Community Agriculture Alliance: Lessons learned
The cool thing about history is that is allows us to learn from our mistakes. By studying what went wrong, we can take action to make it right.
As many of you know, Historic Routt County has been a proud partner with the Friends of Crossan’s and the town of Yampa in their attempts to restore the Crossan’s M & A Market at the corner of Main Street in Yampa. The project has entered Phase Three, with work scheduled to begin in May to finish exterior rehabilitation and the interior first floor.
As a team, we have learned many invaluable lessons over the past few years. Many of these lessons are applicable to everyday life too, so I thought I’d share the Top 10.
• Know who you are. Does the project fit within your organization’s mission and skill set? Do you have the infrastructure required to take it on? Turns out, we didn’t know what we didn’t know with a project of this magnitude. But what we have learned has propelled HRC to a new level of expertise in terms of historic preservation project and grant management. Sometimes, taking that leap of faith can reap big rewards.
• Identify partners and roles. Having the right team members is key. It’s important to clearly identify who is doing what from the onset, so everyone is on the same page.
• Communication is paramount. Have regular meetings and/or conference calls. Keep the channels of communication open, especially when the topic is sticky or uncomfortable.
• Make time for paperwork. “Gross” is the first word that comes to mind when I think about the legalese of contracts and memorandums of understanding. But it’s important to make sure you have things in writing and you have spelled out roles, responsibilities and outcomes. Get professional legal help, if needed. And be sure the agreements are reviewed annually and updated as needed.
• Balance structure and fluidity. Learn to deal with ambiguity. Whenever you take on something new, you inevitably will deal with the unknown. This is especially hard for Type A personalities, and sometimes, you just have to keep the Rolaids close at hand. Define and structure what you can; the rest of the details will unfold in due time — trust the process.
• Have a fundraising strategy. Preservation projects take money, sometimes, lots of it. It’s important to confer with folks who have successfully managed projects similar to yours to learn from their expertise. It’s also vital to take the time to develop personal relationships with potential funders.
• Phasing is necessary. Oftentimes, goals can’t be achieved all at once. Get professional help if you need it to divide the project up into manageable and appropriate pieces. Pace yourself.
• Recognize when it’s just not working. Just when you have a process defined, you will need to scrap it and figure it out again due to some unforeseen factor. Sometimes, you will need to change partners in the middle of the game. So, instead of pulling your hair out, just know beforehand that accommodating change is part of the gig.
• Curveballs are inevitable. That’s life. When it came to funding, we didn’t get everything we asked for. When it came to timelines, it always took longer than we thought. But good things come to those who wait and who are persistent, and like the tortoise who outlasted the hare, Crossan’s eventually will make it to the finish line. I’m already anticipating the celebration that will occur — break out the champagne.
• Have fun. Regardless of what was happening, everyone on our team consistently has had the ability to laugh. Finding the humor in any situation has helped dissolve frustration and burnout. We have our share of silly, inside jokes and ridiculous anecdotes only we find funny. Enjoy the people who are on this crazy, topsy-turvy ride with you.
Meg Tully is a certified association executive and executive director of Historic Routt County.
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