Case Study

Innovations in Organizational Development

Given the complexity in our world today, how can we plan for organizational resiliency? A well-functioning Advisory Council is one way to ensure that executive leadership and governance board members have access to many pockets of community wisdom.

In 2023, Kids Can Community Center moved into its new facility and used that milestone as an opportunity to bring together a newly reconstituted Advisory Council.

The Council’s purpose is to identify the key trends, patterns, and events in Kid Can’s current and future external environment and to provide expertise, guidance and support to executive and governance leadership in addressing these. The Council will meet once a year and has no formal, legal or fundraising responsibilities. Yes, that’s right. NO fundraising responsibilities.

Robert Patterson, CEO of Kids Can, emphasized that the governing board has the 30,000 foot horizon for the organization, along with its fiduciary responsibilities. The Advisory Council has the luxury of a 60,000 foot horizon with advisory responsibilities only. The governing board needs to address the issues and concerns of today and the next two to three years while the Advisory Council can address the possibilities of the future.

What characteristics should members bring to an Advisory Council?

Patterson advises that mission expertise, not in day-to-day programming but big picture trends and forces, is essential. An entrepreneurial approach to organizational development and an ability to look to the future are also very important. The ability to ask and advise on the question of “How could we do this better?” or scale it up is also important. The magic of Advisory Council work occurs in the discussions between the members as each of them brings their unique area of focus to the question of how to strengthen the organization and what it aspires to be in the future.

COVID has taught us that time is more precious than ever. The Advisory Council model is a way to harvest a wide range of wisdom in the community by bringing together leaders with expertise in your mission for a delicious lunch and focused discussion, for no more than a couple of hours. In its last Advisory Council meeting, Kids Can received feedback on community needs, families’ needs, political and economic factors, education trends, philanthropic factors and technology. The governing board chair and chair-elect attended the Advisory Council meeting so there was benefit to the governing board as it began its work on designing the critical pathways for the next three years.

The model is working and Kids Can is becoming and even more resilient organization because of it.