Change Systems that Change Systems

For 30 years a philanthropic intermediary had created and sustained a system for affordable housing in the metropolitan area around St. Paul and Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA.

In one six-month period, the founding president decided to retire; the primary funder began to explore alternative investments; the housing market started to recover from the big crash; and federal, state, and local politics shifted focus from homelessness to workforce housing. At the same time, a whole generation of power brokers were aging out of the system, and young, energetic voices were replacing them.

A system that had been radically successfulsome called it the premier system in the countrychanged in unexpected ways and was being pressured to change in many others. HSD Institute worked on a multi-pronged process to help the board, staff, and community manage this strategic change. The retiring leader documented his legacy. The government partners collaborated to shape the future. Staff changed policy, procedures, practices, and relationships to become more agile and accountable.

In more than 60 interviews, HSD staff discovered social, financial, network, and political assets in the community that had created success in the past and were available to re-shape success in the future. The result was a Strategic Framework to inform decision making and action taking for staff and board. An Advisory Panel helped choose a strategic focus for the short-term, and a search committee found a dynamic new president to lead into a promising future. Even more important, the institution discovered the capacity to continue individual and collective Adaptive Action into an emerging future.

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