Tag: workplace support

Meetings can not only be a waste of time if they are not well designed but can also zap our energy. Even worse, the meeting can be so boring that participants tune out or cancel. One way to shake things is up to host a “Strolling” Meeting. A strolling meeting is a meeting where everyone is moving – either rolling or walking – and does not have to take place inside a conference room.

It is called “Strolling” (not walking) to be inclusive. People who use wheelchairs, roll instead of walk. The “S” stands for slowest person sets the pace to make the meeting inclusive for anyone with a mobility challenge. The point of a Strolling meeting is not a race, but rather a chance to get fresh air and fresh ideas and build relationships in the process.

Here is a simple guide for nonprofits to host inclusive walking meetings or what I am calling “Strolling Meetings.”

Step 1: Identify Meeting Goals

Good meetings start with identifying why you want to have a meeting. It is important to frame why you think a strolling meeting is a better fit for your purpose:

  • Problem-Solving: Can be enhanced by the movement and fresh air as well as informal interactions among people.
  • Build Relationship: Team building occurs while involved in informal activities and outside our normal environment. The spontaneous mixing that occurs on a strolling meeting can enhance interactions.
  • Check-Ins: Great for one-to-one conversations with people you manage or with external partners, donors, and colleagues.
  • Conflict Resolution: Can help resolve conflicts for pairs and small groups. For larger groups, changing up the environment improves team interactions and helps generate solutions.

Step 2: Pick the Right Meeting To Get Started

Not all meetings are ideal for strolling meetings, especially when you first introduce the idea at your nonprofit workplace. It is best to test the concept with smaller meetings and one-on-one check-ins are a great place to start. Don’t select a meeting where success depends on a screen to share information.

Step 3: Make Accommodations

You want to be inclusive as possible so that any employee can participate in a strolling meeting despite having a disability. Before the meeting, make sure the route you pick is accessible for people with physical disabilities to navigate. The best way to find out is to get their advice.

Be sure to ask how long they can be mobile and plan for stopping points along the way for everyone to rest. Some people with physical disabilities may only be able to “stroll” for 5-10 minutes, not a full hour or half-hour. You can modify by shortening the mobile part of the meeting.

You may need to hold the meeting inside and incorporate movement. Participants can move around inside the meeting room or stand and stretch.  Participation in activities should be optional for everyone.

When you are hosting the actual meeting, share the guidelines about “slowest pace sets the pace for the group and the activity is not a race.” This helps everyone be respectful and inclusive of participants who move at different speeds. If you need to have rest stops along the way, plan it so that you can discuss a topic while resting.

Step 4: Planning and Preparation

It is important to give an advance warning for a strolling meeting so people can dress accordingly — bring a coat or sweater, wear comfortable shoes or bring water.

A strolling meeting is not just a stroll in the park, you are doing work. Like any other business meeting, there is agenda preparation but there are some other items you need to think about. Layout the meeting topics for discussion and synch your rest stops with agenda points. Take a rest stop during the last 10 minutes to capture takeaways and next steps.

Figure how far you can go in your allotted time and avoid noisy spots or too narrow walkways. If you have more than one other person, you will have to do a little bit more route planning.

Step 5: The Actual Walk

As noted earlier, being the meeting with sharing your guidelines, most importantly about pacing and inclusivity.

  • One-to-One Meetings: Meeting as a pair tends to be easy. Strolling breaks down the barrier of a desk and chair, and lets people communicate more equally.
  • Small-Group Meetings of 3-5: Meetings with three or more can be affected by the width of the sidewalk or path, variations in terrain, and possible physical barriers. This size group is flexible, as the discussion can occur while moving, or if desired the group can stop along the way.
  • Groups of 5-16: Meetings with larger groups tend to result in more than one conversation while moving. If the whole group is to be involved, make time to stop and gather as a whole.
  • Groups Larger than 16: These tend to require more planning, with a strong leader and potentially a few assistants if needed. There will be conversations while moving, then planned stops for presentations.

If you have staff at different locations organize them at their location and have them do their own strolling meeting. Encourage everyone to share photos of their stroll with each other. Some organizations use a slack channel or online discussion area devoted to their moving meetings.

