New Program – What do you think?

Flash Class logo

We’ve had an idea for a program at Creating the Future, and in following our own advice, we don’t want to launch anything until we get all the possible insights we can.  Programs are so much more effective when they’re built by the people who will use them!

This will be a program for people who are working in the trenches – executive directors, social entrepreneurs, board members (as opposed to consultants or funders). It would be small chunks of education, going deep into targeted topics, sent monthly via audio and worksheets.

We’re thinking about calling them Flash Classes.

Our Thinking
There is a ton of information available to program leaders about traditional ways of doing everything from governance to fundraising.

Many people are frustrated that those systems don’t seem to be working for them. But because they are the only systems around, those individuals begin to feel, “Maybe it’s just me,” rather than “Maybe those systems aren’t effective!”

Frustration sets in.

We know this because it is what people tell us when they find articles and videos at our site.

“Where have you been all these years? I’m so tired of banging my head against the wall and being told if I just do more of the same, I’ll get better results.

“But finding your stuff is so refreshing! It is the exact perspective we’ve been searching for – something that will bring us far closer to what we know in our hearts we can accomplish!”

To date, finding practical advice on how regular organizations can create extraordinary community change has required that folks find the articles at our website, or read my books.

If we want this sector to achieve its potential, however, information about how to reach for what is possible has to be just as ubiquitous as the traditional advice currently is. It can’t just be in an article or two at our site, or a book or two. It needs to become the norm.

And the first step towards that becoming reality is that the information be significantly more accessible. More abundant. Everywhere.

The Flash Classes are part of that effort. The goal is simple: Provide small chunks of education that make it easy to do an organization’s day-to-day work in ways that are more effective at making a bigger difference in the community.

Topics
We’ve been thinking about two topics to start with:
• Governance and Planning
• Building and Sustaining Strong Programs

Governance and Planning
How do we reach for our board’s potential to make a difference – the reason we got on the board in the first place? What does that mean for recruitment? What does that mean for policies? What does that mean for our agenda? How can we re-energize our board? How can we increase attendance at meetings? How can we deal with micromanagement?

How can our planning make a bigger difference, for our organization and mostly for our community? How can we make it less reactive, moving us forward? How can we get past the same old problems, year after year? How can we reach our organization’s potential to make a difference in the community?

Each of those topics and a slew more would all be addressed from the perspective of creating maximum impact in the community – the focus of everything at Creating the Future.

Building and Sustaining Strong Programs
How can we build programs that accomplish more for our community? How can we embrace others who do similar work, rather than always competing with them? How can we ensure our programs survive? How can we collaborate without all the “stuff” that sometimes comes with collaboration? What does community engagement mean anyway?

And again, these topics and a ton more would all be addressed through the Creating the Future lens.

Format
We’ve been thinking these would audio classes, so people can listen in their car, while they work out or at their desk. They would be quick – hence the name “Flash Classes” – 20-30 minutes apiece, going deeply into a narrow topic each month. Each class would provide exercises and a worksheet.

We also want these to be VERY inexpensive – under $10/month – so that organizations can’t afford NOT to have their ED or board chair learn. We’re thinking there would be no obligation to sign up for a whole year – that again we make it accessible so people can jump in for under $10 and jump out whenever they want.

Prior to signing up, we would want to have a full sample class that someone could listen to, complete with worksheet, so they could see if it is for them without having to pay for it.

Help Us Figure It Out…
So before we head much further down the road with this idea, we want to know from you:

  1. Overall, what is it about this that you find interesting or exciting? What is ho-hum?
  2. What has been your experience with similar classes? If you’ve been in a program like this, has it been helpful?
  3. Do you think there is a need for this kind of “quick and deep” education?
  4. If you are an ED or board member, what questions would you want answered before you would consider trying the classes?
  5. Are the two threads – Governance and Sustainability – of interest? If not, what topics might be? (We want to start out with only 2 threads of topics, so we don’t make ourselves crazy.)
  6. Is the format reasonable – listen in the car or at your desk, with a worksheet? If not, what makes more sense?
  7. What about the name – Flash Classes?
  8. Is there something we missed? What do you think it would take for a program like this to be successful, given its goal that there be effective learning about new/different approaches at a VERY LOW price point?

I am sure I have left something out, both in the information and in the questions. So please help us flesh out our thinking. If we decide to do this, we want to launch in the next few weeks, so people can start their year out learning.

Your thoughts, please!

16 Responses to New Program – What do you think?

  1. Like the concept, here are some initial thoughts: could there be a YouTube component as well as audio? I find the existing YouTubes very helpful for introducing ideas. Flash sounds to me more visual than audio.
    I’ve been enrolled in a program that sounds somewhat similar that has a new “chapter” relesed every couple of weeks, with online forums available to those who susbscribe – the lessons and exercises and forum are available on demand for however long you remain a subscriber (Rain Group/RainToday.com) . I have to admit that I haven’t kept pace, so have continued to the pay monthly subscription with the hope that someday I will catch up…but doubt that will ever come. So if you really want people to move through the material (as opposed to just subscribe) then I think you’d need to build in some additional mechanisms to keep people engaged and on track – on-line or real-life buddy systems? Any of the things that help keep people on track with things that they know they should do, but don’t prioritize (like exercise, diet, etc). Maybe some reverse engineering about engagement??

