Alabama Rivers Alliance strategic planning session.
 In River and Water Organizations, Strong Organizations & Leaders

2023: Busier Than Ever Supporting Organizations & Leaders

For many of us, 2023 represented the first year where work, travel, and schools returned to a semblance of normalcy post the COVID-19 pandemic. Although there is more of a rhythm and consistency to our daily lives, we know that can change quickly and unexpectedly. That lingering feeling of “when will the next shoe drop” and figuring out the new normal are several of the challenges our network organizations and leaders are juggling. Perhaps that is why River Network staff had one of the busiest recent years, working hands-on with organizations and leaders to build their knowledge of organizational strategic planning and board development, provide Executive Director coaching, and leading trainings for young professionals. Add to all this a new River Network CEO and the release of our refreshed Strategic Plan, and 2023 was certainly a year of reawakening for us and our network.

Come along as we share our highlights from this past year of organizational and leadership development work!

[River Network staff] did a great job engaging with our members and creating an atmosphere of trust that made difficult conversations easier.”

– Waterkeeper Member

Waterkeepers Alabama – We started our year with 10 remarkable Waterkeeper organizations working throughout the state of Alabama. As they continue to discover new and effective ways to collaborate, they requested River Network’s help with building a leadership structure to guide their efforts moving forward. As a result, they left a two-day retreat with a newly minted leadership team, actionable goals, and tactics to deploy over the course of a year, and a deeper appreciation for the power they can yield when working together.

Alabama Rivers Alliance – A long-time River Network member and statewide organization that supports many local, watershed-based groups, Alabama Rivers Alliance (ARA) brought River Network in to facilitate their strategic planning efforts. Completed in March 2023 and unveiled at their annual Water Rally, ARA’s plan allowed their Board and staff to brainstorm together, identify shared interests, and outline an ambitious plan that builds their policy work while centering community partnerships.

Lower Susquehanna Riverkeeper Association – As organizations grow both their staff and Boards, River Network provides highly interactive trainings to help clarify roles and responsibilities between these two groups, ensuring the long-term sustainability of the organization. Lower Susquehanna Riverkeeper Association (LSRA) saw such growth this year, tripling the size of their staff and doubling the size of their Board. River Network helped leverage this growth into future success, offering a day-long in-person training to build shared understanding of how the staff and Board uniquely work toward the same organizational success and preparing the organization for their first strategic planning process – happening now!

The most valuable aspect was getting help on the cover letters and our elevator speech. It was a fantastic way to get concrete help and feedback, in addition to reflecting on our goals.”

– Feedback from a Chesapeake Bay Conservation Corp Member

Chesapeake Bay Conservation Corp – 2023 was River Network’s second year in a row offering skill-building training to over 30 Chesapeake Bay Conservation Corp members, future water leaders ages 18 to 25. This included four virtual sessions and a day-long, in-person meeting where they shared deeply, and learned about finding the right job that aligns with their values. Our virtual sessions focused on growing their leadership and managerial skills while centering equity and inclusion. Investing in young leaders who are self-aware, confident, and forward-looking will continue to push the environmental nonprofit world forward.

Chesapeake Bay Executive Director Cohort – We are incredibly grateful to the Chesapeake Bay Trust for their support to launch our first-ever Executive Director cohort. Recognizing that the role of ED can be isolating and given the recent challenges (pandemic, “Great Resignation,” inflation), River Network saw a need to provide opportunities for Executive Directors from across the Chesapeake Bay watershed to gather regularly, share their experiences, and build relationships that will support them in their own journeys. We hope to be able to expand this program to more regions in the coming years!

The influx of federal funding, organizational leadership changes, and the continued desire for organizational cultures that center belonging and equity mean our work supporting water, river, and justice advocates is more important than ever. We appreciate the trust and value our network members place in our organizational and leadership development staff.

Over the coming years, we will continue respond to the needs of organizations and leaders alike, keep our strategies and tactics relevant, and provide resources and support wherever possible. We exist to help YOU and your organization be the best they can be!

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