Tips for Collective Impact in Rural Vermont

Center for New Leadership - October 3, 2016 - 4:48pm
Over the last two years, Center for New Leadership consultants have been working to make collective impact work in rural Vermont. Small communities face challenges in implementing the model–from low population density to finding the dollars to make initiatives sustainable.


We caught up with John Sayles of the Vermont Foodbank to get his take on collective impact in Vermont. John is a part of the Cal-Essex Accountable Health Community (CACH),  a collective impact initiative currently taking root in the Northeast Kingdom. From our interview with John and our own work we pulled 5 tips for starting a successful collective impact initiatives in Vermont.


1. Be patient. “[The biggest thing is to] know that this is going to take time, just getting everybody on the same page and figuring out your shared goals can take two years.” “If you don’t have that trust you’re not going to succeed.” -John Sayles At the Center for New Leadership we make sure that each meeting starts with an opportunity to get to know one another. Our theory is that if folks are going to come back to the meetings for one of two reasons–the relationships are meaningful and enjoyable or the work is compelling and meaningful.


2. Focus on and celebrate small wins. “There were discrete projects that we were able to all work together and share information and share resources and accomplish them. And then we were able to celebrate that. It has really given us the momentum to keep moving forward.”  -JS Trust and meaningful work can be built by working on small projects together and creating shared victories. This keeps membership engaged while allowing time to practice sharing resources and working together. It also helps make a strong case when seeking funding or new partners.


3. Get the right people at the table. “The amazing thing about this initiative is that it has been going on almost three years, and it’s still all CEOs and executive directors coming to the leadership meetings. We have a very open and inclusive culture. Anyone and everyone is invited to come to the meetings, listen to  what’s going on, and participate. I think it’s great. In a community like the NEK people want to know what is going on. It really feels that it is our backyard.” -JS In small towns it is crucial to have the right people at the table.CAHC has been able to make progress by ensuring that organizations send representatives empowered to make decisions. At CNL we work with groups to build systems that are intentionally inclusive and diverse.


4. Focus on securing resources “We received one of five three-year, $280,000 grants…to create a structure behind the work that we’re doing and figure out how to create a backbone organization, and actually spend the time and the resources to create shared outcomes and the indicators.” -JS A collective impact effort cannot succeed without resources to sustain it. Especially in rural areas, resources need to be part of the conversation from the beginning. At the Center for New Leadership we encourage leaders to think of new or unlikely partners, and to involve the for-profit community from the beginning. By formally bringing all seven CAHC partners together they were able to receive a large grant through Feeding America.


5. Don’t reinvent the wheel

“One of the interesting things about Collective Impact, you set your leadership table and then you have work groups in the community working on different aspects of your shared outcomes. But in NEK there are already groups working on these things. It would be insulting to them to start new groups. So right now we’re in process of creating deeper relationships with all of these groups.”  -JS

By mapping what is already going on in a community a collective impact initiative can gain new insights, information, and partnerships. At CNL we base much of our measurement work in results-based accountability, a framework used by the State of Vermont and many other mission-driven organizations. By keeping the methodology consistent we insure that everyone is speaking the same language.

Fall MIX Workshops Announced

Center for New Leadership - September 6, 2016 - 10:18am


The Center for New Leadership at Marlboro College and Strolling of the Heifers have joined forces to bring a new lineup of free Management Idea Exchange (MIX) workshops to the Brattleboro community. The workshops will take place once a month from 12pm to 1:30pm at the River Garden. Directors and staff of mission-driven organizations are invited to join for new tools in management, networking opportunities, and the exchange of ideas.


This fall’s topics kick off on September 13th with “Do You Want to Become a Gold Star Board Member” led by Abbie Von Schlegell. Other topics include “The Importance of Keeping Customers Even if You Make a Mistake” with David Williamson, “PLAY IT FORWARD: An Afternoon of Compassionate Creativity” with Kali Quinn, and “Effective Leading and Decision-making using the Learning Compass” with Merryn Rutledge.


The workshops build on the experience of participants to reach new horizons in professional efficacy. Each session is presented by an instructor from one of the Marlboro graduate degrees in management, or by a local nonprofit, government, or business leader.


“Strolling of the Heifers is always looking to support economic development,” says Executive Director Orly Munzing. “Partnering with Marlboro College’s MIX workshops will bring to the table collective ideas and cutting edge tools that every mission-driven organization needs as we move forward in growing our community.”


