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Meeting Virtually—COVID19 Doesn’t Have to Stop You

With #COVID19 changing the way we meet, many companies are adapting to, or even moving long-term to, a virtual office model. Whether you sell to the public, manage projects or teams, or manage the whole company, you are no doubt thinking about how you can hold successful virtual meetings and interactions. .

People want to go to a meeting, whether virtually or in-person, and feel like it was a good use of time and that they accomplished something. Here are three tips that will help you use Zoom and hold meetings that are most engaging, efficient, and effective.

But, before we get to the tips, have some fun checking out this example of a bad virtual meeting.

Now, on to the tips—Your meeting doesn’t have to be like our example.


1.      Design a Great Meeting

The first thing to remember is that you are conducting a meeting. Whether virtual or in-person, it is critical that you spend the appropriate amount of time developing a solid meeting purpose and agenda. Then, based on your developed agenda, identify the people that should be invited to the meeting and think through the logistics, both to best prepare participants and to best execute an engaging and successful experience.

We have a great resource on running effective meetings and always recommend using a design team to plan your larger meetings or conferences; A design team is a team that represents the whole group of stakeholders that need to be at the meeting. Diverse design teams help plan more effective and holistic agendas, and, as a result, more successful and meaningful meetings. Find more information on the importance of design teams in my recent blog on Engaged Change™ model and in the Design Teams Episode of S&G Connections.

Some things to keep in mind when designing your virtual meeting for Zoom include:

Define the meeting purpose—What will be different for the participants because they have attended your meeting? By defining an overall purpose for your meeting and a specific purpose for each agenda item, you will be able to help participants focus, eliminate distractions, and more easily stay on track with your agenda. In addition, the purpose helps you craft effective and inviting communications that help people understand the reasons they want to attend.

Design a solid agenda to guide you–What conversations need to take place to accomplish the meeting purpose? Your agenda should identify the overall meeting purpose, duration, date, and ways to participate in the conversation (Zoom information, in-person location). In addition, for each agenda item, define the purpose, duration, related preparation needed. A good purpose tells participants the goal and/or result of the conversation (to learn, to vote, to approve, Etc.). A good purpose also helps identify the successful approach (panel, small group conversations, lecture, Etc.).

Audience – Who needs to be part of the conversation? Think about the purpose of the meeting and of each conversation you have defined. I like to start with a quick conversation around the question: what stakeholder groups need to be present to best inform and drive productive and results-oriented conversations (think widely, increased diverse participation results in more informed conversations and effective decisions). Then, I like to identify the people who should attend to ensure appropriate stakeholder groups are included (more is not necessarily bad, see below).


2.      Identify the needed logistics to succeed.

To me, A GREAT design FOR A meeting is like having the team members and team goals needed to score more homeruns, and to ultimately, win the game. Following this logic, the logistics of the meeting is like having the right equipment or calling the right plays needed to score those homeruns to win.

I use a three-pronged approach to good logistics planning:

Promotion—What needs to happen to get people there? It’s critical to put together inviting and inspiring messaging and to develop communications that you can use to invite people in multiple ways—for large meetings, it may take eight or more touches to get them to attend. Think about what information you need from participants, driving whether you want people to RSVP or Register. Do you need to collect more information (through a registration) to make the meeting more effective or to better serve the needs of your participants?

Preparation—what do participants need in advance to make the meeting most effective? Will participants need time to process certain documents to have a more informed discussion? Is there information that can be sent in a report, which then creates an opportunity for more discussion instead of participants listening to someone talking at them? (they will check out).

Delivery—what should we do to have the most effective conversation at the meeting and to best follow up on the meeting? What will make people feel most engaged and actively participate in the meeting? Using an approach that engages people in small group conversations helps people stay engaged, identify long-term solutions, and make better decisions. Spend five minutes teaching your participants to facilitate and capture outputs. This will keep your small group conversations focused and productive; it also teaches successful meeting skills to participants. Remember, you can still capture data and hold small group discussions, even when you are holding a virtual meeting (see below for more).


3.      Know what tools you have and know how to best use them

Remember, having great team goals and players (the design) and having the right people and equipment (the logistics) could help the Orioles have a winning season. However, having the right tools in their toolbox, and knowing the best way to use those tools, is the third component in the trifecta to both win more games and to make your meetings work.

Event bright, google Calendar, Zoom, and Google Docs are my four most used tools when holding virtual meetings. I use Eventbright to capture registration information when needed, google calendar to ensure someone gets an email for the meeting and that it is blocked on their calendar, and Google Docs to create shared workspaces to share materials and capture outputs from small group and large group conversations9.

Zoom is what I use for my primary tool or “vehicle” to hold an online meeting. A complete list of Zoom features is available, and, I have covered some of my favorites below in terms of considerations to holding a great meeting:

Zoom Rooms and Zoom Webinars: Many people like the zoom Webinar format; however, I feel it limits participation and connection, as participants are only able to ask questions, use a limited chat to communicate with others, and listen to the panelist or speaker talk at them. Participants are rarely able to share their own video, resulting in a decreased feeling of connectedness to other participants.

The Zoom Room, on the other hand, helps increase connectedness and collaboration, as people are able to break into small groups for deeper discussion, see each other through video share, and more actively participate.

Chat: The chat room is a great place to handle questions from participants, allow participants to quickly respond to a question from a presenter to the whole group, or facilitate quick introductions while everyone is coming into the meeting.

Video: Video is a key component to increasing collaboration and participation. When we can see each other and when someone can see us (on camera), we pay closer attention to the meeting, participate more in discussions, and feel more connected to the other participants.

All Mute V. Participant Muting: There are times when I might mute everyone right before a panel is speaking. At other times, I may want participants to mute or mute, based on their desire to participate in the conversation.

