Growing Pains...

LillianmichaelfinalThe Chesapeake Bay Foundation (CBF) has established itself as a knowledgeable authority on the Chesapeake Bay. Quick to champion the cause, the pioneers have held the fort steady and cleared a path for true Bay change. In the same pioneering spirit, we are coming to yet another new frontier. No, we are not talking about new ways to fundraise, rather new ways to engage.

Historically, CBF has done a great job at finding and acting on opportunities to interface with its traditional constituency. But what happens when you take a 40-year-old pioneering environmental nonprofit and plop it in the middle of inner Baltimore City? Or in the richly made ranks of Prince George's County? Well, I can't pretend to have the answers. But wouldn't it be cool to just imagine how that would be equally beneficial? Wouldn't it be interesting to see all of us stretch in ways we never imagined?

I just returned from a retreat where CBF's Environmental Protection & Restoration and Communications departments were challenged to think about those very questions of inclusion and partnership. Peter Forbes, a dynamic environmental leader and former "political thug,"� challenged the organization to reach people outside the "choir"� by speaking with a value-oriented message instead of a typical strategic message (read "numbers and statistics"). As scientists and analytical types, sure we were uncomfortable with stepping out of our comfort zone, but we listened intently and thought seriously about Peter's proposal. What if we could use both? What if we could become much better at communicating our vision for the Bay by sharing our values as well as statistics and numbers?

As most of us pensively thought about the connections, it was clear that before my very eyes--a change was happening. Instead of one person championing the cause of inclusion, all of us were thinking as transformational leaders with transactional flair. We were thinking "outside of the box."� Admittedly, not everyone felt the same. Some of us were still skeptical, waiting for the shoe to drop, or doubting that there would be next steps. All of these thoughts are incredibly valid. A mature organization doesn't change because of a two-day retreat with a dynamic speaker--but at least the mice are starting to turn the wheels.

As I leave this dynamic organization, I can only wonder what CBF will do in the next few years. And if it is anything like what I am imagining, I am excited about our future…

At the time of this writing, Lillian Buie is Environmental Diversity Outreach Coordinator for CBF. Unfortunately she is leaving us for a new job. We wish her well!

1Chesapeake Bay Foundation




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