Written by Alicia Lueras Maldonado and Leah Steimel
Last week, a cohort of organizations addressing homelessness in Albuquerque came together for a peer learning session on client engagement. Among the participants were two individuals that had experienced homelessness and now sit in leadership positions at a local homeless services clinic, Albuquerque Health Care for the Homeless (AHCH). CEOs and staff from other organizations listened intently, took notes and asked questions of them as they described their experience moving into roles with power at AHCH. Over the course of the morning participants talked with each other about how to overcome challenges to operationalizing client engagement and establish long-term, measurable goals for moving constituents into leadership roles in their organizations, as exemplified by AHCH. The peer learning session is one of a series of short term intensive activities that form the Common Good Action Project (CGAP) launched in 2015 by the Building Movement Project.
CGAP was inspired by a series of conversations and gatherings BMP hosted as part of the “Peñas for the Common Good,” where community leaders in the direct service, advocacy and organizing sectors met to learn about each other’s work and discuss how to advance the “common good” in New Mexico. The Common Good Action Project has since applied the conversations from the peñas to develop an assessment tool for service-providing nonprofits to evaluate the degree to which their organization is internally aligned to advocate effectively, engage client voice and make strategic decisions to affect social justice policy. CGAP organizes cohorts of 5 – 7 organizations that share insights and common challenges, and to learn from one another over a six-month period, beginning with the organizational assessment and culminating in the design of a social change action plan.
BMP wrote about how organizations integrate client voice and leadership in the 5% shifts report, “Developing the Leadership of Recipients.” In part, this shift is a way to combat the phenomenon in which “issues of power imbalances that are embedded throughout society can be replicated within organizations and provider/client relationships.”
The Common Good Action Project will continue to refine the assessment tool and bring community together to learn from one another, provide training and resources, and think collectively about how we are advancing the common good for all New Mexicans. We are looking ahead to the next cohort we will bring together in the Spring and to the new learning and opportunities that await.