Waiting Room, Locking the meeting, and Entry Chimes: If I have back to back meetings or want to be cautious with who is joining an ongoing meeting, I can enable the waiting room feature (which allows me to decide whether I want to admit someone to the meeting). I can also lock the meeting, which closes the meeting and prevents anyone else from joining. Related to these features is the entry chimes, which if on, plays a chime when someone enters or leaves the meeting (or the waiting room).

Small group break-outs: I’ve mentioned small group activities a lot, and this feature, alone, makes me so happy with Zoom. I can assign people to specific groups or randomly create small group conversations. Participants can facilitate and capture the outputs from their small group conversations (in Google Docs). Then, I can bring everyone back to the main room and debrief/report out what happened. This process of individual thoughts driving small group thought and whole group decision-making is a key to the planning I do and the meetings I hold.


I’m Ready—Let’s Meet!

Whether you meet with people virtually or in-person, one-on-one or as a large group, designing a good meeting, identifying the right logistics, and knowing how to use the right tools is a trifecta for your meeting’s success.

But you aren’t alone!

In fact, I’m here to help. Schedule a free consultation with me and let’s make your meetings a winning success. Don’t let your day be killed by bad meetings but instead, show your coworkers that meetings can inspire us, re-energize us, and help your team win the ball game.


Making Alexandria More Welcoming and inclusive-One Organization at a Time

S&G Endeavors works with a variety of nonprofits and community-based organizations each year to strengthen their effectiveness and help them become more strategic in their work. Though a church and a member-driven nonprofit have differences in their approach, both are working to make Alexandria more welcoming and inclusive, and the S&G Endeavors Engaged Change process helped them in 2018 and beyond. Learn how both organizations benefited from our customizable design and facilitation.

Commonwealth Baptist Church—Growing community Spiritually and Physically

Commonwealth Baptist Church “is a community of diverse people who feel at home as we grow spiritually and physically – working with our community as we engage with each other seeking to discover where the Spirit is leading us next.”

In a spring 2018 day-long retreat, the Church council and staff formed together as a leadership team, holding a series of collaborative conversations design to help their team:

  • Increase understanding of opportunities, dreams, and desires for their service as leaders and for the church as a whole;
  • Gain consensus around their vision and aspirations for the church;
  • Create a measurable set of draft goals and next steps that can guide the team; and,
  • In the process, create a more unified, energized, connected, and fully engaged leadership team that can best serve and guide the church.

The collaborative dialog at the retreat helped build a stronger team, identified some draft actions to guide the team in 2018, and as described by Robin Anderson, one of CBC’s Pastors, “really helped us tackle some of those challenging conversations, defining a cohesive vision, and positioning us with ideas to engage various teams to help us succeed with our actions we defined.”

Bob Whitman, who has now moved from Vice Chair to Chair of the Council, further remarked, , “I remembered the value of a facilitator when I watched how S&G Endeavors, specifically Jeremy, guided us through this process.  With his thoughtfulness, organization, and guidance, we truly accomplished a lot in a day’s time. We are now poised to strengthen our teams, creating a more welcoming and inclusive experience for all who want to join and serve our community.”

Alexandria Bicycle and Pedestrian Committee—Growing Community Through Increased Biking, Walking, and Livability

The Alexandria Bicycle and Pedestrian Committee promotes walking, biking, and other active transportation, and advocates for infrastructure, policy, and cultural changes that create a safe, accessible, and livable city for all.

At their day-long August retreat, they wanted to have a diverse collection of voices in the room to collaborate on their new strategic plan. “The goal was to increase the buy-in from committee members and our partners, so that we could grow as an organization and tackle the challenges we face,” says Jim Durham, Chair of the committee. “S&G Endeavors facilitated a series of collaborative conversations that brought us together to create our strategic plan with lots of wisdom and representation from various demographics we serve.”

Since the retreat, Alexandria BPAC has implemented a team structure, which is distributing the work amongst members and creating points of engagement for new members and volunteers. Evaluations noted how the retreat dialog helped uncover challenges, created clear goals, and created measurable actions that will help the organization as it defines membership, grows capacity, and becomes a nonprofit that engages all people who bike and walk and creates a more livable Alexandria.

2 different organizations, 2 different approaches, 1 stronger community

Working directly with a church and with a member-driven nonprofit can be quite different, as each institution is formed with a very different purpose.

“Though there are differences between the two organizations,” Remarked Jeremy Grandstaff, President of S&g Endeavors and the lead consultant on these projects, “we were able to use the S&G Endeavors Engaged Change process to deliver two different retreats that were uniquely designed to meet both organizations in their own space.” Some of the commonalities within the approaches that made them so successful for our clients include:

  • Each organization utilized the expertise of a design team to develop the agenda—resulting in a well-planned retreat that made the best use of time and convened the important conversations.
  • Each retreat was a series of collaborative, dialog-based, activities and conversations—resulting in common desires, clear vision, and actions (or next steps) that guided implementation
  • Each organization valued teams and wisdom from others—resulting in increased understanding of challenges and increased collaborative structures to guide implementation

S&G’s customizable design helps organizations take their planning to the next level. Why not contact us for a consultation and find out how we can help your organization transform its effectiveness in 2019.


It’s All about the Relationships—Transforming Your Game for 2019 and Beyond

Recently our own Jeremy Grandstaff was inducted into Business Networking International. This brief introduction highlights the benefits that you get as an S&G client as well as teaches you how to be a great referral partner for S&G services. This two minute read is designed to expand your own thinking on the ways you establish new business for your company. Read on for six key phrases you hear each day.

Why Business Networking International—Why Should S&G Clients Care?

