Design Research and Facilitation for healthy team dynamics in non-profit environment
Client: Posse Foundation- Veterans Program
Role: Researcher and Facilitator
Posse Foundation Veterans program is a small tight-knit team that just on-boarded new staff. The intention was to facilitate workshops to foster healthy team dynamics and reduce issues caused by miscommunications.
With many years of experience working at a variety of non-profits I began to notice some common workplace issues that seemed particular to the social sector. Many employees were quickly getting burnt out and frustrated, especially younger employees, and choosing to leave non-profits for other industries. This is backed up by statistical data:
45% of current non-profit employees intend to leave their jobs
85% of non-profits have no formal retention plan
42% of non-profit employees feel their career development needs are unaddressed
In Depth Interviews and Participatory Design
In order to understand this more my colleague and I decided to speak with a range of people working in non-profits to understand their experiences and pain points. This is an important issue because non-profits serve a vital role in many communities. High turnover impacts staff, bottom lines, and overall impact that can be done in communities
We conducted In Depth Interviews and used participatory design methods like photo sorting in order to understand their experience more. From these interviews we synthesized 5 focus areas connected to the insights: Growing, Collaborating, Leading, Thriving and Values.
From these focus areas we aimed to create modules that could be incorporated into professional development. Our first prototype was a workbook, card set and visible employee celebration for completing modules.
We decided to go more in-depth with communication using MBTI (Myers Briggs Personality Tests) as a starting point for conversation as it is a tool many people are familiar with. We created activity worksheets for people to understand their working style and come to agreements with their teammate on how they could work together more effectively honoring their similarities and differences.
Partnership and Facilitation Prototype
We formed a partnership with the Posse Foundation Veterans program to lead a facilitation with their team. We first spoke to them more to understand the dynamics of their team and shifted the activities to be applicable. They had two sets of training pairs. Each pair worked closely with each other, running training together, traveling together, and sharing an office. It was important that these pairs could communicate and resolve issues so we led separate virtual facilitations with each pair.
In order to test the facilitation and troubleshoot, we hosted a workshop with thesis partners in our program. We gained valuable feedback. The main takeaway was while overall it was useful for people to reflect on their personality types and how it shows up in their team dynamic, it was hard for them to move forward without support from me and my co-facilitator. We also learned that there needs to be significant time to process and an actionable way to take these learnings forward.
Transitioning to Virtual
Around this time, the pandemic altered our plans for in person meetings however the Posse team was still open to us leading virtual facilitations with them. We shifted the workshop to be virtual using Miro and translated the worksheets into Miro boards. We also decided to hold two facilitations, one with each pair of program coordinators so that we could have deeper conversations with each pair.
Prior to the workshop each person took a MBTI test and we asked them to review their results. When we arrived at the workshop we first asked each person to draw an animal that they see themselves as and an animal that they see their partner as. This was a fun way to see self perception vs the perception they had of eachother. They were then able to discuss this and see the other person’s point of view. We then shared what animal they were assigned based on MBTI, with reasoning, and made fun stickers accordingly. This provided further self reflection.
The majority of the facilitation was spent encouraging dialogue between the two participants. They filled out four reflection questions, walked them through the questions and asked followup questions as they spoke. Additionally we created agreements between them that would guide how they handle conflicts, when they would meet to check in and how to respect boundaries. Facilitation was also central to this to push them in regards to being honest about their needs. After the workshop we sent them over a copy of their agreements and some followup documents for how they can continue the dialogue.
Challenges and Outcomes
Through this process we learned that facilitation is necessary to get to the tough issues. If we turned this into a continuing project it would likely be running workshops with teams instead of creating a curriculum. We learned that this is beneficial in multiple contexts because we tried it with social design teams and with non-profit organizations. Lastly we learned that having space and time to discuss working styles is often overlooked and can benefit a team environment. Originally covid was a challenge however we were successfully able to translate this online which also increased opportunities for further consulting.
“I would love to see the whole team do something like this”- Clareese
“We were laughing a lot because there was some much of this that was really recognizable. It has been the first zoom meeting I’ve had where I didn’t feel the urge to look away or check my phone” - Nicolette
“This has been helpful and enjoyable to c=process and I would love to do it with other people on the team to pinpoint some of the miscommunications” - Eric
“Our work does and activity with MBTI but this was way more helpful”- Sidney