The first cohort of the Organization Development certificate program is putting their learning to good work as they finish their requirements with a supervised consulting project that takes them out of the classroom and into an organization for real-world work. The projects chosen by these two students illustrate the variety of ways OD can help guide positive change in organizations large and small.
George Luse is using his consulting project as an opportunity to expand his nine-year relationship with the Paul Robeson Institute for Positive Self-Development (PRI), an outreach arm of Concerned Black Men of Massachusetts. PRI’s purpose is “to provide a vehicle of educational, emotional and personal support to young Black males and their families,” and has been doing that for almost twenty years. Black and Latino boys from grades 3—12 come to PRI for mentorship, community, positive role models. Once a month Harvard medical students present a science program. Anywhere from 30 to 70 kids participate each week in the drop-in program.
George’s father was a teamster and his mother was in the Michigan Federation of Teachers; he says the “concept of ‘union’ was part of my upbringing.” His professional background has been as a teachers union field representative and now as a training and organizing coordinator with the Massachusetts Teachers Association. In his new role, George is in the middle of the current change process, and will be able to apply what he learns at ANE immediately and directly to his job.
In the meantime, his focus at the Paul Robeson Institute will be to help revitalize the volunteer recruitment and retention. There is money and interest and need for the program, but the challenge has been holding on to valuable unpaid help.
Lori Weaver earned her Master’s in Human Service Administration from ANE in 1995 and have been working in various state and health administrative roles ever since. She is currently the administrator for organization development and training with the New Hampshire Department of Health and Human Services. Lori serves as an internal consultant to the Department and its 3400 employees.
With an eye toward greater flexibility in clients, schedules, and fees, Lori sees the OD certification program as a “soup to nuts” program that has taught her what she’ll need to know in order to set up her own external consultancy. Contracts, fees, networking, creating a client base are some of the practical information she’s learning in order to realistically transition to her goal.
Her supervised consulting project sets her up as a consultant, with fellow student, Joan Izen, with a real client. They are working with a local social service agency to help them work through some entrenched issues about communication and respect in the workplace. Lori and Joan have been gathering data, and will present their findings to the client at a retreat. They will develop a diagnosis and work with the executive director to come up with a slew of options based on the client’s goals.
The key to successful OD work is that the consultant works as a tool that an organization uses to work through its own change process, rather than an outsider imposing a new structure. OD is about building the capacity for change so that it becomes part of the organization’s sense of itself. If change is taken in stride, an organization can stay focused on its purpose and vision, rather than getting bogged down by internal difficulties. What is OD about, in the long term? Sustainability.