On the Verge: Emerging Leader Pilot Project Wraps up Year-Long Training Program

It is no secret that nonprofit organizations have high employee burn-out rates. Long hours and historically humble wages, as well as deeply involved work, makes it difficult to hold onto staff or develop leaders. Last week, ten local nonprofit executives completed a year-long program designed to develop and retain emerging leaders in the family-strengthening field. The On the Verge (OTV) program occurred simultaneously in six communities in California, all of which wanted to provide an incubator for developing solutions to community problems. Until now, there have been no leadership programs focused on the family strengthening field in the context of real, community work.

The Tahoe Truckee cohort was made up of a diverse group of leaders representing eight local nonprofits. The program was led by trained facilitators Alison Schwedner, Director of the Community Collaborative of Tahoe Truckee (a TTCF program), and Amy Kelley, Executive Director of the North Tahoe Family Resource Center.

Throughout the year, leaders worked collaboratively to define regional needs on specific issues and implement community-based projects. The nature of working collaboratively in a time intensive curriculum also served to nurture the individual development of these young leaders while creating successful cross-sector partnerships.

“The On the Verge Leadership model emphasizes the personal, interpersonal and professional development of the participants. We know that working in family strengthening can be stressful and the pay is modest. This model acknowledges that in order to retain talent in this work, we must help emerging leaders develop essential hard skills, fortify their networks of trusted colleagues, and help them grow personally. The year format allows us to do this over time and, most importantly, enables the participants to experience first hand what it means to be part of a high functioning team”. – Alison Schwedner

The following outcomes were identified as priorities throughout the last year:

  • Provide Leadership Development for New and Emerging Leaders
  • Improve Retention of Brightest Leaders: On The Verge offers leaders the opportunity to renew their passion and develop coping skills, to sustain their leadership over time and prevent burn-out.
  • Build the Family Resource Center (FRC) leadership pipeline by creating more opportunities for professional advancement: On The Verge will support leaders to step into new organizational roles and professional growth.
  • Cultivate interdependent teams across intervening systems: On The Verge is the only leadership development program building interdependent, interdisciplinary teams to transform communities.
  • Create innovative community solutions to long-entrenched problems: FRC leaders will engage in ongoing conversations and research to better understand the underlying causes of inequity in their community, while piloting innovative strategies to address those underlying factors.

The OTV program was funded by the State of California, Office of Child Abuse Prevention and the S.H. Cowell Foundation, a long time partner committed to the family strengthening field in the Tahoe Truckee community.

The other incubator communities involved include:

Fresno County
Humboldt County
Richmond
Napa
San Jose