Business Networking International (BNI) is a networking organization that is changing the way we think about our business, which in turns helps S&G consultants think out of the box about how we meet our client’s needs and take their businesses to the next level of success.

The principles of BNI center around creating a trusting network of exclusive service providers that give business to each other. Wow, what a concept you might say, a network of service providers that aren’t selfish and instead look for ways to partner with each other to make connections that expand each other’s business.

“I definitely was caught off-guard a bit by the concept. I’ve known the give or gain principle for quite some time, but when you are struggling to make your bottom line, many companies look for easy transactional wins to close the gap instead of strategically building relationships that are going to create long-lasting exposure and marketing possibilities,” says the newest BNI member and our President, Jeremy Grandstaff.

It’s important to close that gap for sure, but a long-term approach to closing that gap depends on one’s ability to explain what we do at S&G Endeavors to help our clients transcend barriers to their own success.

Check it out—What Phrases Am I Listening for?

Many of you, our existing clients, are the best ambassadors for S&G Endeavors. You know that we helped build your organization, helped you grow leadership, and moreover, bring a unique approach in our work to every client need that increases buy-in and ownership to your action items.

Whether you’ve led a process with us or are just getting started, you know that we are trusted by our clients to bring the objectivity, the creativity, and the knowledge to the table that transforms your organization.

But, how do you know if someone is a good fit for an S&G client? And, what do you get out of referring someone to S&G?

  1. “I don’t know how I’m going to make this work.” = Executive coaching
  2. “If I go to one more unproductive meeting…” = Training or Executive Coaching
  3. “Strategic plan” = strategic planning or community planning
  4. “Employee training” = Collaborative Training
  5. “What’s next for me in my career” = Executive Coaching
  6. “Pigeon-holed” / “stuck” = Executive Coaching
  7. “I don’t understand my boss” = retreat, training, strategic planning, executive coaching, a customized package

Have you ever heard any of the seven phrases above from someone you know, either from work or personally? Then, you have heard at least one of the S&G Referral triggers.

Each of us has sat in a meeting that wasn’t working.

Each of us have, at times, probably even said one of these phrases ourselves.

“I know I had,” reflected Jeremy, “But I also knew that if I started calling these out for our clients, it would help each of them to recognize when someone needs S&G’s help. That’s why we created the 1% referral program for existing S&G clients.”

There it is, the reason you should care. If you are an S&G client and you refer us business, then we will donate a small percentage of that work to your favorite nonprofit. Looking for a way to bolster your favorite nonprofit—why not take advantage of the S&G referral partner program.

Now, going full circle, check out our local BNI chapter page here and find out other people who are part of the S&G Endeavors referral Network. Interesting in an introduction, email Jeremy the purpose of the introduction and he’ll be glad to make the connection.

And, in the meantime, ask yourself, do I know someone who has said one of the seven key phrases above? Have I said it? If so, be sure to email Jeremy and let’s get that referral program working for you today.


Living Your Values-Tips to Include Equity in Your Organization

By Guest Blogger and S&G Partner Consultant: Rene Rivera

As a leader of a bicycle advocacy organization over the past eight years I have seen diversity equity and inclusion become a central concern for this movement. The leading organizations in this space have all made equity central to their organizational goals. At the same time it seems like many organizations are struggling with how to implement equity within their organizations.

From my own experience as executive director of Bike East Bay, based in Oakland California, I would like to offer my perspective on how one organization integrated diversity, equity and inclusion into our values and strategic goals.

When I joined Bike East Bay (then the East Bay Bicycle Coalition) in 2011 equity was already part of the conversation. The organization had one board member who was a strong champion for equity, though the board itself was majority white hetero cis male, as many bicycle advocacy orgs are. The board made a fairly bold choice to hire a mixed race queer gender nonconforming executive director. OK, they could have been bolder still and hired a Black or Brown executive, but let’s give them credit for not hiring another cis hetero white man as so many organizations in the space have done.

  1. Who is in leadership matters.

All the equity work in the world will not change an organization if you do not change who is in leadership. In bicycle advocacy, and I would say in the environmental movement overall, there is a lot of talk about equity, but very little change in who fills board seats and who fills executive and director level staff roles. According to the Race to Lead report from the Building Movement Project there has been no increase in the numbers of POC in executive roles over the past 15 year.

Perhaps the most important equity work an organization can do is hiring. And not just hiring Black and Brown folks to staff your outreach coordinator positions or your entry level program positions. There is a lot to say about this so I will leave it to another post to address how equity intersects with succession planning and executive search. In this story it matters that I was the person selected for this executive role. At the time I believe I was the only person of color, only gender nonconforming, and possibly the only queer executive director of a bicycle advocacy organization out of about 200 orgs across the country.

So, now that I found myself in the key leadership role at this organization how did I go about implementing equity goals? Well, that would be leaping ahead to the end of the story. To advance equity in an organization you cannot just look around for best practices and adopt them. We find ourselves in a world where racism and white supremacy are the unstated norm. In order to even begin the conversation about equity there is a lot of work to do to get a given group of people, like the board and staff of an organization, to have enough of a shared language and understanding to even have the conversation.


  1. Work from the inside out.

In our case this meant starting where we were. The organization had never created a strategic plan, so that was needed just to get everyone on the same page around the mission, vision, values and goals. Equity came up in our strategic planning conversations, but there wasn’t enough shared understanding to create strong goals around it.

Once we had a strategic plan we were able to bring in a facilitator to do a basic training on diversity. As we had white board members who had never looked at difference or examined their own privilege we had to start there. From there we moved on to a second level of training that focused on developing a shared vocabulary around diversity equity and inclusion.

