A Season of Change
By Andrea Miller, Executive Director
February 23, 2017
We’re only two months into 2017, but those two months have been a whirlwind of near-constant change. The transition from President Obama’s administration to President Trump’s has been a bit rocky, to say the least, and a shock to the country’s system. Politicians seem to have lost their sense of direction, more beholden to big money than to their constituents; meanwhile, leaks and political scandals have been relentless, hitting the media at a breakneck pace. This undefined noise has permeated all aspects of daily life, and has forced all of us - as individuals and as communities - to reassess priorities and to adapt to this new reality.
Colorado Youth Matter has not been immune to the influences of these dramatic shifts. Today’s elected officials will make decisions that could have lasting impact on our work. These changes have energized us to remain agile and flexible in an unpredictable political landscape. However, along with constantly shifting external factors, we have also faced significant internal changes. In the last three months, Colorado Youth Matter has gone through several dramatic transitions, and continues to face change in the coming months as we enter a new phase of strategic planning. In the spirit of transparency, I want to share our journey with you. Please know, none of these changes were taken lightly, and ultimately were decided upon in the interest of creating a stronger, more sustainable organization to serve the youth of Colorado.
Valuable Experience Blends with New Energy
When a new executive director comes into an organization, it is not uncommon to experience turnover and changes among the staff. In December, Holly Ponton was promoted to director of community programs after the departure of long-time staffer Stefanie Winfield. In January, Lorena Garcia was offered the opportunity to use her leadership skills as the new executive director of Namlo International. And just last week, Jill Conway started as our capacity building manager. Each employee that has come and gone has made their mark on our culture and on our sustainability.
Despite recent and significant staffing changes, I am proud to say that Colorado Youth Matter’s current team is truly remarkable. Each person brings an abundance of skills, personality, dedication, and determination. They work tirelessly with passion and conviction to fulfill our mission, and have enthusiastically embraced changes in responsibilities and workload to become more effective and efficient. People make or break an organization, and I am confident that this group will not only continue to deliver great work, they are going to take it to a new level.
New Space for a Change
On a daily basis, nearly half of our team finds themselves off-site in meetings, conducting trainings, and providing technical assistance to school districts. As a result, our large office on Franklin Street often felt lonely and cavernous, pushing us to explore a new work environment. We looked at a variety of options, from traditional offices to co-working environments. Based on our space needs and our desire to create a more flexible work environment, we chose to move to a community-based co-working space. We are now housed at Green Spaces in the historic RiNo neighborhood. It provides a nice blend of a shared private office with a dynamic lounge, coffee shop feel. We hope this new space encourages creativity and employee engagement - not to mention, it’s a pretty cool place to visit.
This change did not come without hesitation. We were at the Franklin Street office for nine years, and there is a lot of attachment to the memories made at an office. However, the benefits of this move far outweighed the costs. Along with the energizing and dynamic workspace that Green Spaces offers, our move also provides financial relief in unrestricted spending. There are still some small logistical issues we will need to adjust to: we’ve had to downsize the amount of paperwork we can keep, streamline the way in which we work in a partially virtual environment, and adjust to a shared desk system. This new way of working will evolve over time, but in the end this move represents an exciting step forward for Colorado Youth Matter.
Finally, we come to the heart of our work: the mission. In the natural flow of events for a nonprofit, our last strategic plan has reached its end date. Over the coming months, we will run through the traditional process of defining new goals and objectives, assigning tasks, setting a timeline, etc. While that portion of our planning will not change, the discussions will. The Whole Child approach to youth development and education is taking hold with school districts, health care providers, and other youth-serving professionals. How do we fit into this new dynamic? We will be open to new ideas, innovative partnerships, and the ever-changing funding landscape.
Colorado Youth Matter is in a period of substantial transition, and transition inevitably brings a certain level of apprehension. But even though change can be nerve-wracking, moments of great change are also the moments of greatest opportunity. Despite the profound change that 2017 has brought, there is one thing that has not and will not change: CYM's commitment to our partners, and to our vision that all youth will have access to comprehensive and inclusive sex education.