Community Quarterbacking

For firms focused on achieving their internal goals, it is easy to let big-picture thinking get lost in the fray, and opportunities for collaboration can be missed. The “community quarterback” model typically refers to an actor aligning resources to address the various elements of community development behind a single project, amplifying the impact a project can make. This can be a lead agency in a community, a third-party acting to organize multiple competing service providers, or a public-sector leader seeking to amplify the impact of public investment in a space. Once a leader is identified and everyone on the field begins to trust their decision making, new opportunities to get points on the board are identified, and the entire community can score. 

Finding your quarterback

A good quarterback needs to fit a few criteria. They need to be trusted by all stakeholders within a community. They need to have a clearly articulated vision for the future; a strategic plan that aligns the goals of every community partner and translates these goals into value adds for each organization. And finally, and maybe most importantly, the quarterback needs to be invested in remaining engaged with all stakeholders throughout the execution of whatever strategy is decided upon. Finding a partner that meets all of these specifications may seem impossible, but in reality, identifying existing overlap among the missions of community organizations can be done with the help of the right supporting organization. Engaging with a strategic planning partner like Curtis Strategy to conduct the stakeholder identification can help to find the best candidates to quarterback in your community, or help you position your organization to take the lead.

Quarterbacking stakeholder alignment

Quarterbacks see and understand the entire field ahead of them; they are calling the plays for their offense, keeping an eye on the defense, and calling audibles when they think a quick adjustment needs to be made. In housing, it is impractical to expect any developer to be able to understand the full picture, especially when a firm measures success not by profit on a project, but outcomes related to human development and long-term success of tenants. Finding a quarterback for your process lets you focus on the hard-work of delivering outcomes to your constituents, and gives you a partner to keep their eyes downfield. In the hustle to address the already busy day-to-day workload at a nonprofit developer, it is easy to miss a signal from a potential partner, or not see a chance to change formation to make your organization more effective. 

Breaking down barriers

Its easy to get caught in the silo of our own work; housing developers are focused on building new units of housing, human service organizations measure their success with counts of the number of people reached, and other economic development stakeholders are caught up in the rush to measure success to ensure continued funding. This approach leaves value on the table, not only for constituents who navigate a complicated roadmap to have their needs met, but also for the community development organizations that are missing out on ways to connect their services to improve the outcomes that led to the isolation in the first place. When a quarterback is leading, outcomes can be better connected, and organizations can multiply their resources through collaboration.

With a community quarterback leading, a community of service providers can be connected, and new partnerships can be formed. When considering how to best serve your organization’s constituents, you aren’t focused solely on metrics that count people reached, homes built, or products delivered; you’re seeking to improve outcomes that are impacted by a complex range of factors. Better outcomes are driven by smarter planning; so when service providers working in the same community open themselves up to new partnerships and strategies, everybody can win.