There is nothing better than to boost productivity, build morale, and melt off stress than getting everyone to move during a strolling meeting. You can read more about strolling meetings in my book, “The Happy Healthy Nonprofit”.

Has your nonprofit hosted a strolling meeting?  How did you make it inclusive? What are your tips?

This post originally appeared on “Beth’s Blog”.

The first time I worked on a website redesign, it was not pretty. Not the design of the site but the process. I had copy and pictures and figured we’d need to review layouts. So the button that leads to the donation page should be — wait. Who is making sure the donation page will work and be connected to all the right accounts after we change web hosts? Does the vendor do this? Will the project still be on time? What on earth is a merchant account or payment processor and why do we need two?!

To this day, I remember what it felt like to ask a question, anticipate getting some super expensive or horribly complicated answer, and get laughed at by the web developer.

Thankfully, I’ve worked with many more freelance developers (graphic designers, printers, consultants) who listened to my fumbling questions and said, “I hear that you’re concerned about or interested in X, and I can answer that, but I think the question you really want to be asking is Z.”

These were professionals who asked me questions to understand the context within which my organization was working, dug deeper into what success looked like, and held up a mirror to help us recognize our blind spots — rather than trying to skate by within them.

Own what you know. Also, own what you don’t know.

You don’t need to know anything to ask someone, “What else should I be thinking about? What have I missed? What questions would you have that I have not asked?”

If you’re a mission-driven organization, you know your organization best. You know your mission, your theory of change, and your objectives. Maybe you know what needs to be done, and maybe you don’t. In any case, a collaborative team who is well versed in their skillset and/or the nonprofit world can guide you.

But you will know your why best — own that. It’s what should drive every question you ask and every decision you make. And you need to share it with anyone you are working with who is outside of the organization and not a part of those conversations and meetings. Vision is not something that should only be shared with donors.

If you’re a freelancer, nonprofit organizations need your ability to provide the right techniques, strategies, tools or content, based on how well you understand their needs, goals, and capacity. If your client isn’t forthcoming, ask. In addition to informing your work, you demonstrate that you respect the organization’s work and want to understand how you can best support that. Besides, sometimes people aren’t actually ready to bring you in on a project and wouldn’t you rather know that upfront?

Yes, there will always be people who are convinced they already know the right answer.

They are not always wrong. But even if someone ends up reaffirming what you had in mind, it is worth it to be open to the chance that they may not. For one, it’s a much more pleasant work experience when everyone respects what the others bring to the table. Maybe that is or isn’t what your nonprofit needs or has the capacity for at this time, but it should be an active choice rather than a passive choice based on assumptions.

Focus on the outcome

Yes, you could ask for the lowest priced solution and you would get that. That’s what we tend to ask for when we are worried about budget. And if that’s the question, then the answer might be an open source platform that is technically free but costly to use because your organization doesn’t have the in-house capacity to update it. It might be worth paying more upfront for a system that will cost you less to maintain.

We ask about price when what we are worried about is controlling costs.
We ask about videos because everyone else has them when what we truly want is to get your audience to register to vote. Maybe you need a video, and maybe you don’t.

Still, let’s be real.

Call out your constraints and concerns

If you work with a freelance graphic designer, for example, they will probably spell out how many changes are included, whether a print or digital proof will be provided, deadlines to get a project to print by a certain date, etc.

Even if we hire the best freelance grantwriter, we still need to empower them with the right information (and supporting documentation)!

Let’s not waste anyone’s time. And let’s respect other professionals in their ability to be professionals.

Say you’re worried about deadlines and getting approval from various decision makers.

Ask about certain changes and how they might affect the turnaround time. That way, when you get non-minor changes instead of final approval, you can be informed enough to ask, “Is this change important enough that we can push the print date back?” before you have a panic attack.

Or if you know that you will need 16 people to approve something, ask your freelancer to adjust the timeline accordingly.

If you’re worried about costs spiraling out of control, state that. Ask what different options will cost over the lifetime of a project. Describe current staff capacity.

If you want to ensure your marketing respects people’s dignity, state that. Describe what respectful looks like and explain why it matters. Share the narrative you’d like to shift.

Remember that the purpose of language is communication, not perfection.
Forget jargon. Ask the question, call out the constraints. Ask what other questions you should be asking. If your collaborator can’t communicate clearly, you may question whether to keep working with them. It’s when we let our fears prevent us from having open conversations that we run aground instead of accomplishing our missions.

