A Mid-Year Reflection from Stacie Smith

By Stacie Smith

As I reflect on my sixth year on the Leadership Team and second year as the sole Managing Director for CBI, I'm struck by the strong connections between organizational leadership and the work we do as consensus builders and facilitators. Specifically, I’ve noticed how fostering a supportive, collaborative, and learning-focused internal culture directly contributes to our external impact for clients and stakeholders.

This manifests in obvious ways. Investing in professional development and continuous learning builds the skills and capacities of our staff, allowing them to facilitate more effectively and accelerate their professional growth. Supporting work-life balance fosters enthusiasm, work satisfaction, and high-quality practice. By seeking to understand and support individual staff interests, we help create motivating projects aligned with their strengths, model mutual gains approaches, and build rewarding career paths.

CBI’s strengths are not only in our individual practitioners, but in the cross-fertilization of lessons among our staff. At CBI, we have built learning and shared exploration into our monthly practice sessions, semi-annual retreats, and Board meetings. For example, Toby Berkman's success in leading Massachusetts’s Clean Heat Commission provided inspiration for David Fairman's support of the Massachusetts Commission on Unlocking Housing Production. Ona Ferguson’s work leading a community in evaluating options around a potential dam removal in Natick provided models for Toby’s similar work in Concord. Merrick Hoben’s work in implementing the AARC framework (which stands for Acknowledgement, Agency, Reciprocity, and Clarity, and which was recently featured in the MIT Sloan Management Review) in Latin America has seeded conversations and approaches to our work in communities elsewhere. And Stephanie Horii’s experiences with nature-based coastal solutions in California have enhanced my own work on these topics in New England. These are just a few examples of where clients and stakeholders benefit from our commitment to learning from each other.

On a broader level, attending to our internal culture also helps reflect the values and practices we aim to cultivate out in the world. When staff experience an environment of mutual respect, inclusivity, and integrative problem-solving, they can better model those behaviors for conflicting parties. We continue on our journey of considering equity and inclusion in our work, which involves seeking, engaging with, and learning from a more diverse staff across racial, economic, ethnic, and religious differences, and we bring these lessons to our work. Our ability to manage, mentor, and resolve internal questions and challenges refines our ability to do the same with stakeholders.

As one of the few organizations in a field of many independent practitioners, and one of even fewer mission-driven non-profits, CBI occupies a unique position in its field. I am attuned to the importance of this role and excited about the influence, opportunities, and responsibilities this implies. As we continue to add to the CBI team, we aim to develop and maintain an organizational character true to our role in the world.