reDirect is excited to work with Lisa Bardwell (see bio below) to develop strategies for integrating the Reasonable Person Model (RPM) in activities that are at the core of nonprofit organizations. Incorporating RPM into one’s organization is a cultural change. Lisa initiated Learning Circles, fashioned after the Denver Foundation’s Inclusiveness Project, to help build a peer network as participating non-profit organizations develop a road map for how they will implement RPM in their organization. The first Learning Circles cohort has focused primarily on using RPM to improve internal organizational functioning.

At the end of the first year of this effort, we have learned:

reDirect’s work fills a gap in the funding world. While many nonprofits acknowledge that having effective, highly functioning staff is essential, they have difficulty dedicating adequate resources or time to systematically improving their systems and work environment. And very few funders provide monies to support this behind-the-scenes focus. Participating with reDirect, and engaging with the structure created by the Learning Circles, help organizations to be more intentional and to make time for this kind of work.

The power of Learning Circles. The Executive Directors and/or senior staff from each organization meet regularly to explore the Reasonable Person Model as it relates to their workplace. These meetings have exceeded our expectations in terms of the level of participation and investment by the organizations, and the power of peer insight. Participants have been willing to be vulnerable and transparent as they collectively explore strategies to better engage with their staff and to improve their workplaces.

Some quick wins can improve the workplace right away. One of our initial assumptions was that organizations would be investing in changes that might take a considerable amount of time to implement. In our Learning Circle meetings and sessions with staff, we have discovered that RPM has helped generate ideas that the organizations have been able to implement immediately. Even small changes such as improving the physical work environment with walking meetings or helping staff feel more appreciated by developing a birthday calendar can create more supportive environments for bringing out the best in overworked staff.

Our thanks to the nonprofits participating in this work with us: Colorado Alliance for Environmental Education, Colorado Nonprofit Association, Community Resource Center, Community Shares of Colorado, The Gathering Place, and Metro Volunteers.

Lisa Bardwell worked with the Kaplans while pursuing both her Masters and PhD at the University of Michigan. She gravitated to the nonprofit sector 20 years ago, serving the last 6 of those years as President/CEO of Earth Force. She has been applying RPM (often without realizing it) in her varied leadership roles and is delighted to help reDirect create opportunities that focus nonprofits on taking care of their most valuable resource -- people.