This article originally appeared on the Wethos blog.

Empower Work is a nonprofit that provides free, anonymous text chatline support for people experiencing challenges in the workplace. We asked founder and executive director Jaime-Alexis Fowler how they created the tool.

Q: What was the problem you tried to solve by creating Empower Work?


Last year, I was coaching someone facing a tough work challenge. We’d been connected by a mutual contact. During our conversation, I realized she needed more than what I could provide, and I had no idea who I could refer her to. There weren’t resources within her company; she couldn’t afford to pay for individual support as she was struggling to pay off student debt and was worried about losing her job.

I left the conversation with a major question: Why were there not any third-party, accessible tools for work situations? That question led me into in-depth market research, qualitative and quantitative research, and more over the course of the spring.

What I discovered across more than 140+ survey responses and over 200 in-depth interviews is that challenging work situations are universal, but access to resources to navigate them are not. And that exacerbates inequality.

The people I surveyed who were more socially isolated at work—for example, the first in their family to join an industry or go to college, or were a woman of color—faced dramatically worse outcomes after those challenges. Without support, half of those who faced challenges left their jobs. And often took lower paying next jobs, left an industry, or moved on with no next job lined up.

What was also clear: People wanted an accessible support that was not overheard at work, simple to initiate when time mattered, and met them where they were—on their phones.

Q: How does it work?

Anyone in the US can start a chat with a trained peer counselor by texting 510-674-1414 or initiating a conversation on our website. Once you reach out, you receive an autoresponse to review our terms of service. And after you agree, you’re connected to a counselor. Our counselors start by asking a few questions to understand the work situation you’re dealing with. Questions like: What’s going on at work? What prompted your outreach today? Has this happened before? They’re there to be an advocate––to listen, support, and guide texters every step of the way.

Q: Why did you choose texting and web chat as your main client-facing channels?

In our early user research, people overwhelmingly expressed need and interest in something that wouldn’t be overheard in their workplace. We heard from person after person stories like, “I went to a bathroom stall and texted my best friend, but she didn’t know how to handle that kind of bullying by a boss either.”

To test that theory, in our pilot phase, we listed just a number without saying whether to call or text. Over 90% of people texted.

The written format best supports our texters’ needs right now—and has also proven to be helpful for volunteers. Our peer counselors can write and reflect before hitting send. They can ask for internal review for feedback. It provides a better feedback loop for volunteers to improve their professional skills as well.

Q: Were there challenges you found scoping, setting up and iterating the technology?

We are regularly adjusting to what we see can best meet the needs of our volunteers and texters. We started very simply, just a Twilio number connected with a free trial of backend system. We didn’t see a reason to built something out, or even buy something, until we better understood: Was this something people would use? What would be most helpful for both texters and volunteers? Over the last year, we’ve increasingly built out more aspects of what we need. But at the heart, it’s still pretty simple.

Q: What lessons have you learned, or things you would do differently if you had your time again?

The biggest challenge for me personally has been how best to harness the expertise and enthusiasm of the hundreds of people who have passionately expressed interest in what we’re doing. That’s a great problem to have. But looking back, I would have set up a lightweight task tracking system like Trello or a simple CMS like ProsperWorks earlier to better manage opportunities.

So many people recognize that we’re at a critical juncture in workplace dynamics. Empower Work is one resource focused on how to best support individuals. Shifting how we support and empower people at work is going to take approaches from all sides working together—from policy and structural changes to cultural overhauls.

Q: What’s next for your nonprofit?

We’ve been focused on two north star metrics for quality: Do texters not only feel better after a conversation, but take an action they determine towards their goal? And do volunteers use new skills they learn not just in supporting texters, but in their workplaces? Both have been extraordinarily high. A few weeks after a conversation, about 91% of texters say they’ve taken an action that resulted in the outcome they wanted. Sometimes that’s taking a walk around the block before a performance review meeting. Sometimes that’s figuring out a way to leave a job with the financial considerations you need covered.

In terms of what’s next: more support for more people. We’re expanding significantly, building up our volunteer base, reaching more texters across the US, and building new partnerships with affinity, professional, and industry groups.