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Extension > Family Matters > Setting the Stage for Open Dialogue

Monday, May 9, 2016

Setting the Stage for Open Dialogue

By Trish Olson, Director of Programs

Last week, we hosted representatives from the Minnesota Department of Human Services (DHS) for a SNAP-Ed Management Evaluation. In other words, we had a program and fiscal review from our funder. For some, this might sound like an event that would cause much angst. But not so for our center: we have a stellar program and stellar fiscal oversight. The visit felt less like an audit and more like a two-day conversation about how we achieve the SNAP-Ed grant objectives in innovative, diverse, inclusive, and fiscally responsible ways. Many thanks to all who made this important review run smoothly.

This binder has seventeen sections, covering everything from EARS to Supplies.

While DHS staff learned about us during the review, we also learned from them.

I was impressed with how our funder started each meeting: by sharing their organization’s Guiding Principles for Partnership. Their five principles are mutual respect, open communication, joint problem-solving, empowering through diversity, and ethical code of conduct. Sharing these principles at the beginning of each meeting set the stage for open dialogue.

Some people may think of a “principle” as a law or rule that must be followed, and associate it with a feeling of restriction. However, I have found a principled approach to organizational and individual work — such as what DHS shared during our visit — to be freeing. The DHS Guiding Principles for Partnership freed us to have an open discussion with joint problem-solving as a goal, while embracing diverse perspectives.

2015 Qualey-Skjervold conference attendees deep in thought.

In July, we gather for our Qualey-Skjervold Professional Development Conference. During that time of learning about poverty, we will also spend time developing Family Development’s guiding principles. I believe the two go hand in hand. How will our commitment to limited-income participants, and the agencies that serve them, be reflected in our FD principles? Our co-creation of FD principles this summer will provide you an opportunity to share your thoughts. I look forward to your unique contribution as we develop our guiding principles.

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