IPA Blog

Mutz Class Learns the Value of Collaboration

Wednesday, May 25, 2022
This blog was written by Abigail L. Coleman of the Johnson, Grossnickle and Associates to provide an inside look into her Mutz Philanthropic Leadership Institute class.

 

 

What do two towns tackling big topics, like childhood obesity and people experiencing homelessness, have in common? Or a school and a neighborhood lacking achievement and success? Despite these daunting challenges, both situations were turned into opportunity and hope through effective leadership, good communication, and neighborhood engagement.
 

Collaborative Approaches to Solve Root Problems

The philanthropic sector—including nonprofit organizations and those that fund them—is unique. We tackle tough problems with creativity and resourcefulness. We measure and adjust to bring about change. However, the ways we approach solving these problems often lack efficacy in eliminating root causes.

The Mutz Philanthropic Leadership Institute's 2022 cohort gathered on May 17, starting the day with an engaging presentation by Jack Hess, executive director for CivicLab. Hess walked us through four turnaround situations stretching from Corpus Christi, Texas, to Rockford, Ill. Through thoughtful, guided conversation, we learned about four key approaches to treating a problem.

We often focus on the first three approaches:

  1. Absolution – ignoring the problem;
  2. Resolution – managing the problem, often through programs; and
  3. Solution – employing new developments.

 

"It was inspiring and motivating to see what can be accomplished on a big scale when we take the time to get the 'small' things right." - Hannah Giere

 

While some approaches have merit, they don't always address the need. The fourth strategy, dissolution, is focused on solving the problem by redesigning the underlying system that holds the problem in place. In each example, dissolution was possible through steady leaders, infused resources, and engaging the community itself in being part of the solution—collective leadership.

This intuitive approach involves hard work, discipline, persistence, and an unwavering commitment to seeing things through. The results can be transformational. "It was inspiring and motivating to see what can be accomplished on a big scale when we take the time to get the 'small' things right," Hannah Giere, development manager at the Community Health Network Foundation, said.


Opportunities We Can Seize

This engaging conversation got Mutz participants thinking about our work and proved an ideal setup for the second half of the day, which focused on success stories and challenges facing Indiana. Through two panels focused on community development and economic development, we heard compelling success stories in our state and learned of new opportunities we must seize.

The first Community Development panel, lead by Indiana Philanthropy Alliance's own Amy Haacker, vice president of community foundation programs, featured unique perspectives from across the state. Tod Minnich, president and CEO of The Honeywell Foundation, highlighted the organization’s success in community leadership and capacity building, visible through projects such as the Eagles Theatre in downtown Wabash. His most memorable advice was to "talk to the naysayer," which may reveal flaws in the plan and potentially foster buy-in.

City of Delphi Mayor Anita Wehrling shared her community's success in reinvigorating its downtown and Delphi Opera House by leveraging a Stellar Indiana grant. The efforts were built largely on grassroots collaboration and volunteer leadership, creating sustained momentum and new opportunities for continued growth. One class member local to that region confirmed that area communities look to Delphi for inspiration. 

Amandula Anderson, Indiana managing director of real estate solutions for IFF, shared tangible practice approaches to making big capital projects come to fruition. Anne Valentine from Lieutenant Governor Susan Crouch's office also highlighted how the state leverages community projects.

Our second panel on economic development, moderated by Tom Miller of Thomas P. Miller and Associates, included Mark Wasky, vice president of innovation & strategic initiatives for the Indiana Economic Development Corporation (IEDC), and Lee Lewellen, chief executive officer for the Indiana Economic Development Association (IEDA).

 "We're not always winning the talent game. How do we create a place people want to live in?" - Lee Lewellen

 

Throughout a robust conversation, we learned about Indiana's strengths and pain spots. Economic development is a newer focus, encompassing much more than business development. It now includes community development; education; and quality of life and place. Attracting businesses requires more than a low cost of doing business. It requires a skilled workforce and community supports—from high-quality daycare to affordable housing. It also benefits from an entrepreneurial culture and way of thinking.

Lewellen framed the crux of the challenge: "Even though Indiana at one time had the lowest cost of anything and everything, everyone else figured out how to do that,” he said.“The competitive advantage now becomes talent. The quality of place is a manner to attract people. We can't create talent out of thin air. This requires time, investment, and strategy. We're not always winning the talent game. How do we create a place people want to live in?"

In many ways, Indiana has a long way to go in offering the "whole package." Efforts are in motion to help us do just that. However, the philanthropic sector can play an instrumental role in catalyzing efforts to strengthen our communities and solve these challenges. In collaboration with cross-sector partners and community members, we can lead to a more fruitful and prosperous future. 

Whitney Amuchastegui, executive director of Su Casa, said the session showed the biggest opportunity available for Indiana was in making itself more attractive to minority investment. “Jack Hess made clear what all of us have been experiencing in the field, which is the importance of collaboration and trust in communities,” she said. “You can’t do that successfully without acknowledging and uplifting people of color.”


Our Call: Leading to Legacy

The day culminated in a conversation with John Mutz, who provided texture and insight into how community and economic development efforts from recent decades created momentum upon which our state can build, grow, and adapt. These efforts employed many of the strategies we discussed throughout the day and leveraged unique talent, expertise, and resources to lasting effect.

 "Indiana is a fountain of unrealized potential in the philanthropic, private, and public sectors. It is incumbent upon all of us to ensure that we unleash and harness that potential—especially doing so in a way that is racially and socioeconomically inclusive." - Larry Smith

 

Mutz's insights were a reminder that no matter our role, we can all utilize our influence and knowledge to participate in strengthening our community.

“Indiana is a fountain of unrealized potential in the philanthropic, private, and public sectors,” Larry Smith, director of development for Hamilton County Community Foundation, said. “It is incumbent upon all of us to ensure that we unleash and harness that potential – especially doing so in a way that is racially and socioeconomically inclusive."

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