United Way Bringing In Expert Facilitator

An expert facilitator will be helping the United Way’s Board of Directors understand common objectives and how to achieve them.

From 8 a.m. to noon on Friday, Russ Linden will be hosting a strategic retreat with the 22 members of the United Way of Southern Chautauqua County board. Linden is an expert in change management, performance improvement and collaboration. He has written five books, with his most recent being ”Leading Across Boundaries: Creating Collaborative Agencies in a Networked World.” Linden has included work he has done with Chautauqua County officials in previous books like ”Working Across Boundaries: Making Collaboration Work In Government and NonProfit Organizations.”

Tory Irgang, United Way of Southern Chautauqua County executive director, said every year the organization develops a strategic document as a guide to assist community groups in reaching goals. She said this will be the first time in her three-year tenure the United Way has brought in an outside facilitator to assist the group.

”Russ will work with the board to prioritize where to go with our efforts to have the greatest possible impact. With a large board from all walks of life there is a place for everyone at the table, but sometimes it is difficult to all get on the same page. However, Russ is really good at that and he will help us to make sure we listen to each other,” she said. ”He has done work with other United Ways in other communities so he knows the issues for United Ways, and how United Ways take on responsibility in the community.”

Irgang said after the strategy session, the United Way board will then focus on developing a document that will establish organizational priorities and will be a guide on how to accomplish goals.

”We want to look at everything. We are not changing our focus, but we want the community to be the best it can be,” she said. ”We want to make sure donor resources are used in the very best way.”

The hiring of Linden comes on the heels of the United Way finishing its community status report in 2013. The United Way prepared a community report with local data, trends and community characteristics. The last community-wide study done by the United Way was in 2006.

Irgang said the community status report was designed to promote understanding of social conditions and trends, and focus attention on efforts to address and improve these conditions in the greater Jamestown area. Utilized by the United Way in identifying priorities for funding, the report also provides data used by local human services organizations when applying for federal, state and local grants.

Irgang said the community status report reflected a community that has issues that could be improved.

”We have high poverty, lower graduation rates, high rates of child abuse and neglect and a higher teen pregnancy rate,” she said. ”If the community is not where we would like it to be, if it is not better than seven years ago, we need to ask why. So the board is saying, ‘We’ve invested $9 million in the community in the last 10 years in programs and agencies, but, despite this investment, we haven’t been able to move forward.”’