With raising awareness, particularly in our board around diversity equity and inclusion, we were able to have conversations about our board culture and how that impacted board retention. We noticed that while we brought on a number of people of color as board members they often didn’t stay long. At this point we engaged a consultant to interview past POC board members and the report from these interviews made it clear that our board’s white culture created an environment where POC were excluded and tokenized. This galvanized the white members of our board to engage in an intensive year-long self-education process around whiteness and racism. This process, more than any other factor, shifted the conversation on our board from a vague interest in equity, to a strong and informed commitment to equity and to dismantling racism and white privilege in our organization.

  1. Organizational culture matters.

To center equity in our organization we had to address our organizational culture. The board took this on directly through addressing how whiteness shows up on our culture. The staff, which is significantly more diverse than the board and also is discussing these issue on a daily basis, was farther along in integrating equity into our day to day working culture. At the staff level this looked like developing dispersed leadership structures, embracing differences of experience and opinion and generative conflict, creating a culture of deep respect that treated each staff member as a whole human being.

  1. Articulate your values.

This phase started with the staff assessing the equity work we were already engaged in, to start from a place of strength. This included our work to make our bicycle education instructors majority women and POC, our analysis of biased police enforcement, and organizing work in partnership with Black, Brown and low-income communities. We also drew on work from around the country like the Untokening Principles for Mobility Justice and People for Mobility Justice.

From the work we were already doing and the work we aspired to do we created a set of values. This was the starting point for a board and staff conversation on our equity values that resulted in Bike East Bay’s Statement of Values for Equity and Social Justice.

  1. Create strong goals.

With the right leadership, inside work done, our organizational culture and clear equity values, we finally had the elements in place to be able to create strong equity goals. We did not want to create a stand alone set of equity goals. Often when equity goals are separate from strategic or operating goals they become a lesser set of goals, something that is set aside until we have met our fundraising goals or met our campaign goals. We wanted equity to be integrated into every part of our work and organization. So we took our most recent strategic plan and completely revised it with equity in mind, so that equity was a part of every goal.

I wish I could point you to a great equity plan that you could just do a search and replace on to add your organization’s name and then bring it to your board to adopt. Oh, if only it were that easy.

But, in truth I wouldn’t want you to do that because if you did you would skip over work that will have long term benefits for you, for your staff and board, for your organization, and for the world. This is the work of our time. To dismantle racism and white privilege in ourselves and in our workplaces is hard but deeply satisfying work. Creating workplaces and organizations where we can all be our full selves pays off in greater work satisfaction, in highly productive and motivated teams, and in a deeper impact in our communities.

So don’t skip over the work!

Recapping my key learning’s from seven years leading Bike East Bay to center equity in our bicycle advocacy work:

  1. Who is in leadership matters
  2. Work from the inside out
  3. Organizational culture matters
  4. Articulate your values
  5. Create strong goals

Let me know how it goes! I believe it will pay off.

Rene Rivera is our newest partner consultant hailing from Oakland, CA.  Check out all of our partner consultant’s and staff bio’s here.

An Adaptable Process for Nebraska

The  Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services  partnered with S&G Endeavors on a four-year project that helped improve walkability in Nebraska. WalkNE created a state-wide coalition to address this issue and also facilitated local initiatives in 15 Nebraska communities ranging from Hebron – population 2000 – to Grand Island – population 50,000 – to Omaha, the largest city in the state.

What stands out in this effort is a process that S&G Endeavors designed for DHSS to be driven locally by health department districts and local community members. Instead of imposing pre-determined goals, Jeremy Grandstaff of S&G Endeavors deliberately focused on being open to the possibilities. “The outcomes in each of the distinct groups were as varied as the groups themselves,” says Grandstaff, “but the results were a success because the process allowed each group to identify achievable goals and pursue them.”

A Consistant Process, Diverse Outcomes

A case in point: WalkNE was originally conceived to be about walking. But the open process quickly identified that biking and overall health were intertwined with walking, and a successful project would need to take all three issues into account. As a result, safe streets, walk/bike paths, and health considerations like accessibility to health care facilities were adopted as goals in some of the communities participating.

The state-wide initiative, and the 15 communities targeted for the effort, achieved outcomes that were radically different. “We didn’t expect success to look so diverse,” says Brian Coyle, the DHHS Physical Activity Coordinator. “When we started out the target was only six communities, but because of the success of the process and the buy in from local communities, we ramped up and more than doubled our number of communities impacted.” The needs of the different communities, their resources, and the enthusiasm for change varied greatly. And yet, by careful design of the process, S&G Endeavors was able to adapt to the diversity. Even the communities that weren’t able to achieve significant progress were able to use the process to identify the issues, hone-in on the impediments, and table the conversation in a workable form to be picked up when resources and time come available, just one of the reported outcomes unveiled by the recently released external evaluation of the project (Download the Executive Summary or read the full report to see the findings).

WalkNE was funded by federal grant money that came with certain directives. Coyle and Grandstaff knew that the independent spirit of Nebraskans required a strategy that would encourage communities to own the initiative. The goal was to get communities to adapt the directives for their unique circumstances and produce results achievable and appropriate for each, individual community. A prescriptive approach simply would not work, particularly one that failed to meet the particularities of each community where they were. “We knew communities would not want outsiders coming in and telling them what to do,” says Coyle. Instead, the goal was to engage a wide scope of stakeholders in dialogue around the community’s future, creating a prioritized, actionable, and measurable strategy and a clear roadmap to achieve long-term change.

