 from Providence, RI to Manchester, NH.

ROC Leaders and ROC Network staff mingle after our group photo
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ROC Leaders and ROC Network staff mingle after our group photo

Upon arrival, familiar faces greeted ROC community leaders and settled in to prepare for a weekend of training and making new friends and connections.

The event kicked off with a quick round of introductions from members of ROC’s and Certified Technical Assistance providers. This was handled well, and gave a sense of the breadth of experience and energy we would all feel throughout the weekend. Next, ROC USA board members representing the east coast, mountain states, and midwest, did a panel discussion of present issues facing resident owned mobile home communities.

In sessions when I wasn’t participating, I joined separate workshops on Leadership and on Storytelling, led by colleagues Chris Monroe from ROC NH, and Cristina Klavotsky and Miles Nowlin from ROC NW. Miles shared stories from his years of experience in leading Wilderness Excursions with youth and young adults for our inspiration and amusement.

As the event closed on Saturday night, I was touched by the openness of the ROC leaders coming from many corners of our country. The vast majority were strangers to one another.  But we shared, in addition to the pleasantly warm weather of early June in New Hampshire, a compassion of spirit arising from our experiences, and a curiosity to learn from one another. Everyone there had spent time focusing on their communities, whether as neighbors, as volunteers on committees, or on their board of directors.

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George Maskiell being recognized for his decades of work in training ROC’s with the New Hampshire Community Loan Fund and with CDI with ROC’s in MA and RI.

I was also touched by the dedication of the ROC USA staff, who created a meaningful and well-curated event for the ROC leaders and the CTAP staff.  After dinner on Saturday night, I learned that the senior staff of ROC USA was waking the next day, Sunday morning, around 4am to transport community leaders to the airport.  That level of dedication to making sure ROC leaders were able to participate and return home with ease shone through and I believe made us feel more “at home” throughout the event.

In previous years, ROC USA combined forces with NeighborWorks America to offer trainings that spanned the needs and talents and community organizations nationally. This year, ROC USA organized this event from its expanded network of communities to focus on the specific needs of Resident Owned MH Communities.  This network draws from 219 communities, and over 14,000 individual homes, with a pipeline of new cooperative conversions that has been growing by the month.

Friday and Saturday followed full of trainings, good food, evening keynotes, and surprise entertainment.

From the several training events I’ve participated in, one of the key takeaways for ROC Leaders was that other communities are also struggling with the same issues! 

Kelly Jencks from Sherwood Valley in Coventry, RI demonstrating a power sharing exercise
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Kelly Jencks from Sherwood Valley in Coventry, RI demonstrating a power sharing exercise

When I spoke with the board members of Sherwood Valley, from Coventry, RI, in the days afterwards, they were quick to praise the event. They said that even when the information was not new it was enjoyable and educational. They’re already recruiting folks to come next year.  Sherwood’s treasurer also pointed out that every single dorm room was handicap accessible which, she said, which was a relief for many who attended.

Friday and Saturday included keynote addresses on by Julie Eades of the NH Community Loan Fund, Andrea Levere, president of the national economic advocacy group Prosperity Now, and Howard Brodsky, Chairman & CEO of the billion dollar completely cooperatively-owned, CCA Global Partners.  Here is a link to Paul Bradley’s blog about Howard’s presentation, including a video of the keynote, which begins around 6 minutes in.

Here is a full list of the trainings topics offered:

Tapping into Talent: Engaging Members and Building a strong ROC PART, LEAD! Leadership Exploration & Development, Leading with Effective Communication, It’s YOUR Business Now, Know the Basics, Building your Community Brand, Member Screening & the Law, Keep Cool, Get Results!  EI & Conflict Resolution, Facilitating Group Decision Making Part I, Managing your Property Manager, Changing Perspectives & Policies of Resident Ownership, Understanding & Using Financial Statements, Improve your cash flow, Fill Vacant Lots!, Creating a Newsletter, Developing an Action Plan: Taking ROC L.I. Back Home, What’s in the infrastructure?, Home Improvement Grants ROC Association, StoryTelling, Site Visit to Medvil Cooperative, World Café

A final highlight for me was having the chance to sit down with several ROC leaders as we wrapped up Saturday night who were generous enough to share during some informal “exit interviews.” I hope we captured what they enjoyed this year, and how each of them are looking to the years to come.

Thomas Choate is a Cooperative Development Specialist for the Cooperative Development Institute. This was originally posted on their website.