In the spring, we checked in with Partners Rich Croak and Steve Kenney to discuss their work on the Tiger Team for SVP Grantee My Life My Choice (MLMC). Since that time, Rich transitioned into the Lead Partner role for MLMC, where he is currently leading a team of Partners through the first year of our three-year engagement.
We sat down with Rich and MLMC’s Co-Founder and Director, Lisa Goldblatt Grace, to learn more about their developing partnership and the great work they have accomplished so far.
Tell us about your experience working together over the past year.
Rich: The first six months of the engagement were spent gathering data and examining the current state of the organization. Since wrapping up that process in June, we have turned a corner and we’re now setting off on a new strategic initiative in an effort to put definition to our strategy. We’re not in execution mode yet, but we have defined what we want the future to look like. Overall, the relationship has been terrific. Working with Lisa and her team has been great. MLMC was also right at the cusp of their expansion, so it was perfect timing for an SVP engagement.
Lisa: I agree; the timing was perfect. We waited until we knew it was the right time to apply for our SVP engagement, to make sure we could fully utilize SVP’s incredible resources. At the time that we applied, we knew where we wanted the organization to go and we had synthesized a few salient questions that we needed to dig into. But with the day-to-day pace of the work we didn’t have the capacity to figure out the answers to those questions. The SVP team immediately jumped in. They were able to look at our programming from completely new angles while focusing on our central question: how can we impact the most kids and how do we make the biggest difference in a way that is both strategic and sustainable? The SVP team has been incredibly respectful while also pushing us to new levels. They bring deep business expertise while also staying aligned to our mission.
Did any noteworthy learnings come out of the initial information-gathering stage?
Rich: Yes, the data we gathered informed our whole strategy and guided our focus on the national pilot program rollout. It took a lot of time to sift through the information, but the discovery process is now starting to bear fruit.
Lisa: Even during the deep dive discovery, we had a few other immediate needs. For instance, SVP helped advise on our billing system very early on, which was an immediate and impactful contribution. I also realized that I didn’t have to be involved in every step of the process – individuals on both the SVP team and the MLMC team have taken ownership of certain areas.
Rich, tell us about your role as Lead Partner and what that entails.
Rich: I approach it as a relationship management role. My primary goal is to make sure that the two teams (SVP and MLMC) work well together, ensuring that we are all communicating and in sync. We have a very strong and cohesive team of Partners with a tremendous amount of business experience, which has also helped. I share many responsibilities with SVP Partner, Don Hawley, who has taken on a co-lead role on the project. Our partnership has worked well so far and really plays to our expertise and availability.
Lisa, what have you found to be the most valuable aspect of working with SVP?
Lisa: The impact is threefold: (1) SVP initially provided immediate and concrete assistance to fix outdated systems that had not matured with the organization. (2) The deep dive process forced us to look introspectively at our own programming beyond the day-to-day. It provided us with an incredible 360-degree view of the program. (3) SVP has helped us hone in on how we can make the greatest impact in the next five years, and they are helping us build the path to get there.
Rich: In many ways, SVP is validating what Lisa and her team already knew. It has really been a team effort with Lisa and her management team.
Lisa: All of the staff members involved feel like they are learning a lot through this experience. Even though we’ve put a lot of attention on one aspect of our program that we’re focusing on for our national expansion, we have been able to apply the principals and learnings from our engagement with SVP to other aspects of our work. For example, we have made improvements to our intake structure and altered our paperwork and documentation. SVP has had a ripple effect throughout the organization beyond the focus of our engagement.
What’s next on the horizon?
Lisa: We are now moving from laying out the plan to executing the plan. We received a grant to fund our program in another state, which will serve as a pilot for our national expansion plan. Over the next year, we’ll use the pilot as an opportunity to develop and test the program, learn from that, and then take it to the next community.