Community Driven Engaged Change

“Using flexible design really forces you to trust the process,” says Grandstaff. “We had to set up a structure that would drive the outcomes, which meant we needed to both engage on certain themes and meet the community where they were.” The structure began with Grandstaff and Coyle working with a point of contact in the community – or, in the case of the state, Coyle served as that point. Then, together, they formed a planning committee of additional stakeholders to put together a community-wide summit that would harness the enthusiasm, priorities and focus of the very people who would be essential to a successful outcome. Following the community summit, a steering committee would be formed of the participants who were most engaged in the process to follow through on the action items identified by the summit.

The Nebraska Model Teaches Us That:

#1: A Strong and Diverse Design Team –> Increases representation & diverse participation

#2: Collaborative, Direct & Meaningful Community Engagement –> Accelerates The Change

#3: Technical Assistance & Training –> Increases knowledge & Sustainability

#4: Consistent communications & strong partnerships –> Increases the reach to other communities

Click here to see some of the additional resources created during this initiative.

“This isn’t a process that just works for walkability,” says Jennifer Hansen, a health education specialist and community development manager, from Public Health Solutions Health District, who worked with the communities of Hebron, Fairbury, and Beatrice on the initiative. It is a format that can create success for other initiatives like general health. This was clear by the success in some communities that incorporated health into the priorities of the WalkNE initiative. “We saw that we could meet the needs of each community by creating opportunities for community members to engage, participate and own the process,” says Coyle. There were nearly two hundred participants in the overall project over the four years. The overall feedback from participants was positive. S&G Endeavors created a blueprint for success in Nebraska’s walking initiative, and that blueprint can be the basis for designs of other initiatives as well.

S&G Endeavors aims to help other government agencies and companies tap into the power of this collaborative planning process. Be sure to contact Jeremy directly for a conversation on how such a process can be customized to increase program success, transform your work, and engage communities in creating actionable change.


A Holistic Approach to Building A Healthier District

A Nebraska Health Department Demonstrates Transparency, Collaboration, and Commitment

Is there a way to do strategic planning that is transparent, demonstrates commitment to communities served, and builds relationships with the various community partners and leaders that are critical collaborators with a health department? Is there a way to tap into all the great data already collected by served communities to create a picture of current opportunities and establish a framework that increases community health? Working with S&G Endeavors, Two Rivers Public Health Department used a collaborative planning process that increased community ownership and commitment to creating a healthier district.

The background

Two Rivers Public Health Department serves a seven-county district, which represents a population of 96,000. The Health Department manages a number of programs that are designed to improve overall community health as well as ensure the district is prepared to respond to unanticipated emergencies.

The dynamics of the district are challenging from place to place, requiring different approaches in differing locations; for example, an approach that works in the largest city of Kearney (33,500 people with little diversity in race and a higher median income) needs reconfigured when applied to a rural community or the city of Lexington (10,000 people with lower median income and a diverse racial makeup). “We knew that using a collaborative planning process that built on existing data, didn’t reinvent the wheel, engaged our partners, and allowed us to respond to the varying dynamics of our district was something we needed. The collaborative Engaged Change™process, facilitated by S&G Endeavors, helped us do just that,” says Laura Steele, Assistant Director for the health department.

The Approach—Planning Collaborative Action and Increasing Ownership

S&G Endeavors utilizes Engaged Change™ to guide each of our clients in strategic or community planning. By Mapping the process, engaging a design team, accelerating the change, and transitioning to action, clients are able to use a process that grows the organization’s capacity, develops leaders, and creates collaborative-driven action that is owned and supported more effectively by the communities served.

For Two Rivers Public Health Department, the process kicked off in March, with two consecutive meetings of the design team (board and staff that provided representation from various counties, professions, and perspectives). The design team crafted the planning approach, identified questions of interest (for surveys, interviews, and focus groups), and ways to include various communities in the process. “Fortunately, we identified early in the process that we had a significant accumulation of relevant data that our communities had already collected over the past years,” remarked Jeremy Eschliman, Director of the Health Department. “We were able to tap into this data to build a collective picture of needs and opportunities across the district as well as develop a clearer picture of desires from the surveys and 40 direct interviews with various stakeholders.”

Building on this fully developed picture, the board and staff invited various members of the community to join them in a strategy session (held in June 2018), where they reviewed the data, coalesced around a strategic framework to guide the health department, and created draft action plans to help the Health Department and communities succeed in achieving their defined vision.

Based on gathered perspectives and feedback from the meeting in June, the strategy for the health department has now been drafted and staff is seeking a final round of feedback by directly visiting various events around the district. This approach ensures that the community will own the plans created and that partnerships are built to help make the strategy for a healthier district a success.

“Working with S&G and the engaging process they use with their clients,” says Eschliman, “allowed us to directly and efficiently tap into the wisdom and desires of the district, helping us create a more holistic strategy to guide us for the coming years. The S&G professionalism, excitement, and personal commitment to meet us where we are was a catalyst to ensuring that we knew what our communities needed and we knew how to position the health department to best serve the diverse people of our district.”

Click here to check out Two Rivers Public Health Department’s Strategy and leave your comments for their review.

For more on the process used or if you’re considering a similar process to help your health department create a healthier district, contact S&G Endeavors for a consultation.

S&G Endeavors Services: New Structure & Graphics

Using collaboration and coaching to help today’s leaders and facilitators transform their work and create the change they want to see.

Since 2002 we have been helping organizations and people with taking action by creating customized plans using our four phase Engaged Change TM process.  As a review of our web presence and marketing approach for our company, we took a good look at the services that we provide and organized them into a structure that we feel truly reflects what we do with our clients.  We sat down as a team, looked at our existing list of services, sorted them into groups of similar offerings, added some detail to each section, and then named them: Growing Organizations, Developing People, Customizing Experiences.

