Friday, February 10, 2012

Internal v. External


Putting the finishing touches on a busy week dominated by internal meetings...

One of the tricky things to get right as the executive director of a non-profit is finding the right balance between internal and external. I've seen executive directors err in both directions. Spend too much time trying to raise money and develop new projects and your organization can run into the ground. On the flip side, devoting too much attention to internal management can come at the expense of getting real work done in the broader world.

While this week was largely devoted to meetings at the Center for Court Innovation, they all felt purposeful and productive. In particular, I met with the directors of all of our operating projects to discuss a number of important topics, including how we use social media and how best to create a sense of connection between our off-site projects and our central headquarters.

Of the external meetings I had, the one that stood out was a conversation with folks at the NYC Department of Consumer Affairs Office of Financial Empowerment. They have found that providing individual financial counseling can not only help participants improve their financial situation (e.g. reducing debt, increasing savings) but can also act as a "super vitamin," improving other social service interventions. That is, helping people get their financial house in order can also help them find a job, get sober, locate housing. I'm interested in thinking through how this kind of intensive financial counseling might get integrated into criminal justice programs.

For more information on what the Department of Consumer Affairs is up to, check out this report.