  2. Love this Hildy, and would sign up today without hesitation! The two streams sound like great starting points, and the sample content is exactly what I’d look for. My only suggestion would be that you consider finding some way for participants to “roll up” their learning at the end of the class – a way to put the pieces together, capture the “aha moments”, and archive the material.
    Best of luck!

  3. I love the idea and am trying to think who would give you the best feedback (and isn’t so busy I don’t want to ask).

    I am THRILLED to finally see a course curriculum where governance and planning are combined – I should have known it would come from you.

    I would listen to something like this in my car, since I often drive alone. For those who aren’t usually alone in a car, or don’t even drive, I too think something with a visual component would keep attention better. I try to listen to audio talks on my computer and get distracted.

  4. Hi — Great stuff. I see this format working. Here in Seattle everyone is watching the weekly 10 minute classes of Claxon Marketing and we have something called Movie Mondays which are interviews with fundraisers and funders on the fine points of resource development. I don’t like them mostly because I like more depth. SO yours sounds beefier. I think YouTube has a 10 minute limit on length unless you pay to post.

    It would also be great if you promote it as a thing that groups can do together. Whole boards, whole management teams. This way it becomes an engine for a learning community. You could also have virtual Flash Class communities connected together to have discussions about the latest installment with a designated (volunteer) moderator.

  5. Hi Hildy,

    Thought I would try to answer your questions. Hope my responses are helpful!

    1. I really like the idea of the short duration and low cost of these trainings. Time and cost seem to be the biggest hurdle in convincing our board to take the initial leap into a new training. (Of course, content is, too, but from your past work I think that won’t be an issue.)
    2. Some of them have been really great, some not useful at all. The difference, in my opinion, is relevant information and the opportunity for hands-on implementation examples. It sounds like your program will be set up in such a way that it won’t feel as much like a lecture as some other trainings I’ve attended.
    3. In short, yes.
    4. I would like to know if there are case studies included, if the cost is limited to a certain number of participants, and if the course could be modified for group activity vs. independent study. I find that, while some of our board members are self-starters, some like the security of group trainings, and I would be interested in finding out if the format leaves room for group discussion or interaction if the purchaser would like that option.
    5. Yes, they would both be of interest to us.
    6. I think it will be for many. (See response #4.)
    7. I like it–catchy, descriptive and fun.
    8. I can’t think of anything offhand. Looking forward to any progress that you make on the idea!

    Kylie Pierce
    Development Director
    Rome Capitol Theatre, NY

  6. I am so jazzed reading all your ideas. Wheels are turning (can you smell the wood burning?) as we envision how all the various suggestions / questions can play out.

    Keep it coming, gang. This is SO helpful. The only way we can make sure this is effective is if it isn’t built by us but by – well – everyone!
    HG

  7. I really like the idea of short, audio classes at reasonable cost. Sometimes, when I was a busy ED, the only continuing education that happened was from MP3’s I listened to in my car. Reading piled up, video too often got interrupted.

    I’m not sure how the worksheet would gibe with that. If I listen to something in the car, I can’t stop to write. If I put the worksheet on my desk, it is buried on other paper and forgotten (which tells you a lot about my filing system!)

    Perhaps some sort of processing questions at the end would be helpful to synthesize the ideas. I am not a great auditory learner, so tools that integrate what I’ve heard are important.

  8. Hildy,

    There was recently a discussion in another non-profit Linked In group concerning what non-profits should hire consultants for. Two of the strongest responses are the areas which you have picked for your flash courses. So I think that you are addressing an area of need in the non-profit community both in general and with specific course choices you have picked to start the program.

    I would suggest that at least a component of your marketing of the flash courses be directed toward new non-profits which are often unfamiliar with the technical aspects of running a successful organization.

    I think the name flash courses is excellent, so long as people don’t really think they can gain the knowledge without the effort.

    Good luck,
    Joseph Mayerhoff

  9. I’ve been thinking about this for a few days, trying to come up with anything useful to add.

    I think Joseph gets at one interesting point – different groups are at such different places in their development and need courses somewhat tailored to where they’re at – one size fits all leaves a lot of people in a very ill-fitting suit!

    I like the name, I like the idea of audio, though I don’t really see how you can go deep in 30 minutes – any one of these topics has to cover so much ground! Or is it a series of 30 minute chunks?

    If you’re using it in the gym or in the car, a worksheet isn’t very practical if you have to use it on the spot to get them most out of it.

