SVP Partner Barb Berg is one of our most active Partners, involved in numerous capacity building projects with multiple Investees. We caught up with her to talk about what inspires her to take on capacity building projects, and what’s kept her going through COVID.
Tell us Barb, what motivates you to be so involved in capacity building projects?
I’m motivated by the success that many of our Investees have been able to realize thanks to investments in capacity. For example, the Theory of Change work that SVP performed with Take a Hike played a role in helping them to secure B.C. Government support to scale their program. Fresh Roots and Growing Chefs! met as SVP Investees and this led them to a fruitful collaboration when they partnered to create the “Lunch Lab” program. And, the stability and growth of Environmental Youth Alliance’s funding and staff, as well as improvements in their technology use, have been supported by SVP capacity building.
Can you tell us about some of the projects you worked on in 2020?
My Co-Lead Partners Matt Kington, David Campbell, and I asked Stephen Hill to lead a strategic planning exercise for Blind Beginnings during COVID-19. Over many Saturdays, the Blind Beginnings management and Board of Directors, plus others including SVP participants, worked collaboratively to develop a new strategic plan. The facilitation was excellent, and the new plan is being finished as we speak. It’s wonderful to be able to connect skilled SVP Partners with Investees and see the results that emerge from these collaborations.
Were there any stand-out moments in 2020?
One of the experiences that stands out the most for me is my work with the SVP IT Community of Practice alongside Larry Achtemichuk, Dan Bowditch, and Cathy Brown. We continued to meet with Investees and address their IT needs throughout the COVID-19 pandemic. As you can imagine, demand for IT support was high as organizations sought to pivot to online operations. But, on a personal note, being a part of the IT Community of Practice really helped me to find purpose during COVID.
Being isolated and at home was hard, but when an email arrived about an SVP Investee’s IT need, our little IT team rallied. Through emails and texts and Zoom meetings with Investees, we came together to address the challenge, establish next steps, and follow those steps until the puzzle was solved. I have a deep appreciation for the camaraderie and talents of my colleagues. It has been truly rewarding, during these times, to be part of a group working together to assist our Investees and, through them, the children in our community who are most in need.
How have you seen Investees adapt to the new online normal?
Well, COVID was a compelling event that forced our Investees to pivot to online platforms. Some of them already had the infrastructure, others did not. So in addition to having to become proficient with remote meeting technologies, such as ZOOM, like the rest of us, many Investees had to fast-track their use of technology in order to continue to deliver their programs and support children and youth in their communities.
I was blown away by the Investees who not only fully embraced this new online delivery model, but who pivoted their main fundraising events online as well—with spectacular results! The Blind Beginnings online fundraiser included a fireside chat with Executive Director Shawn Marsolais, updates and videos from their members, amazing online auctions, and even a musical performance by LoverBoy. And in the end, Blind Beginnings exceeded their fundraising goal! Wow.
What was your most important learning or takeaway in 2020?
When you look at events like the Blind Beginnings fundraiser, I mean that’s an incredible achievement for a small organization. One that reflects the tireless dedication and hard work of the Blind Beginnings team. I’m simply amazed by the resilient capabilities of our Investees to adapt and succeed.
My takeaway is this: Our Investees can do anything because their staff are passionate about their mission and driven to serve their community. They were dealt an unprecedented and incredible challenge, and instead of giving up, they put their heads down and did the work to support people in need.
Do you have any advice for Partners who want to get more involved in capacity building but worry they don’t have the time, skills, etc.?
Working with the Investees shows me how miraculous amounts of work can be done with few resources. However, with the Partner community’s knowledge and skill, the Investees could do even more. Every Partner has something to offer that can make a difference for our Investees.
It could be as simple as sharing the biggest mistake you’ve ever made so that Investees can avoid it. Or conversely, it could be sharing your best lesson or a model that you learned in business that might be useful. Perhaps you’ve got a few key contacts that you could introduce to an Investee, or you know a great leadership book, or could recommend an online resource or tool. It doesn’t take much to share your best nugget.
What are you most looking forward to in 2021?
I’m looking forward to helping attract new SVP Partners, and to learning more about how SVP can further increase its impact on the lives of children. Of course, I look forward to continuing to work with the IT Community of Practice and our Investees. And I’m especially looking forward to seeing everyone in person once we’re able to gather again.
As the New Year gets underway, I found this line, spoken by youth poet laureate Amanda Gorman at the inauguration of President Joe Biden, to be quite moving:
“And so we lift our gazes not to what stands between us but what stands before us. We close the divide because we know to put our future first.” – Amanda Gorman, The Hill We Climb