Karin’s Reflection

Last month I wrote about making a decision to start work on the vision for a Therapeutic Interactive Intergenerational Neighborhood.  This month I will talk about starting the business plan!  

I still smile when I remember the day Paula and I realized we had to come up with a shorter name for the model.  I said, “How about an acronym—TIIN. It sounds like a nice container that can be repurposed as the need arises.” Paula and I both laughed and then Paula said, “I actually like it.  TIIN. The TIIN Model!” We both laughed and agreed to call the model a TIIN. It would be a lot easier to say–especially when we are tired.
Our Small Business Development Consultant began coming to my house once a month.  Each month she taught us something and gave us topics to research and write about for different sections of our business plan.  This went on for over a year. Our first task was to decide on a mission statement. Ideally mission statements are one to two sentences long.  Our first one was two paragraphs. It took years to get more concise! But in our defense, this was a shared service site for at least three generations and our view of people is holistic!  We also had to narrow down the on site services provided.

I had the pleasure of reconnecting with our consultant this week after not seeing each other for close to 14 years!  I was thrilled to show her around and I also wanted to ask her what she remembered about working with us all those years ago.  This is what she said;

“What I remember about working on your business plan is how clear your vision was of what you were trying to create.  Today, I was so impressed that what you described to me so many years ago has now materialized.  You and Paula were so dedicated to the mission of intergenerational housing and never wavered when working through a sometimes complicated business planning process.  I never had any doubt that would succeed and I was right.”

Linda D. Davis, M.B.A., Consultant
Wisconsin SBDC at the UW-Madison Wisconsin School of Business

Planning and moving forward remains complicated.  Having a vision that appealed to my, common sense, turned out to be pioneering work on fronts we did not anticipate.  It turns out that many well intentioned laws get in the way of bringing this project to fruition.

Even the topic of business structure and non-profit vs. for profit is a big topic for social entrepreneurs.  There are many pros and cons to each model. This took us a long time to decide on. In the end we became a non-profit and there have been no regrets.  The main reason is that a non-profit is owned by the community for the purpose it was founded for. We firmly believe that vulnerable populations should be part of the community—not exploited or marginalized for the benefit of  stockholders. With a non-profit—if we ever get to the point of having more money than we need—it will go to advancing our mission.

One of our founding notions was that we had everything to gain by bringing diverse community members together as volunteers and philanthropists for a greater good.  I once heard that if you want to change something quickly, you should do it yourself. But if you want to make lasting change—engage the community. A paramount goal has always been to bring people to a place where they no longer feel invisible—a place where they had genuine purpose and belonging.  Our vision included the idea that the TIIN would be a success if residents became engaged with the surrounding community. We experience current evidence of this as volunteers have become a critical piece of our business model and already they are a very important part of community life here. Volunteers are a creative part of parties, house concerts and activities.  Volunteers also care for the grounds and gardens, help with maintenance and give to both building and repair projects. Last year 400 of our hands on volunteers actually signed all of our paperwork so we could count them! The collective hours were equivalent to 1.75 full time positions and they had vastly varied skills! Fifteen years ago Paula and I hoped the community would become involved, in 2018 the community voted us Best Of Madison for retirement/assisted living!  Thank-you Madison!

As we looked at welcoming diversity on multiple fronts—age, race, financial, creed and sexual orientation—we had to look at our own faith and belief system.   Paula and I, with our husband’s blessings, set out to do this project because of our faith. Our faith is important to us and we desire to honor God with all that we do.  And we believe that part of honoring God is loving our neighbors—all of our neighbors. Then and now, it remains the statement of our board that although our Christian faith informs our beliefs and how we live—it does not restrict who we care for and who lives in our neighborhood!  In the Bible, there are teachings that compare a group of people to a human body—the teaching states that when one part of the body hurts the entire body suffers. (If you have ever stubbed your toe, you know what I mean) Our founding principles include seeing people as potential and knowing that without the right supports in life, potential can be wasted.  All people do best in safe, healthy, loving environments where learning, creativity, purpose and belonging are a part of every community member’s experience—we believe this experience is enriched in diversity.
At Hope & A Future we have finished the first phase of our project and we believe the best is yet to come!  The biggest piece of development is in front of us. We are well into this project because of passion, persistence, pro bono help and community support.  We hope and pray the community will continue to work with us to see the first TIIN to completion. We hope the TIIN will remain a part of the greater community’s growth!  

Next month we will talk more about our approach to goal directed living, encouraging the development of healthy intergenerational relationships, TIIN support systems and our first conversation with an architect!

1 Comment
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