    I love the idea of people getting together in groups to listen and then discuss. Here in our rural area, we’ve started an executive director’s round table – we talk about WHATEVER once a month. I think we could have some interesting discussions around something like this – i.e. how will we put it into practice? Has anyone used these ideas and how has it worked for you? Of course doing it with board members is even better.

    Any learning you do alone has a small chance of being put into practice – I’ve found that I can’t teach my board members anything. They immediately discount it and need to discover it themselves, or hear it from a consultant. Even if they pay for me to go to training they don’t want to hear what I learned! Sorry didn’t mean to wander off into a rant!

    As to the chosen topics – again, governance and planning is pretty huge – how will you go deep in a 30 minute talk? Though it is of course the most important topic of all – how to engage the board in a meaningful way in the life and future of the organization.

  10. I am a auditory learner, so this is perfect for me! Audio books have served me well over the years because I can listen to certain points over and over again. Having bit size pieces of infomration makes perfect sense as well.

  11. Hildy… Let me give it a try and then I will provide more feedback; Re: idea — with my current time mgmt pressures + budget restraints, the concept sounds like a winner.

  12. I applaud this direction Hildy. You know I have been dying to get to one of your workshops but every time I line up a week to be in Arizona, something gets in the way.

    My growing experience is that it is important to be able to provide virtual resources and make sure the learning is happening. In my work we are experimenting with a six month online certificate program using Moodle. Just thought I would put that into the mix.

    Naava

  13. Hildy, I really like the idea of a Flash Class, especially including exercises and a worksheet. I think the topics you have selected to begin with are right on, the short time duration is great and it is a fantastic price point! And the name is cool too =)

    That said, without some accountability structure, I think I would find it a struggle to incorporate Flash Classes into my ongoing nonprofit professional practice (what get’s measured gets done!). For me, the tool would work best as part of a monthly or quarterly discussion group, either online, over the phone or in-person. I learn best when I can talk through and listen to others talk through how a particular lesson is meaningful in practice.

    Thinking through the frame of using these with a group, I think there are two ways I would incorporate flash classes One would be as part of regular staff meetings. It gives a leader another tool to incorporate into and enrich staff meetings. It also would be great for nonprofit staff who don’t have management responsibilities to suggest to their managers that it get included in staff meetings.

    The second way I would incorporate group use of the flash class is to form YNPN Phoenix “Flash Clubs”. In addition to our regular events, YNPN Phoenix has often hosted book club discussion groups. A Flash Club would be the same thing, except everyone would gather and work through the Flash Class together.

    Both these ideas would solve the accountability piece for me, b/c I would be “forced” by my participation in either a Flash Club or in a staff meeting to complete the class.

    Good luck!

  14. Hildy,

    I am pleased to have this available and I support your aspiration as a great idea. Nonprofit leaders must be challenged to get out of the rut. The combination of low price and short investments of time are much appreciated.

    I do not have any experience in taking a series of classes in this format. I am an experiential learner and I would benefit from the style.

    Time is always an issue. What would one miss if they were to miss a link in the year? Could they jump back in without being lost?

    The two threads are very good ones. We are not going to succeed in sustainability without proper governance. No two organizations are alike. Some need more operational support than others. I would be pleased to run through these two threads and see where it leads.

    I like the option to listen to the clases during what is otherwise unproductive time like driving or taking a walk. A worksheet supports the discipline to be thoughtful and responsive.

    I don’t have any issues with the name. I am sure the branding will take care of itself.

    The low price point is critical to our participation. That does not suggest an issue on value. It is just the reality of our budget. Thank you.

  15. GREAT ideas!!! What intrigues me most is that information would be provided in bite-sized pieces. Even the name “Flash Classes” appeals. What’s missing (besides video, which I love) is the interactive component. When I discover a valuable new idea, I want to “noodle” it with others right away, or I don’t digest and integrate in a way that translates into new actions. One of the things I’ve found most valuable about audio learning is the opportunity to identify the habits of MINE (or my group’s) that might get in the way of integrating this new idea/concept/practice – and to share with others in a way that holds me to account for un-learning that habit and re-learning the new one in service of something I see is possible. I’m worried that straight audio from you might not create an opportunity to do that – so I would listen and nod along and “resolve” to change, then do a great job for a week or so (if that), then return to my old ways cuz they’re safe and familiar. Perhaps you could offer a “premium” option for an extra $XX per month to join a regular (monthly? weekly? drop-in?) call with others in this “community of practice” to provide support in USING the tools you present. I’m guessing you could jump-start the group in the beginning and then let it self-organize over time as the idea caught on…

  16. When I saw “Flash Classs” I first thought of classes to teach how to use Flash software tools. Maybe find a better name? Also, so much of what we do is fraught with complexities, make sure you don’t “dumb down” the content! Our community college Foundation Exec Directors nationwide and in California have our listservs that we subscribe to. These are great for “flash news” relating to our specific field, and availalbe on demand.