Thursday, August 19, 2010

Random Thoughts

I haven't posted in more than a week but it's not because my mind is blank.  I've just been a little busy.

Web Design Project
One project that I'm very pleased with is the redesign of the website for the Cyber Cafe @ Malden Square.   As part of the redesign, I've learned to use Joomla!, a web CMS I've described in an earlier post

The tool is great and has lots of flexibility.  The trick is figuring out what to put out there.  We want it to be useful to our patrons, so have added some documents that help them with some of the tasks people ask us for help with on a regular basis, news and weather feeds, course offerings, and other things you expect on a website.  I hope that once they get used to the new look and explore some of the features, they'll tell us what else they'd like to see. 

We also want it to speak for us to the general public -- near and far.  Funders always want to see what you do, others may just be curious, and potential members and volunteers can use it to learn more about us.  When new volunteers start, we have them review the website and our video, which is also available through the website.  One of my next tasks is to set up a media player within the website so the video plays without being downloaded.  With a website, there is always something more to do! 

As one of 5 partners in this community technology center, I oversee all the technical needs, manage the website, and co-manage daily operations.  Thanks to a talented Site Manager for the past year, that last part has been less work than usual.  But we lose her at the end of September when our ARRA (American Recovery and Revitalization Act) funding runs out.  We just don't have sufficient funding to continue the position.  That's a huge loss for us and, of course, for our Site Manager.

Goal Setting Work
Other things that have been keeping me busy and a bit mentally tired are job related.  I finished setting new goals for the coming year, which required a lot of thought and some leaps of faith. 

I've been working for the past five years with a committee that is now too small to accomplish its goals.  People have moved on to full-time jobs and have no time for this committee.  Others have moved away.  Some have changed their focus of interest.  Rather than abandon this committee and its needed work, I've been working on a transformation of a committee into a network; pulling together other organizations who have similar concerns around our main focus -- affordable housing.  The invitations are almost in the mail, and my hope is that bringing together individuals and organizations interested in this focus will enable us to share resources and be more effective.  There are times when we may work together on a specific project and other times when we'll all be doing our own thing.  But the main goal is to capture the energy, ideas, and talents of a larger group.  This is what can get groups through the rough times when goals seem unreachable.  Coordinating this network will take no more work than coordinating the committee, but it should lead to a more energized and effective end result.

So my mind is a bit sloggy this week after finishing the goal setting for 4 or 5 different programs that tend to overlap in several ways.  Each has its own set of numeric goals and must meet the criteria for any one of several dozen national indicators.  And, of course, throughout the year we all have to keep track of every client service and note which of these national indicators we're meeting in every service so we can do our monthly, quarterly, and or semi-annual reports.  I don't envy the job of the people who have to do this for the entire agency! 

Finding Funding
Other parts of my job have previously been viewed as separate programs.  About two-and-a-half years ago, when I was working on some of these projects as a consultant, I recommended blending some job responsibilities because these projects were really more related than not.  Little did I know at the time that I would end up coming into the agency full time and doing that "blended" job.  The process of integrating these is ongoing.  Funding sources still see them as separate, so we are seeking additional funding that is less restrictive and will permit us to adjust to the reality that these "separate" jobs really belong together.  For now, though, I have two separate job titles and different supervisors for different parts of my job. 

Another wrinkle is that our funding restricts our services to certain cities.  The need, however, is greater than that and other agencies not as large as ours do not offer the same services.  We need to find funding resources that remove those restrictions.  With some simple agreements between our agency and these others, we could serve others in need and get paid for what we do. 

Collaboration is Key
You can see the common thread in all of this, I'm sure.  Collaboration between and among agencies is the only way to do our jobs well.  Yet our funding sources often fail to take this into account.  My goals for the coming year include more collaboration, searching for funding sources that enable collaboration, and meeting the needs we've identified.  I'm tired of turning people away because they live outside my cachement area, especially when I know the agency in their area does not offer the service they need. 

That's only part of what I've got going on and is why I've not posted much lately. Did you miss me?