We had our friends at The Master Collective in Cleveland Ohio work on creating some great images to help convey the message for each category.  Here is our newly represented list of services for S&G Endeavors.  Let us know what you think of the structure and design in the comments section of the platform where you came across this post.

Growing Organizations

Helping Organizations Create Change and Take Action

Meetings– Host a project launch meeting between a variety of agencies or partners that creates a unified and grow ord servcollaborative action plan.
Retreats– Conduct a department, staff, or board retreat that results in increased teaming and cohesive action.
Stakeholder-Engaged Strategic or Long-Range Planning: Use a collaborative process to engage your system of stakeholders, gather data and perspective, and create an actionable and measurable strategy to best position your organization or community.
Performance Audits – Engage our consultants to conduct a comprehensive audit to evaluate your organization or company and establish clear steps to improve your operations and services. This audit is geared to help nonprofits or small-to-medium sized businesses evaluate how they are doing internally and what they can be doing better to reach their goals.

Developing People

Guiding People to Create Change and Take Action

One-on-one Executive Coaching– Work with our seasoned professional consultants who have more than thirty yearsdev peop serv nonprofit operations and executive management experience to create personal change in you that will impact long-term change for your organization.

Leadership and Management Training– Our Team provides training for your entire management team or other leaders in your organization. Workshops may include: working as a team, creating clear objectives and outcomes for employees, holding great meetings, and others. Training Overviews

Facilitation and Change Agent Training– This dynamic and intensive training will prepare participants to facilitate groups as small as ten to as large as a couple hundred by using small groups that maximize participation and build leaders.

Customizing Experiences

Using Proven Collaborative Processes to Create Customized and Engaged Change™

S&G Endeavors facilitation and collaborative planning approaches, our services, extends from collaborative change methods, techniques, and meeting designs that have been developed since the 1950’s & 60’s.  The way that we blend these approaches together to serve our clients and meet their needs is what makes S&G Endeavors unique.   cust

Some examples of how we can further customize Engaged Change™ to meet your unique needs include, but not limited to:
Critical Conversation Facilitation- Critical conversations, whether in-person or virtual, are the springboard to increasing productivity, solving problems, or imagining what’s next for your firm. S&G will work with your team to design and facilitate the collaborative and interactive dialog on a topic of your choosing, bringing people from across the globe into a dialog that is productive, actionable, and critical to your growth.

Social Broadcasting – Live Broadcasting of customized conversations using Zoom, Facebook, YouTube, G1NBC, & Steem giving our clients an added promotional benefit for their work.

Conference Design – Designing in-person or virtual conferences & interactive conversations that engage participants and create action for growth.

Contact us for a today for a consult on creating a customized experience toward taking individual or collaborative action.

Scaling for Change: Using an Effective Process to Bring Walking/Biking Initiatives to Communities Large and Small

Starting in 2015, WalkNE implemented a multi-stage format to help organize and implement walking/biking initiatives and improvements in Nebraska on a statewide level. This same process was applied to 13 different municipalities within the state. The communities ranged from small town of Hebron with a population of 2,500 to one of the largest cities in the state, Grand Island. By introducing a flexible, effective process, S&G Endeavors and its partners in WalkNE found that they were able to facilitate meaningful change on both the large and small scale.

A Big Plan For A Small Community

In a town like Hebron, the process began with identifying stakeholders. As it happened, two city council members were interested and invested in the success of a walk/bike initiative. “By working with the town decisionmakers from the outset, we knew we would be heard and any goals set by the collaborative process would see action,” said Jennifer Hansen, of Public Health Solutions.

In Hebron, a grassroots effort had already been underway to promote walking/biking in the community. The WalkNE efforts integrated with the existing movement with great success. In 2015, S&G Endeavors facilitated a walk/bike summit out of which came a coalition and an action plan. The coalition took a leadership role in implementing the action plan because the presence of two officials on the coalition constituted the necessary authority.

A coalition structure kept the stakeholders involved and invested, so that progress felt inclusive of the many interests impacted by a walk/bike initiative. This was particularly important in the creation and connection of walk/bike paths in the community. The coalition took into account priorities like health, tourism, safety and community connection to decide where to build additional paths. Then, they obtained grants and implemented the construction. In the past two years, the coalition has been able to install bike/walk paths that connect downtown, the city park, the public pool, the community wellness center, the assisted living facility and an RV park serving visitors to the community.

Issues of representation and implementation were simpler in a small community. The careful integration of key stakeholders at each step of coalition building and action created a positive, constructive environment for WalkNE to succeed in Hebron.

Breaking Goals Down to Manageable Action in the City

Would the process work in a larger community? Grand Island is the fourth largest city in Nebraska. With over 51,000 residents, city operations are complex and seated in multiple bodies. The challenge for WalkNE was to bring together the governmental, private, and citizen constituencies to effect positive change. Using the model established on a statewide level, Jeremy Grandstaff of S&G Endeavors worked with Health Educators, Amy Roberts and Jennifer Hubl, of Central District Health Department to integrate key stakeholders from the outset so that the process could unfold successfully.

In November 2015, a summit was held with 65 attendees. Among those present were representatives of City Public Works, the Planning Department, the local community college, representatives from the disability advocates community, the School Superintendent, and community members. The outcomes since then have shown that a thoughtful, inclusive process can adapt to the complex needs of a large city.

At the summit, the attendees identified three key initiatives and divided into action teams to take them on. “By creating separate action teams, we leveraged the enthusiasm and creativity of the summit into long term success,” said Grandstaff. The action teams each undertook different initiatives, and each had different administrative bodies with which to coordinate their efforts. “Given the complexity of the city and area governance, a single team would have been spread too thin to accomplish the teams goals. The action team approach allowed us to achieve success,” said Amy Roberts.

