One of the perks of my Executive Director job is that I get to travel to Durham, North Carolina twice a year to meet with the Board of Directors. I took my first trip this past December and got to meet all of the Board members face-to-face for the first time. This was a great opportunity to make connections, share ideas, and have a chance to all get on the same page.
I was received in the home of Richard and Lonna Harkrader, two Board members and founders of Sister Communities. They were very gracious hosts, and made me feel right at home. In fact, all of the Board members and staff in Durham were incredibly warm and open with me, and I realized right away that this all-volunteer Board is comprised of folks who are really committed to improving educational experiences through SCSRN. On the first night of my visit, I had the pleasure of attending the end-of-the-year Board meeting, and was present for the election of our new Board Chair, Mr. John Chase – a man with many years of involvement with the organization, and a strong leader who will be an important element as we move forward in 2015.
My trip was very quick (only 4 days!), but we packed it full of meetings with the different committees within the Board. Some of the big questions that we tried to answer in all these meetings were: How can we make our existing projects more sustainable? How can we improve communication between our San Ramón and U.S. partners? What changes can we make to move away from a needs-based model toward a more capacity-building model? What are our standards for evaluating whether or not a project is successful? These and many other questions helped us to come up with a lot of ideas of how to grow and improve in the new year. (I won’t go into too much detail about those ideas here, because many are still in the embryonic stage, but as they mature, I’ll keep you posted!)
As I reflect upon my visit to North Carolina and the experience of meeting the Board, I am reminded once again of the intricacies of cross-cultural communication and how difficult it is to run an organization that straddles two different cultures. Effective communication is always tricky – even more so when it is between two groups that have different ways of seeing the world. That said, an elemental part to communication is the commitment to engage, and that’s something that SCSRN has on both sides, thankfully.
My trip to North Carolina left me energized and enthusiastic about 2015. Please keep following us here on our blog, on our website, and on Facebook and Twitter to see how this year unfolds for SCSRN!