Excellence in Innovation Award

Leadership Evansville, IN

In 2012, The City of Evansville Mayor’s Office and Leadership Evansville launched VOICE as a community-wide process to bring together all members of our community in facilitator-led group discussions to capture, draw out, and carry forward a broad range of ideas and visions for Evansville’s future. The sessions allow for fun and inspiring conversations about the hopes and dreams we have for our community. VOICE ensures all ideas are shared, documented, and made available to the public. Over 3,000 people took part in the 32 initial visioning sessions across the community. These visioning sessions were held in easy-to-access, neutral locations at different times of day to ensure we could hear from a diverse population.

Having compiled qualitative data from the visions, VOICE volunteers identified three primary focus areas: healthy green space, experiences, and city core. VOICE participants reported they wanted to be outside and active in their community, they wanted a variety of community engagement opportunities, and they wanted to see Evansville’s great neighborhoods and cultural hotspots more actively supported, connected, and promoted.

Engaging another 1,000+ people at 15 Flower Pot meetings, Leadership Evansville began to facilitate the VOICE initiative’s transition from vision to change. The meeting participants identified projects in these focus areas that were underway or pending, resources that participants could contribute, and stakeholders to ensure success. Having assembled volunteers and implemented the projects, two Big Action Meetings (BAM!) were held in 2013 and 2014 to update the region on the initiative’s progress, highlight accomplishments, engage volunteers, and inspire others to begin new projects.

Over the past four years, VOICE has inspired servant-leader-led projects that have made a phenomenal impact on the community, including: • ParksFest, a volunteer-led free outdoor music and arts festival attracting over 15,000 people the last year; • Franklin Street Bazaar, held weekly a Spring through Fall farmers market, arts and crafts, entertainment, and food extravaganza; • The Learning Garden, a community volunteer-led teaching garden to creating urban core greenspace and producing fresh produce for the community diverting over 2 million gallons of water runoff from the combined sewer system (in final planning stages); • Bryce’s Basket, the creation of a gleaning and distribution process to collect garden produce grown locally (900+ lbs. its first year) and distribute to those in need; • Cultural Districts, the establishment of five districts designed to increase the cultural value and understanding of Evansville as recognized by residents, as well as, selling “quality of life” to potential employers and those they hire:

• Haynie’s Corner Arts District revitalization and development initiative, feeding the rejuvenation of this historically-important neighborhood.

The ongoing, multi-year VOICE Initiative began as a community-wide visioning process that engaged more than 4,000 area citizens in envisioning and creating their preferred future for Evansville. By 2014-2015, VOICE was having a far-reaching, transformational impact on Evansville and our region by inspiring hundreds of people to lead new projects, programs, and activities that enabled them to “Bee the Change” in our community and impact more than 30,000 others. The estimated collective impact of VOICE regionally through these and other planning initiatives is more than 250,000 people.

Since implementing VOICE there is no longer any question the value of Leadership Evansville’s programs and facilitation practices that demonstrate the incredible influence of Leadership Evansville’s diverse servant leaders who are transforming our community. The VOICE initiative allowed Leadership Evansville to showcase alumni engagement with our organization and community. Leadership Evansville engaged over 300 alumni to organize, facilitate, and participate in VOICE sessions. In addition, LE has greatly increased alumni engagement with projects coming out of the VOICE initiative; and because of VOICE, each new Community Leadership Class selects a project the community has identified and is interested in fulfilling. Further VOICE outcomes have been used by nonprofits, businesses, churches, groups, schools, organizations, and colleges including Ivy Tech Community College, University of Southern Indiana, and the University of Evansville to help student volunteers, faculty, staff and alumni participate in civic engagement – Activating projects to move the community forward.

Make RI Stronger
Leadership Rhode Island, RI

In 2014, Leadership Rhode Island (LRI) launched Make RI Stronger, a multi-year social enterprise initiative to transform Rhode Island through positive, strengths-based psychology. This initiative was a response to a 2013 State of the American Workplace report showing that RI had the highest percentage of ‘actively disengaged’ workers in the nation and also to the pervasive concern that RI suffers from low self-esteem and negative attitudes.

Why Innovative
Developed as a corporate tool, the CliftonStrengths assessment identifies the strengths of workers as a step toward improving engagement in the workplace. LRI did something never before tried: Using the assessment and the related language of strengths psychology to change the culture of an entire state by sparking a cross-sector, cross-industry movement.

When individuals do what they do best, they are happier, more engaged and more productive which, research shows, results in lower healthcare costs, higher civic engagement, and more entrepreneurship – all conditions that have positive social and economic impact.

Leveraging its network of over 2,000 alumni, LRI strategically reached influencers across every sector – public, private and non-profit – to maximize the scale and impact of the campaign.

LRI had seven three-year goals for this initiative:

1. Create a social enterprise that generates revenue to sustain the effort
2. Increase alumni engagement
3. Move the needle on workforce engagement in a positive direction
4. Administer 10,000 CliftonStrengths assessments
5. Train and certify a cadre of strengths coaches to develop, grow and sustain the movement
6. Host a statewide strengths-based conference
7. Become the first strengths-based state in the country

By March 2017, LRI had achieved its goals:

1. Make RI Stronger brought in 10% of LRI’s operational revenue in 2016 and is expected to account for 20% in 2017
2. Alumni engagement increased: Alumni connections generated three-fourths of LRI’s strengths clients; half of LRI’s strengths coaches
are alumni volunteers; alumni giving increased by 20 percent in 2016
3. In a national comparison by state, RI saw unprecedented improvements in workforce engagement:
a. RI moved from #50 to #15 on the actively disengaged scale
b. RI moved from #49 to #1 on the workplace performance measure: “At work I get to use my strengths to do what I do best.\"
4. 10,000 Rhode Islanders have discovered their strengths
5. 20 strengths coaches have been trained and certified
6. LRI attracted 1000 Rhode Islanders to a first-ever, statewide strengths-based convening
7. RI is the first strengths-based state in the US

The sharp decrease in the percentage of actively disengaged employees saved RI employers almost $200 million, according to Gallup.

Using Innovation Going Forward
Buoyed by its impact to date, LRI will continue to scale up the Make RI Stronger initiative to achieve even greater social impact. By intentionally embedding a strengths psychology into the culture of RI, the initiative will eventually live without LRI’s direct support, freeing the organization to attack a new statewide challenge.

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