Getting it together

Today’s Friday Morning Meeting centered on “The Art of the Ask.” Basically, we got a first-rate crash course in how to approach businesses and organizations for donations and other help. Really great information to have, and it’s good to know there’s a process to these things that’s been established and perfected. I can’t wait to try it out.

Speaking of a having processes in place, that pretty much sums up the latter part of the day. Those of us running the Project MARCH homework clubs had an extensive meeting with our new Supervisor (who is doing an amazing job getting up to full speed despite having broken her foot right before starting in her new position! Not fun.) to try to streamline the processes of running our sites, from food ordering to roll-taking to volunteer acquisition and training.

So far it’s been a real change, and to be honest it feels nice to have someone back at the office whose sole job it is to keep us on track. Before, it was very much every MARCH site for themselves in terms of figuring out how to make it work and how to get things done. Now, although any change is a bear to get through in the early shake-out stages, it’s beginning to feel like we as a team have our act together (or at least are on the path to doing so), rather than being asked to learn to swim on the way into the water.

To give you a picture of what I mean, my partner and I pretty much had to figure out the basics of running our homework club by reading schedules that had been left taped to the wall by last year’s crew and hunting for clues in the forms, notes and other detritus left behind. It was basically like learning to drive by sifting through the manuals and maps left in someone else’s car. We have training in first aid, grade-level appropriate education and how to run a disaster-site phone bank, but no clear direction on how to do what is essentially half our year’s work. Some of us are just now learning about records keeping that we were supposed to have been doing the whole time. Luckily, I seem to have caught most of that, but really, it’s hard to know what you don’t know you don’t know, so I don’t know how accurate my assessment of what I do know really is. You know?

Now, this is certainly NOT an indictment of the folks who run the joint. Far from it. The fact is, it’s nearly impossible to get all the training you need to run an entire after school program, plus all the government-grant-required training you need just to be in Americorps itself, plus create a strong, bonded team, in the short training period allotted. On top of that, it’s not like we just took over the smooth running of existing, well-established programs – most of the homework clubs are starting more or less from scratch. And pretty much everyone at HQ has been running around like crazy doing all the work that our new Supervisor will now be thankfully taking over, in addition to their own extremely busy jobs. Being shorthanded creates all kinds of issues, none of which are the fault of those picking up whatever slack they can.

But still, it’s nice (not to mention way more productive) to have someone dedicated to making our jobs actually run as smoothly as possible, 24/7. And on a basic level it just feels more professional and less cobbled together, which makes a great deal of difference in how I feel about the work I’m doing. Most people tend to rise to the level of those around them, and in a situation that feels slap-dash (even if it’s clearly not), there’s a tendency to respond in kind, which is a feeling I’ve had to fight against more than once. It’s just hard to remain focused on a purposeful heading in a situation that feels like a ship adrift at sea.

Anyway, that’s all behind us now. What remains is getting through the process of breaking old habits that have just started solidifying and introducing new ones that don’t always seem to make as much sense as they will once the whole shebang gets to rolling under it’s own steam. Like any change in the structure of the management of existing programs, I expect some bumps and detours in the road ahead. But I have every hope that the end result will make all the finicky driving worthwhile.

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