Outlining the biggest takeaways from the roundtable discussions at the inaugural 2023 Community Rec Leadership Summit.
In 1962, the Jetsons cartoon launched with a premise of imagining life in 2062. With concepts such as online classes, video calls, telemedicine and home offices, the cartoon challenged the limits of society’s reality at that time. The Jetsons were pushing boundaries by offering a lifestyle concept they believed to be 100 years in the future.
Be Like the Jetsons – The Future of Community Rec, was the last roundtable discussion during the 2023 Community Rec Leadership Summit at the Omni La Costa Resort & Spa in Carlsbad, California. Moderated by Keith Vinson and Rodrigua Ross of the YMCA of Metropolitan Dallas, they introduced this idea to a room full of community recreation leaders not just during the last discussion, but throughout each roundtable discussion had.
For two days, leaders from YMCAs, JCCs, the Boys and Girls Club, Salvation Army and Parks and Rec, alongside limited sponsors, thought futuristically on the topics of reimagining revenue, DEI, the youth mental health crisis, fundraising and capital projects, and more. Here are some of the biggest takeaways from each roundtable.
- It’s better to have a piece of the pie than no pie at all. Don’t be afraid to work with other community organizations. There’s a lot of kids to serve and there shouldn’t be any competition if the missions are the same. Focus on experience, not a metric.
- Have you considered 24-hour access yet? Adam Shilling of the Buckeye Valley Family YMCA shared they’ve had huge success since launching. Shilling added to think about the shift hours of the people in your community. 24-hour could allow you to serve more people.
- Double down and lean into what you’re good at. Focus on creating value in services and programs.
- Rodrigua Ross shared the two states with the largest number of LGBTQ people are California and Texas. What are organizations in these states doing to provide for them?
- Rethink job requirements. Does someone really need to be able to lift 50-pounds to be hired? In staff recruitment, have someone on the interview committee who looks like them. DEI should be infused throughout everything – job posting, interview, signage – a 360-degree view throughout the organization.
- In troubled times, DEI gets un-prioritized. How do you keep it a priority? Make it part of the strategic plan. When things get tough, organizations get rid of things that are not in the strategic plan. Organizations need someone on the team whose job is to remind everyone of that importance. It has to be their job.
- How do you lean into your bravery and call things out when you take these conversations back to your organizations? Organizations need safety among leaders and to hold each other accountable.
Aiding in the Youth Mental Health Crisis
- Moderator Keith Vinson led the discussion by emphasizing “people, place, purpose.” Pour into staff to help young people. Help create the environment for young people. And help give young people a why in their life.
- Realize the impact staff have on kids. Jorge Perez of the YMCA of Greater Cincinnati shared a phrase his team uses: Transformed people transform people. Measure programs beyond numbers and dollars. Invest in people.
- Kristin McEwen of the YMCA of Metropolitan Atlanta shared about a partnership with Wings for Kids, where trained day camp counselors had sessions with kids on how to deal with emotions and who to talk to – for all ages. Through this partnership, they also had sessions with full time staff and held a volunteer retreat on social and emotional learning.
Fundraising and Capital Projects
- Sabrina Smeltz of the Wakeman Boys and Girls club kicked off the conversation by advising to engage stakeholders early and give full ask up-front. Don’t go in with your own agenda.
- Build trust in communities, especially when you’re coming into new communities. You can’t invest if you’re not there. Get boots on the ground and get to know the community. Don’t build buildings, build trust.
- What if it’s not supposed to be a facility? Organizations are still building gyms, pools and fitness centers. Kids are in trouble and organizations keep giving them gyms, pools and fitness centers. Be realistic. Partner with other nonprofits in the community to help provide what a community actually needs.
The Future of Community Rec
- The future is youth. Every youth will have access.
- Are you bold enough to share for the collective better? Egos prevent people from working together and getting thing done. Why can’t organizations from all over the world merge instead of just partnering with who is next to you? Don’t be the barrier.
- Solving hunger is a lofty goal, but lofty goals are achievable if you have a shared mission. It needs to be included in the mission and integrated into all aspects.
The discussions came to a close with moderators Keith Vinson and Rodrigua Ross reiterating one step at a time. Maybe a first, small step is going back home and reaching out to local community centers. Take the step and set up a call to say, “let’s have a conversation.”
The 2024 Community Rec Leadership Summit will take place February 29 – March 1 at the beautiful Hyatt Regency Hill Country Resort & Spa in San Antonio, Texas! Email firstname.lastname@example.org for information on attending.
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