For a complete list of dates and topics, and to register, visit



The Center for New Leadership at Marlboro College is a community focused on exploring and applying new approaches to leadership. Working with mission-driven individuals, organizations and coalitions, we build leadership capacity through teaching, coaching and consulting.  Learn more online at

American Express Foundation supports Center for New Leadership

Center for New Leadership - August 23, 2016 - 2:34pm

First published in “Giving in Action: Marlboro College Philanthropy Magazine”

Budgets, boards, organizational management, and staff development are just a few of the daily challenges faced by nonprofit organizations, made more difficult in a small, rural state like Vermont where nonprofit leaders can feel isolated. Marlboro College is meeting those challenge through the Center for New Leadership (CNL), launched in 2015 to provide a variety of programs for emerging nonprofit leaders in the region. CNL was buoyed by a generous grant last year from American Express Foundation, a national leader in corporate social responsibility with high-profile grantees ranging from the American India Foundation to the National Urban League.

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Business Supports Women’s Leadership Circles

Center for New Leadership - August 23, 2016 - 2:32pm

First published in “Giving in Action Marlboro College Philanthropy Magazine”

A program of Marlboro College’s Center for New Leadership, Women’s Leadership Circles (WLC) of Vermont have been providing training, tools, and support for women in leadership positions since 2011. In March they convened the first-ever statewide gathering drawing together women from WLCs around the state, made possible through the generous support of the law firm of Downs Rachlin Martin.

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New faculty-partners join Marlboro learning community

Center for New Leadership - August 23, 2016 - 12:59pm

We’re delighted to introduce six new management faculty members who will be teaching courses in the our MSM and MBA programs. We are inspired by their work to bring pragmatic, effective tools and processes in support of social justice, community sustainability, and collaborative leadership, and look forward to working and learning together with them. Please join us in giving them a warm welcome!

Melissa Weekes-Laidlow, former managing director of Race Forward: The Center for Race Jusice Innovation, is now Social Entrpreneur in Residence at Echoing Green as well as president of her own organizational development firm in New York focused on social innovation, racial equity, collaborative leadership and arts and culture. She holds an M.Div from Harvard, J.D. from NYU and BA at Wesleyan. Melissa will teach “Equity, Equality and Inclusion” this fall.   Curtis Ogden is senior associate at Interaction Institute for Social Change, VP of the New England Grassroots Environmental Fund board, and a member of the Food Solutions New England Network design team. As guest faculty in the “Equity, Equality and Inclusion” course, he brings his expertise in leadership development, program design and community building. Curtis earned his BA at U Michigan and M.Div at Harvard.   Beth Tener, principal of New Directions Collaborative and former ED of Sustainable Steps New England, works with collaborative cross-sector initiatives to address complex challenges such as transition to a clean energy economy and revitalizing communities. Bringing decades of experience in network thinking and collaborative leadership, Beth joins veteran faculty-partner Tristan Toleno to co-design and co-teach “Advanced Systems Leadership” this fall. Beth holds an MS from the Imperial College in London, BA from Bates, and a certificate in Permaculture Design.   Kevin McQueen, joining Marlboro to teach “Foundations of Financial Decision-Making” this fall, balances his extensive experience in corporate finance with a deep commitment to facilitating social change through mission-driven organizations. He pursues these dual passions as a partner at BWB Solutions LLC, a national consulting firm specializing in planning, governance and impact investing. Kevin serves as Chairman of the Board of Partners for the Common Good, and  has published on practices to promote success among low-income entrepreneurs. Kevin holds his AB from Brown University, and also teaches at Parsons School of Design and the New School’s Milano School    Tina Lee Hadari, creator of the spring “Launching Nonprofit Ventures” course, united her arts expertise and commitment to social justice by creating Music Haven, an award-winning organization that provides music education, performance and leadership development opportunities to low-income young people in New Haven, CT., After many years as the founder-director of Music Haven, Tina is now a creative strategist working with nonprofits to accelerate their growth and social impact,  Tina earned a dual BA from Tufts and New England Conservatory, an MA from Yale, and a Ph.D. in music from University of Colorado. Robert Crowley is the director of IT at Hampshire College and the founder-CEO of Pivotwerks, a firm that uses right-brain tools to solve left-brain problems using design thinking and agile execution. With both a bachelor’s degree and a Certificate in Project Management from Marlboro, Bob came back to the Grad School this spring to co-design and co-teach a new MBA seminar in “Ideation, Design Thinking and Strategy” with veteran MBA faculty-partner Cheryl Eaton.

Info Session for the Nonprofit Management Certificate

Center for New Leadership - August 10, 2016 - 10:59am

Friday, August 19 // 8:30 AM to 9:30 PM

The Hannah Grimes Center is thrilled to offer the Nonprofit Management Certificate in partnership with the Marlboro College Graduate School and the Center for New Leadership (CNL). The Certificate, a program of CNL, is a 10-week program designed to teach nonprofit leaders the skills you need to strengthen your nonprofit organization and better achieve your mission.

Students in the Nonprofit Management Program are active practitioners and leaders in Northern New England’s vibrant nonprofit community. Learning takes place in day-long, face-to-face intensives, and continues outside of class in the online portal.

