Making Lemonade from Lemons: Purpose Built Communities of Practice in a Time of COVID

When COVID hit, Naava Frank, lead consultant on Communities of Practice (CoP) at Purpose Built Communities, (under a grant from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation), and Michelle Mathews, Senior Vice President of Purpose Built Communities, realized it was an opportunity to jump-start the Community of Practice they had been planning.

Although the in-person conference session to launch the CoP would have to be cancelled, members needed support. Michelle and Naava convened a video call and the CoP was born. Members had a peer group for immediate practical, emotional and moral support in meeting the challenges they were facing as leaders during COVID.

Even now, knowledge sharing and collaboration through the CoP — supported by Ashley Bozarth, Purpose Built’s Knowledge Manager — continues to help Network Members tackle the complex challenge of intergenerational poverty as they aim to achieve racial equity, improved health outcomes, and upward mobility for residents. The old dictum, “lemons from lemonade,” rings true, the pandemic accelerated the launch of the Purpose Built CoP and provided a strong foundation for the initiative.    

Naava Frank, with Michelle Mathews, Ashley Bozarth, and Jon Ippel, Executive Director of Amplify GR, and a network leader in the CoP, were honored to present about this important topic at the Collective Impact Action Summit, attended by 100 leaders utilizing the Collective Impact Model.

Here is a link to the video of the presentation, Purpose Built Communities of Practice: Networks in a Time of COVID, Thursday April 29, 2021 12:15 PM – 1:30 PM. Below is a session description and copy of the slide deck. Also, participants asked to see the evaluation research results implemented by Naava Frank and Purpose Built, which can be downloaded below. 

Session Description: 

Purpose Built Communities of Practice: Networks in a Time of COVID

Making lemonade from lemons: What are the opportunities and barriers to moving from a centralized hub and spokes consulting model to a networked learning model of service delivery and capacity building? How did the onset of COVID-19 and outcry for racial justice underscore and accelerate the need for a strong Community of Practice within the Purpose Built Network? Throughout 2020, executive directors and staff of nonprofit, neighborhood-based organizations have faced challenges navigating uncharted territory. Purpose Built supports peer-to-peer learning so that Network Members learn from each other how to better support their respective communities, communities more likely to be experiencing trauma from the recent crises. Hear from PB senior leader, network member, and external consultant about how the team seized the moment to focus on relationship building and shared learning to drive strategic impact in local neighborhoods.

Learning Objectives:

  1. Understand the tools and structures necessary to launch and sustain a Community of Practice (CoP)
  2. Learn about specific examples of how the CoP provides network-level, neighborhood-level, and individual-level impact, and what surprised us along the way
  3. Experience community building tools in the context of a Community of Practice


Materials To Download

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