June 24, 2012 at 9:41 pm #164834
My governor recently asked us to help form an affinity group for young public service professionals. My team had done some preliminary research, but I would appreciate insights from others, particularly those who have participated in or formed similar groups. Here are some questions we are exploring:
Is it better to form a private organization like a YGL chapter, or develop it as an internal group with executive sponsorship?
What is the best way to engage a core group of volunteer leaders?
What kind of activities would attract and engage participation in the group?
Thoughts and advice appreciated!
June 25, 2012 at 12:29 pm #164844
Hey Mark – some good questions:
-I helped co-found YGL and there’s pro/cons of being a formal 3rd party organization (YGL is 501c3)
-Pros – independence, volunteers control vision, not dependent on a couple executive sponsors that may leave, potentially even more growth opportunity for board as have to deal with lots of issues (from annual taxes to budget to insurance /etc)
-Cons – generally little to no time available to work on YGL at work, hard to attend events where folks want a YGL speaker as you are busy doing day job
Some other organizations that are affinity groups are EPA Emerging Leaders Network, Canada has an internal group as well
Volunteers – this is a ton of work. But it’s pretty simple. Just tell the mission of what trying to do, ask people to help, volunteer and remind. About 50% of your volunteers fail to come through but that’s just a numbers game
Activities – Done a bunch of items from book club, career speed networking, personal finance session, research projects, happy hours, annual training event
Let me know if need a contact
June 25, 2012 at 2:47 pm #164842
Hi Mark, I would be happy to chat and share some ideas basd on the experience of building EPA’s Emerging Leaders Network (ELN). For me, it all comes down to shared ownership and creating value for all. Each organization is a unique situation and the mission and “raison d’etre” of the group should be defined by its members. In our case, we started ELN because there was a clear need to bring together EPA employees (especially those new to EPA; but we don’t have any age or length of tenure restrictions) across organizational divides to learn more about the different parts of the Agency and build ideas, understanding, and relationships that will enable them to achieve the Agency’s mission to protect human health and the environment. We hold a variety of different activities, ranging from lunchtime seminars to hiking trips and happy hours to community service events..all with the goal of bring our members togther and help them build those bridges across the Agency. Although we did seek executive championing, that came later, when our group had a sense of direction. In addition, one year after we were formed we sought desigation as a “non labor employee group”. Senior Agency leadership has been extremely supportive and not only that, they also support ELN’s independence and autonomy…it’s a purely grassroots driven organization.
So my advice would be to find a small group of folks in your organization to help you think through why having this sort of young professionals group would add value to its members as well as to the organization as whole. I agree with Steve, this sort of endevour requires volunteers…volunteers who feel a sense of ownership in the organization and its success and evolution. I’ve learned that this kind of thing is all about mobilizing as opposed to leading. I also learned that there are strategies to making an organization’s spirit infectious…from the start, we created “an informal yet structured environment”. For example, instead of “committees” we have “crews” for each of our activity areas (e.g. professional development, community service, etc)…instead of a “monthly meeting” we have a “buzz hour”. There’s a lot of room for creativity!
Hope this is useful. Please feel free to contact me if you’d like to chat more.
Best of luck,
June 25, 2012 at 5:24 pm #164840
Love that – buzz hour…crews
June 25, 2012 at 9:20 pm #164838
I echo others statements. As the President of YGL, I think a YGL chapter is a good answer (though by no means the only one) depending on what you are solving for.
To me the biggest benefit provided by a national organization like YGL is the umbrella community. This comes through in having a community of practice with whom to benchmark best practices, share ideas, and implement proven programs. The other big benefit is the built in network of young professionals across the country and the different levels of government (at last count we have over 3200 members) across our 10 chapters, and a plan to bring more chapters online throughout the year.
That said, all of those things are subordinate to having an inspired, energized critical mass of young leaders. Without that success is unlikely, and with it, success can be gained through myriad channels. I think a grassroots model in which you provide a framework for development, executive level support and advice, and adequate resources to support activities is the best way – we’ve had a lot of success creating conditions in which young people can build something of their own to meet their specific vision and needs. I’m happy to speak with you at greater length. Best of luck!
June 28, 2012 at 6:10 am #164836
Excellent! Thank you everyone for the advice. I will follow up with each of you!
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