With generous support from the AD Henderson Foundation, the TD Charitable Fund, and C&S Wholesale Grocers, scholarships are also available to participants.

Register here:

Success at Nonprofit Management Summer Camp

Center for New Leadership - August 2, 2016 - 12:37pm
Our third annual Nonprofit Management Summer Camp was a resounding success! Over 50 campers networked, s’mored, learned new skills, and had fun. Thank you to everyone who pulled together to make this summer camp the best one yet!

CNL Year in Review

Center for New Leadership - August 2, 2016 - 12:35pm

This month concludes our first official year as the Center for New Leadership. As a learning organization, we are committed to reflecting on our work and applying what we learned to future endeavors.


If you’ve participated in our programs or worked with our consultants, you’ve probably filled out our evaluation form. We are always curious about how folks liked the training and the trainer overall, and in true RBA style, we also want to know if people feel that they are better off for having participated. That’s why we ask questions such as, “How likely are you to use what you learned in your personal or professional life?” and, “To what degree did you increase your knowledge, skills, leadership skills and professional network?”

Below is a small sampling of some of the data we gathered. I am excited to share our accomplishments, and I am looking forward to working with more of you over the coming year. Get in touch if you have questions about CNL, or any ideas for collaboration. I would love to connect!

Headline Performance Measures:

  • We served over 260 unique organizations and 700 individuals, including over 100 leaders in our in depth cohort programs. 
  • 90% of the time our trainers and consultants were rated “very good” or “outstanding”
  • 90% of people who came to a CNL training or event with a learning goal met that goal.

Other Accomplishments:

  • We launched our consulting corps and hosted two overnight retreats, building a community of trainers and consultants able to bring high-impact consulting and creative collaboration to the mission-driven sector.
  • Our consulting corps provided over 250 hours of direct, individualized organizational development and training to the mission-driven sector.
  • We expanded our expertise to include collective impact, and have worked with three communities to leverage community power at the population level for change.
  • We hosted the first ever Results-Based Accountability Master Trainer & Practitioner Conference, bringing together experts in Vermont to delve deeper into RBA and launch a community of practice.
  • Our work with Results-Based Accountability was featured in Mark Friedman’s new book, “Turning Curves, an Accountability Companion Reader,” and at the 2016 International RBA Summit in Baltimore.
  • Through the Board Leadership Institute we have reports of four individuals joining boards in Windham County, and one organization hiring a new facilities manager. 
  • We launched a new partnership with the Association of Fundraising Professionals in Northern New England and kicked off our work together with a co-designed and marketed plenary breakfast.
THANK YOU None of this work would have been possible without the generous support of our funders. In particular we would like to thank the A.D. Henderson Foundation for their continued commitment to nonprofit capacity building and quality measurement in Vermont. A.D. Henderson Foundation
TD Charitable Fund
Vermont Community Foundation
American Express Foundation
Thompson Trust
Windham Foundation

“We’re proud to support the development and expansion of Marlboro’s Center for New Leadership’s programs. Leadership development for nonprofit professionals is essential for the future success of the sector and, ultimately, the communities nonprofits serve. Through this grant, we hope to continue to support communities in New England and beyond.”   – Timothy J. McClimon, President, American Express Foundation.

Beyond Bad Training

Center for New Leadership - July 28, 2016 - 10:26am
Training in Facilitation with Andy Robinson In nearly every workplace or organization, somebody needs to train somebody to do something. Facilitation skills do not always come naturally, and as one of our students put it, “too much time has been lost in our lives to bad meetings already.”

To address this need, we teamed up with master facilitator Andy Robinson to offer tool-based workshops in facilitation.

We held our first workshop this June in Waterbury and feedback for Andy was glowing. One participant wrote, “this was one of those trainings from which I left with concrete tools, activities and approaches I can/will use with my trainings moving forward. Rich content–best three hours spent at a training ever!”

Get to know Andy’s work by visiting his website Then sign up for our next”Beyond Bad Training” workshop, this September in Brattleboro. Details here!

ALIGN Registration Open

Center for New Leadership - July 26, 2016 - 11:21am

ALIGN: Advanced Leadership Institute for Growing Nonprofits
with Jeff Bercuvitz
August 26 – October 29, 2016

Working for the greater good can feel overwhelming. To remain energized on the front lines of positive community transformation, mission-driven leaders need the space, skills, and support to feed their spark.

ALIGN prepares emerging leaders for executive positions in the nonprofit sector of northern New England by helping them clarify personal purpose, develop practices to support work/life balance, form a supportive community of practice, and strengthen the impact of their work in the world.

Our vision is to retain our best and brightest in mission-driven careers and help them perform at their peak by cultivating their practices of sustainable leadership.

Learn more and register: