1. How will you ensure a synergistic mix of Circle members
(by skill, organizational situation and personality)? How will
you ensure that members of competing organizations do not end
up in the same Circle?
We've had experience in reaching this goal (ensuring a synergistic
mix) for over ten years. To ensure suitability and commitment:
1-a -- We use an up-front selection questionnaire and interview
potential participants to ensure that their organizations are
ready for earned-income and participants have the desire, commitment
and resources to implement earned-income plans
1-b -- We researched over the years which types of participants
work best together. We've found that it's often best to have
Circle members who:
1-b-1 -- All have similar levels of responsibility (eg, all be
executive directors, or all program directors, etc.) or all have
strong interest in learning the same topic or skill
1-c -- We have each participant sign (and share with other members)
a Letter of Participation that conveys their commitment to attendance
and to each other
1-d -- We contact each member to tell them who might be in their
Circle to ensure they have no problem with any of the other members,
eg, to ensure that members are not in competition with each other,
on each other's boards, etc. (Note that it can an advantage to
have members with similar earned income programs in order that
they can collaborate with each other.)
1-e -- We certainly accept Circles where some members have more
skill and experience than others. This tends to produce a richer
mix in the nature of help between members. More skilled members
indirectly become mentors for others at times, while the less
experienced can ask the "dumb" questions that really
make other stand back and think.
Regarding planning mix of personalities in Circles, we've
found that it really doesn't add much to assess and mix Circle
members according to their personality types (eg, use Myers-Briggs
preference assessments, etc.). The nature of the Circles is not
that of a highly interactive discussion group (where personality
types really come into play). Rather Circles are highly focused
problem-solving groups where, eg, questioning and sharing of
materials are much more important than dynamics of different
personality types during highly interactive discussion. Besides,
all members tend to quickly become highly involved in their Circles,
almost regardless of their personality types.
2. What commitments will the organizations need to make to
be able to join the program?
We've found over the years that unless members really take
charge to develop their own plans (strategic plans, business
plans, earned-income plans, etc.), the plans end up sitting on
the shelf -- untouched. So members of the peer coaching earned-income
groups (or any other organization development effort) must be
very committed to the earned-income effort. Much more expensive
earned-income development programs might give very close, ongoing
attention to almost write plans for members, but the plans very
likely won't be used by the members.
Members should be committed to:
2-a -- Attending all meetings (retreat, Circle sessions and Symposium)
2-b -- Completing the earned-income workbooks between sessions,
and this may require that they refer to additional materials
that we provide, usually in the Free
2-c -- Conferring with other organization members, eg, board
chairs, board committees, other Circle members, etc.
2-d -- Really taking wholehearted participation in the program,
ie, showing up, being honest, taking actions and reflecting on
the actions that they're taking
Regarding the number of hours in the program, participants
- 40 hours in meetings (info session, Initial Planning Session,
6-9 Circle meetings and the Symposium)
- 3-4 hours a week between Circle meetings, while completing
their earned income workbooks
3. Is there a skill building or individualized consulting
piece for each of the participants?
Regarding skill building, participants will learn skills in:
3-a -- Planning for Circle meetings, asking for and getting help
in Circle meetings and helping other members in Circle meetings
(this often builds skills in listening, consulting, presenting
and sharing feedback -- very useful skills to have in the workplace!)
3-b -- Designing various plans, eg, marketing, financial, operational,
etc. They'll often have samples of plans to refer to.
Regarding individualized consulting, the focus of this program
will be to accomplish individualized assistance through:
3-c -- Providing each Circle member their own individualized
time in each Circle meeting to get ongoing guidance from other
Circle members and the facilitator.
3-d -- Each member promptly getting their individual questions
answered on-line from Andy and Carter. The questions and answers
will promptly be posted as FAQ answers on this Web site for other
members to view, as well.
Note that each participant will be encourage to develop their
own Professional Development Plan, which they will develop and
implement during the course of the program. They will get support
from their Circle members, service provider and Authenticity
Consulting, LLC, to implement their plan.
4. Could the program be stronger by adding private sector
volunteers in finance/accounting and marketing to the Circles?
Volunteers could be a wonderful addition to the program for
a service provider! They could consult one-on-one with participants,
as well as deliver short lectures and workshops around the common
concerns of participants (eg, market research and profitability
analysis would be two likely subjects).