The Education and Awareness Action Team was created to both promote walking and biking and provide information about the opportunities available in Grand Island. The team held their own events, attended events, and used media resources to promote and educate community members. With the help of grant money, the team also installed seven trail wayfinding signs on the hike and bike trails of Grand Island.

The Complete Streets Action Team set out to get Grand Island to pass a Complete Streets policy. Complete Streets is an approach to transportation planning that directs all street development to be inclusive of all modes of transportation (cars, pedestrians, transit riders, wheelchair users, and cyclists) and all ages and abilities. This action team saw success when in July 2018 Grand Island passed a Complete Streets policy.

The MPO Planning Action Team focused its energies on the Grand Island Area Metropolitan Planning Organization (MPO), a body with oversight of transit that includes both Grand Island and the adjacent areas. The goal for this action team was to convince the MPO to include biking and walking in its master plan for regional transportation. Without direct participation of the MPO in WalkNE, the action team needed to determine effective ways to bring its message to the MPO for implementation.

Representatives of the Planning Action Team interfaced directly with MPO members. In addition, understanding that the MPO would be swayed by representation and testimony at its public hearings, the planning team spearheaded active representation of the bike/walk community at MPO meetings. Speakers from the Grand Island City Planning Department, the local community college and citizen advocacy groups all spoke at public hearings with a unified, coherent message. As a result of the efforts of the Planning Action Team, the MPO created the MPO Regional Masterplan and subsequently, worked with the group and community representatives to create a Grand Island Bike and Pedestrian Plan. 

A Good, Scalable Process Will Bring About Meaningful Outcomes


“When you compare the way that WalkNE works in Hebron and Grand Island, you can see that the bike/walk goals need very different plans based on the size and complexity of the municipality,” said Grandstaff. The key to positive outcomes lay in building from stakeholders, and assuring that representation of key constituencies was part of each step. As a result, two very different paths, shaped by a similar process, advanced the walking/biking in these communities.

Engaged Change™-What Is It? Why Does It Work?

We Design Collaborative Change that Drives Client Action

Can a company build on the passions of its partners, meet its clients’ needs, and still be true to its values along the way? S&G Endeavors has existed for over 15 years, and just as our clients challenge themselves to take their work to the next level, we recently challenged ourselves to examine our work, build on our strengths, and unveil a better way of helping our clients understand, embrace, and use our expertise to help them gain competitive advantage.

Just want to better understand the model, check out the July episode of S&G Connections where we further explored the process, why it works, and the positive impact it has on the work of our clients.

The S&G Journey – We Evolved Just Like You

Organization Development comes in a variety of flavors: Change Management, strategic planning, teambuilding, Executive Coaching, skills improvement, Leadership Development, HR/Systems Consulting, and so many other ways that companies streamline and manage the work environment. Whether you are a small business executive, a nonprofit director, or the head of a government agency, you have used theories of change, facilitation methods, and techniques for process improvement. The goal is to gain a competitive advantage by increasing the effectiveness, efficiency, and overall positioning of your organization.

When John Spalding and Jeremy grandstaff formed S&G Endeavors (over 15 years ago), we were driven by a commitment to embrace collaborative processes in both our work with clients and on ourselves. At the time, we were still developing our own process and identifying what made us unique.

Our consulting process, the way we work with our clients, was originally influenced by Whole Systems Transformation, derived by process consulting guru Kathie Dannemiller & Dr. Steven H. Cady. Over the years, our own process has grown and became more whole, incorporating an approach today that blends the best collaborative change methods together into a customizable process that uniquely meets our clients’ needs, demographics, and ambitions.

One way that you might directly see the evolution of our process is to look at how S&G’s mission has evolved over time.

2002 S&G Mission 2018 S&G Mission
S & G Endeavors desires to bring about world change by maintaining unparalleled consulting relationships, creating lasting strategic alliances, having fun, and instilling an awareness of organizational development in the public. At S & G Endeavors, we use collaboration to help our clients strengthen their overall success. Through our in-person and virtual approaches to consulting and training , our clients gain strategic advantage, achieving more together collectively and creatively.

The mission is a good indicator, as it helps you understand the overall purpose that we aim to accomplish with our work. Just as we ask our clients to make time to think about strategic focus of their company, S&G does the same thing every five years. This helps us stay focused on our clients and allows us to make sure we’re targeting client needs and embracing opportunities. Like our clients, S&G has learned what we were good at along the way and works to ensure our strategy reflects that. Our own clients can also see how that original value of collaboration, by which our partners are so driven, has become the core of our work and what makes our process unique and successful. 

Engaged Change™-How S&G Helps You

The way we talk about and implement our approach toward helping organizations achieve their full potential became clearer over the past fifteen years, just like our mission.  If you’ve ever been to one of our training courses, workshops, conferences, or planning summits, you will have learned that S&G Endeavors designs engaging conversations and that we help steer clients toward collaboratively creating change and taking action.  Rather than being a subject matter expert or write you a cookie cutter strategic document, we instead create a customized process to get your “whole” organization on the same page and moving in the “right” direction. Our process, called Engaged Change™, empowers leaders to listen and understand the big picture in order to increase focus on action.  It engages staff and other stakeholders directly in the “right” conversations, ensuring a better understanding of and commitment to change at all levels (or areas) of the company. The process also helps to create a clearer understanding of what is necessary to successfully implement change and action items that have been defined.

Rooted in a number of collaborative theories and approaches (including  action research and Lewin’s theory of change), Engaged Change™ includes four phases, which are customized to best meet clients’ needs right off the bat:

Engaged Change Graphic

Click on image to view larger version.

