GRE Consulting Associates
Faith-based and community-based organizations sometimes struggle with finding a funding pardadigm that will ensure financial survival in challenging economic times. Interfaith Hospitality of Spokane is one such organization. In 2006 at the request of the Board of Directors, stakeholders participated in a full-day visioning retreat facilitated by Samuel Mahaffy of GRE Consulting Associates. It was a time when the organization found that its historic reliance on churches and individuals to support its ministry to homeless families, would not accomodate the need to expand services as more and more families faced homelessness in the community.
Using the Appreciative Inquiry Model, key stakeholders including Board members, staff, and a mom who had been homeless, revisited the mission of the organization and explored a new direction. They began speaking of the deepest motivations that brought them to give so much to this ministry.
From this process emerges a subtle, yet profound shift in the way that the organization looks at its mission. That shift was almost imperceptible. Instead of seeing itself as an organization that 'exists to minister to the homeless' there emerged a sense of the organization as one that exists to 'share the blessing wse have experienced in building relationships with homeless families and helping them to regain their independence'.
That shift was two-fold: First, it focused more on assets and less on deficits. Secondly, it emphasized relationships that are more complex. Instead of focusing only on the relationship between the homeless and those who provide service to the homeless, the emphasis shifts toward relationships among an array of community partners, including the network of Interfaith churches, other service providers, and the community impacted by homelessness. In this shift, the converstion began to focus less on the 'rightness' and 'need' to help the homeless and more on the sense of blessing and growth that stakeholders experience in their ministry.
That almost imperceptible shift in focus emerging from the Appreciative Inquiry Visioning Process, was to have profound impact on the way Interfaith Hospitality of Spokane conducted business. From 2006 to 2009 it became a more collaborative organization, it reshaped its partnerships, and it developed a new funding paradigm that brought together public and private sources of revenue.
This Case Study identifies specific ways in which the organization changed as a result of the process. From open-ended interviews with stakeholders, we learn that organizational wisdom was deepened, partnerships were enhanced, and the organization felt a greater responsibility to being accountable for outcomes. The shift in emphasis from 'burden' to 'blessing' has enriched the organization and benefited the community it serves.