Certain nonprofit service providers may be able to accomplish
this addition if they have strong volunteer management programs.
The service providers would need to take the lead in this effort
in their particular geographic locales. Considerations would
4-a -- Volunteers would need strong commitment to volunteering
their services on a consistent and timely basis (this consistency
is not always ensured from volunteers, particularly when they
have such strong technical skills as finances and accounting,
4-b -- The volunteers would need to be recruited and organized
into the program at the particular times when their expertise
would be needed. We'd certainly be glad to work with the service
providers to help integrate the skills of the volunteers into
appropriate points in the overall program.
5. Can you build a longer term implementation execution piece
into the program through regular consultant or mentor check-in?
Programs can continue Circles for as long as they wish. (We've
had Circles last for 15 years!). In addition,
5-a -- Participants can always ask questions in a free on-line group we set up for them.
5-b -- If participants are going to falter, it's usually early
on in the development phase of the program, when we are readily
5-c -- We do include ongoing evaluation with participants, including
after they have finished their Circle meetings.
In addition, we will be available to all participants via
e-mail, phone and fax.
6. Have you looked at The Executive Committee (TEC) CEO program?
Yes. Dr. Carter McNamara, developer of the Circles model and
co-founder of Authenticity Consulting, LLC,, researched several
peer-based programs (including TEC) during his doctoral research.
There seem to be an increasing number of peer-based programs
with a variety of formats and natures of peer exchange. The Circles
model is somewhat unique in that it is based on the Action Learning
process -- a process now used world-wide in organization and
management development. In fact, there are international organizations
based on the process, including the International Federation
of Action Learning (IFAL), with branches in several continents.
Action Learning has priority on cultivating each member's
complete participation and interaction with other members --
rather than the too often over-dependence on outside consultants
and group "experts". Peers can accomplish a great deal
with each other if
a) provided the 20% of materials needed to generate 80% of the
b) each member participates wholeheartedly in the process.
7. Have you offered this program, or significant elements
of it yourselves?
While we have not implemented this program in its entirety,
we have provided earned income consulting for over 14 years (the
past eight years to nonprofits) and Circles consulting for over
ten years. We have observed numerous positive results among
earned income clients during this period (sharper sense of vision
and strategy, more engaged board of directors, elimination of
low-income programs, increase in sales and profitability of programs,
and development of new social enterprise "champions").
We have designed and operated Circles in a wide variety of organizations
over the past fifteen years, with a variety of positive outcomes,
as well, in the areas of personal development, professional development,
team building and organization development (see
testimonials from members of Leaders Circles, a model developed
by Authenticity co-founder, Carter McNamara).
8. What are the post-pilot terms between the service provider
and Authenticity Consulting, LLC?
We are exploring a franchise or licensing relationship wherein
we will provide service providers the right to copy our materials,
ongoing access to our web-based resources, and ongoing guidance
to design and implement the program on their own. During the
transition, it would probably be wise for us to still do the
Initial Planning Session, the end-of program Symposium, and the
mid-point, end-of-program and follow-on evaluations.
9. Have you successfully offered a peer-lending program with
banks in the U.S.?
We've helped set up peer-lending groups in Nova Scotia, Canada.
The nice thing about this model is the limited administration
required on the part of the participating bank. Basically, they
set up a revolving line of credit that the fund administrators
(service providers, etc.) manage. Peers in the Circle borrow
from the line of credit and are responsible to other members
to stay up-to-date on loan payments, etc. The Grameen
Foundation (world leaders in micro-credit) does this model.
10. Have you considered on-line evaluation (and assessments)
on your website, rather than postal mail surveys, etc?
Yes, we are likely to have on-line collection and tabulation
of assessment and evaluation feedback over the coming months.
This will automate the process, which will reduce costs for us
and our clients.
11. It seems that costs can come down as the program is developed?
Initial costs ($9,000 plus travel expenses for 10 trips) are
somewhat higher than we anticipate program costs to be down the
road. Pilot costs are a little higher because we will be facilitating
each of the Circle sessions in order to work closely with program
providers. We fully expect that program costs will be about $5,000
(plus travel expenses for 4 trips).
Note that service providers can at least fully recover these
costs by charging a fee per participant.