The More We Get Together, the Happier We’ll Be

Posted on May 27, 2020


Today’s Morning Buzz is by Kirsten Wyatt. Connect on LinkedIn & Twitter.

  • What I’m Reading: The Wedding Date by Jasmine Guillory
  • What I’m Watching: Run on HBO
  • What I’m Listening To: Untamed by Glennon Doyle

No, this isn’t a post about reopening our economy or wearing masks or hanging out in massive swimming pool bars in the middle of a pandemic.

Today I’d like to share a little more about ELGL’s expanding Cohort programs and why we’ve placed priority and emphasis on this style of connecting and learning.

About 18 months ago, we started kicking around the idea of bringing our members together to collaborate and learn together around targeted and focused topics. We could see that our members truly valued the opportunity to get to know each other and at the same time, learn more about local government.

From the start of ELGL, we’ve focused on connecting our members based on the issues and topics that they are most interested in. We’ve eschewed things like regional chapters and grouping people together based on their job title, geographic area, where they went to school, etc.

It’s been fun (and at times hilarious) to see the topics that get people connected and interacting: excessive use of exclamation points, pockets in women’s clothing, waffling tater tots, and pineapple on pizza are just four examples of the random conversation starters that get ELGL members connected.

Another thing that we’ve been wary about: certification programs. While we know that it’s a way to require training and participation in our events, we’ve been hesitant to develop programs that purport to train up our members on topics like innovation and leadership, that can be constantly changing, evolving and shifting.

As we watched our members tune in to online trainings and attend our in person events, we saw a real interest from our members to connect on a more regular basis on a specified topic. At the same time, ELGL was welcoming more members from larger cities that had dedicated innovation teams.

With an eye on those larger cities with innovation teams, we launched our first Innovation Cohort to allow smaller communities to form their own innovation team, but with members from across the country instead of across city hall.

Soon, we launched our second Innovation Cohort, focused on community and economic development and their work continues as they further refined their cohort focus to address COVID response and recovery.

We’ve learned a lot from these first two Cohorts:

The more we get together…

There’s great comfort and power in finding a group with common interests and goals. Our approach to Cohorts brings people together across disciplines, geographic lines, and job titles.

There’s a real sense that instead of working alone on a tricky challenge, cohort members are part of a team where they can bounce ideas off of one another, get to know each other, and solve problems together.

The happier (and more efficient and effective) we’ll be.

COVID and the rise of sheltering in place and #WFH working from home has heightened our understanding that while we might be working separate from each other, there’s still a real need to collaborate and learn new things from each other.

ELGL strives to provide these connections to all of our members, and the Cohort model is another more focused way we encourage and promote learning from each other.

There’s no need to start from scratch on every project when you have a strong network you can ask for help.

Your friends are my friends, and my friends are your friends.

This is where some more cynical people roll their eyes when I start talking about why I love the ELGL family so much, but bear with me.

I’ve loved watching ELGL members not just make connections themselves with other members, but also reach into their local government organizations to connect members with their colleagues.

Back in the days of rolodexes and business card folders, size mattered. The people with the most contacts were viewed as the winners.

Now, I’m watching the ELGL network expand like spider webs as our members introduce and welcome new faces into the organization, to learn together and from each other.

Based our first two Cohorts and what we’ve learned from this style of connecting and learning, ELGL members will notice some new and exciting programs in the new fiscal year:

  • Emily Edmonds’ role with ELGL will shift to a sole focus on managing cohort programs.
  • We’ve begun using a new software platform, Engagement HQ, to manage our cohorts’ learning and connecting.
  • We’ve launched two new cohorts – the Equity Cohort, which is currently up and running; and also the Creative Cohort, which is accepting applications through this Friday, May 29.
  • We’re planning ahead for three new Cohorts this fall, focused on grant writing, data, and community engagement.
  • We’ve upgraded our online meeting and learning management systems to ensure that each Cohort can easily connect with each other and the learning sessions we’re creating.

You can learn more about all of our Cohort programs and apply for open programs here.

We’re always looking for more feedback and questions about our Cohort programs so feel free to share your questions and ideas with us.

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