S&G doesn’t describe it as the “MEAT of Change process”, but it is an interesting coincidence. We call it Engaged Change because it reflects what we are doing when we work with your organization. For every organization’s unique situation, needs, and opportunities, we set out to give you our best designed approach that taps into the power of each phase to Engage your stakeholders and create that long-term change you seek.

The Engaged Change Process Roadmap further defines each phase, providing our clients with some insight into the S&G client experience:

  1. Map the Process – S & G works with the client to identify the broad community or system for the organization. This helps to get the process started off on the right foot and identify the larger picture for where the organization wants to go.
  2. Engage the Design Team – Identify a diverse mix of leaders that are a part of the organization and invite them to be on the design team. This cross-functional group will drive the planning process and create conditions to have a larger stakeholder meeting.
  3. Accelerate the Change – S&G works with the client to design a stakeholder summit or accelerator meeting(s). This deepens the conversation & commitment toward the intended outcomes and action plan.
  4. Transition into Action – The organization identifies potential leadership team members throughout the process. These folks help drive the action plan forward and work with S&G on transition planning. Implementing actual strategies and actions to take are often neglected in other change efforts. We leave you with an action plan that is ready to implement and we make sure you have the backing you need to implement it.

The process—Why It Helps? How You Can Tap In?

The process looks simple, but it is S&G’s ability to tap into the power of the customizable process and design unique, blended, collaborative experiences that will help you create those stories of client successes that we showcase on our blog.
The Greek philosopher, Heraclitus, once said, “the only thing constant is change.” The best way to navigate your company or organization through the constant of change is to stay ahead of it. The only way to stay ahead of change (whether internal or external) is to plan for it.

There are several ways you can choose to plan for change.

  • You can shift your human resources to cover these necessary actions.
  • You can manage them internally, as we do, by using this process on a consistent basis.
  • You can set the changes and actions from the top of the organization and hire change managers to help incorporate them into the departments and functional areas of the organization (Note: You must overcome lack of buy-in here)).

Or, you could just call or email S&G Endeavors and let us help you navigate the constant of change, helping your company gain competitive advantage and, more importantly, helping you sleep better at night knowing that you have an ally to help you create your successful journey of change.

Building A Walk/Bike Movement One Community At A Time.

Can a standard, customizable process be used to help diverse communities achieve the same goal?

A partnership between Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services and a local health department, Public Health Solutions, set out to do what it could to improve walking and biking in three communities with different needs and different concerns. Facilitated by S&G Endeavors, as a part of the Nebraska Walkable Communities Initiative (WalkNE), the results in Hebron, Fairbury and Beatrice have been surprising, and successful; and, each community used the standard, customizable process.

A Coalition For Every Community

Each community established a walk/bike coalition using a similar methodology, but the outcomes and the relationships between the coalition and the community have varied. “The point of a coalition is to be adaptable to the needs of its community. We intentionally didn’t come in with preconceived notions about what those needs were or how we could help meet the needs,” says Jeremy Grandstaff of S&G Endeavors. Instead, by engaging key stakeholders, each coalition has developed unique goals and taken steps towards achieving the outcomes that best suit the needs of the community.

How did the coalition come into being? By using a deliberate process. First, Grandstaff, Brian Coyle of DHHS and Jennifer Hansen of Public Health Solutions identified a champion for walking/biking in the community and engaged that person to help identify and form a core group of 4 or 5 individuals who would be committed to seeing the project through. The Core Group then formed a design team to design a summit for the community. The summit then drew on the entire community to identify challenges, establish goals, and ultimately form the walk/bike “coalition” for the community.

“Each of the steps towards building the coalition was essential to its success,” says Jennifer Hansen. “We needed to deliberately grow and build with key stakeholders getting identified and invited to participate in every step of the process.” With these building blocks, the coalition in each community has a very different look and role, but each is succeeding in its own right.


In this small town of 2,500, WalkNE went right to the source, with two town council members serving on the coalition. “With our plan to improve health and wellness, we were able to apply for grant funds to build paths that make strategic points in the city walkable,” said Hansen. As a result, the coalition has taken a leadership role, and it has implemented the goal to connect key locations in the community via pathways. In the past two years, the coalition has been able to install bike/walk paths that connect downtown, the city park, the public pool, the community wellness center, the assisted living facility and an RV park serving visitors to the community.


Serving a larger community, the WalkNE coalition in Fairbury has taken on a partnership role with the city. A city planner attends the coalition meetings and advises the coalition on the feasibility of the projects. In the past year and half, the Fairbury coalition has helped pass a city resolution for biking and walking and worked with other stakeholders in the community like the Jefferson Community Health and Life hospital and local homeowners to build sidewalks to create a more walkable community. The partnership model has allowed the city, the hospital and the coalition to work together to take significant steps to improve walkability in Fairbury.


The WalkNE coalition in Beatrice is only recently formed, but already it has taken on an important advisory role with the city. The coalition is giving input into naming trails, conducting trailhead accessibility assessments and suggesting the best way to spend available funds to connect existing trails to increase walkability and usage. “It has been really exciting to see the city take advantage of the passion and knowledge that the Beatrice Walking coalition brings to the table,” says Hansen.

From leadership, to partnership to advisory roles, the WalkNE coalitions formed in each of these communities has been instrumental in increasing walking/biking. With deliberate and strategic building, each community wound up with a coalition that meets the specific needs of the community. “We have been pleased to see how the deliberate coalition-building process has led to different, successful outcomes in each community,” says Brian Coyle. “And, now we’re excited to watch each community as it builds on its own success and thinks about how to meet its own unique needs in a sustainable fashion.

Stay tuned to our next Nebraska installment, where we will explore how the S&G customizable process has been used to meet the needs of various sized communities

A big thanks to guest blogger: Manuella Hancock