Family Connections wanted to expand its footprint, introducing the type of engaged early literacy programming it provides in its playrooms located in Cleveland Heights and Shaker Heights to one or more neighborhoods in Cleveland. The timing seemed ideal for this big step two years ago, with school readiness a topic of national concern. And, Family Connections has a 30-plus year track record for providing quality services and starting conversations regionally about early literacy. But what would it take to launch a new program from a financial and personnel standpoint? Where should the playroom be located? How would Family Connections market the program, reach out to the community and gain community partners?
Answering these questions was critical to launch success.
re developed a market position and supporting business plan for Family Connections. The multi-phase project included: 1) investigating how to package the program; 2) pinning down a playroom location; 3) identifying institutional partners; 4) developing a voice of customer; and 5) creating an operational business model that outlined the financial and human resources required to successfully launch and execute the new program within five years.
In September 2015, Family Connections launched its first new early literacy program in the Cleveland Central neighborhood. It used the business plan created by re to secure 100% of launch costs from a single funder, and to discuss the program’s ongoing costs with future partners. From the re process, Family Connections gained documented support and a plan so it could effectively reach out to its target market, demonstrate capabilities to investors, and engage potential “customers” in the community.
Case Study 2: Shaker Heights Development Corporation (SHDC)
In 2014, SDHC had no dedicated staff or executive director, following the merger of two organizations that hoped to resurrect the SHDC. The group had disparate visions for its role in the community, and there was an identity issue and some unresolved conflict about how to use legacy funds. SHDC lacked core values and its members struggled to find a common ground, though they all expressed a desire to make a positive impact and grow SHDC into an important community player. The conflict among members was really quite palpable—but so was the strong desire to grow and change.
The re team worked with SHDC to tap the passion of the group, challenge assumptions, create a setting for productive discussion, and ultimately we provided a tangible strategic plan the group could implement.
The process included interviews with each board member, and market research to create a context for the role of community development corporations like SDHC. re facilitated two working sessions with the board, along with small-group meetings with the executive committee. The group was reminded why it chose to serve on SHDC, and core values were developed to define how the group would service the community. The members established a common ground—and from there, we developed a vision statement and supporting initiatives.
Collaboration bloomed from the re process, and the SHDC unified as a team, identified key initiatives and left with a plan in hand for implementing those. Through tough discussions and productive team exercises, re uncovered a common ground among the group. Members discovered their shared goals, gaining an ability to move forward together and identify key initiatives to support their vision. The group hired a full-time executive director, and today SHDC is a dynamic, successful community development corporation making a difference in Shaker Heights.