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Aspire Public Schools: Building the Organizational Capacity for Healthy Growth

February 1, 2008

Two years into an aggressive expansion plan, Aspire Public Schools was on track in terms of school openings but behind on its goals to add a layer of management. The schools were performing well, but the nonprofit's leaders were stretched paper thin and concerned about the organization's ability to perform in the face of more growth. Determined to build an organization that could support their expansion plans, the Aspire team took swift action. Their initiatives included:Articulating criteria for "healthy growth" that they would use to assess expansion opportunities, thereby incorporating organizational sustainability into any future decisions about growth;Addressing a profound anxiety about hiring "outsiders" and delegating responsibilities to an increasingly larger team;Defining the boundaries of accountability for each of the organization's leadership positions;Clarifying decision-making authority at a broad level, and making explicit the roles and responsibilities associated with specific and potentially contentious decisions.

Association for the Advancement of Mexican Americans (AAMA): Focusing for Impact

August 1, 2006

In 2005 the Association for the Advancement of Mexican Americans (AAMA) was providing services to more than 30,000 individuals annually through nearly 30 different programs. Its extensive program portfolio served clients of all ages and of many ethnic and racial groups in five Texas cities. All signs were pointing to growth: AAMA's services were in increasing demand given the soaring Latino population; AAMA's leadership was eager for the organization to magnify its impact; multiple funding partners were interested in investing in AAMA's expansion.While the growth imperative was unambiguous, the specific path was not. Should AAMA's leadership expand all of the organization's programs, or concentrate on a few? To chart a course, they got crystal clear about the people they most wanted to serve (first and foremost at-risk Mexican American youth in Texas) and the benefits they wanted to help create for these individuals (e.g., increased college graduation rates, improved job preparedness, decreased substance abuse). Reviewing AAMA's programs, they saw that some were better aligned with these priorities than others. Acting on this information, they concluded that AAMA could do the most good by focusing its energies on enhancing and growing the tightly-aligned programs.