RFP for Consulting, Urban Tree Connection

Posted by Urban Tree Connection on January 5, 2018

The purpose of this Request for Proposal is to solicit proposals from consultants to work with Urban Tree Connection’s strategic planning committee in the creation of a 3-5 year strategic plan.

Organization Background
Mission & History: Urban Tree Connection’s (UTC) mission is to work with residents in Philadelphia’s historically marginalized urban communities to transform abandoned open spaces into safe and functional places that inspire and promote positive human interaction. Founded in 1989 and incorporated in 1997, UTC works primarily with residents of West Philadelphia’s Haddington neighborhood to develop community-driven greening and gardening projects on vacant land. Over the past 15 years, UTC has partnered with Haddington residents to redevelop 29 vacant lots, totaling more than 86,000 square feet of land. Together, we have repurposed these spaces for communal growing and gathering, produced and distributed sustainably grown vegetables in neighborhoods with food insecurity, and led participatory education workshops to multigenerational groups in the community on topics of health and wellness, gardening, and food and environmental justice.

Forward Vision: At UTC, we are reframing our understanding of why we engage in land reclamation and food work. We recognize the historical legacy and growing inequality around food and land access that strips communities of power, particularly those that are working class, poor, Black, and people of color. This current food system is broken – centering profit rather than health and livelihood, leaving people severely overweight, under-nourished, and suffering from diet-related illnesses and socio-economic stressors impacting quality of life. Haddington is an example of a vibrant, predominately Black (90%) neighborhood that faces these critical challenges. At UTC, we believe that community gardens and farms are a critical tool for building healthy neighborhoods and community power, particularly when the food production and distribution processes are democratized and when the community is leading the efforts. To get there, we are focusing our efforts on community leadership development and deep community engagement and stewardship of land. Our aim is to build a people’s food and land system in Haddington that is sustainable, just/equitable, and community-led and governed.

Accomplishments & Challenges: In recent years, rapid organizational growth, leadership transition, and shifts in the funding climate have impacted UTC’s organizational stability and vision. One of our most notable and recent accomplishments has been successfully weathering the transition of the charismatic leadership of its founding Director, Skip Wiener, and ushering in new leadership to evolve the organization. Noelle Warford stepped into UTC’s Executive Director role in November 2016, after serving as Programs Director, where she dedicated her time to getting to know the Haddington community and developing a social justice framework for UTC’s community education programs.

Since taking the reins at UTC, Noelle has honed the organization’s mission and vision from a charity model, towards a place-based identity that is rooted in community self-determination and leadership. Key to this process has been critical shifts in our staffing, board, and organizational leadership to be more reflective of the Haddington community, increasing its racial/ethnic and socio-economic diversity, and developing stronger partnerships with organizations that align with UTC’s mission and vision. In this first year UTC’s Staff and Board have focused on stabilizing the organization, restoring its’ fiscal health and reinvigorating our mission. We have had to clarify the ‘why’ of our work, aligning our programming, funding, leadership, and organizational practices to our mission and forward vision. As such, we have recommitted to Haddington, grounding ourselves in place-based initiatives to build a local and equitable food system that builds community health, and allows us to be good stewards of our existing gardening and farming sites.

A significant challenge that we are facing entering into a new growing season and fiscal year (2018), is pivoting towards developing and implementing organizational strategy to achieve our vision. As such, we will be engaging in developing a 3-5 year strategic plan with board, staff and community leaders –creating the blueprint towards our shared/collective vision rooted in social justice. A second challenge is raising the funding we need (unrestricted and/or in alignment with our vision and goals) to ensure we have the resources to carry out the strategic plan. In 2017, we have had several successes in this area with the board actively setting fundraising goals and meeting them; UTC is a Barra Award recipient; and we were awarded a grant by a local funder to support our work as an emerging organization moving towards engaging in social justice work.

Scope of Services
We are seeking candidates with a social justice framework and participatory process to provide us with the following services:
 Conduct a key stakeholder analysis with particular focus on community impact and need.
 Conduct a SWOT analysis (and/or other analysis) as it relates to staff, board members, grantee-partners, institutional and individual donors, peer organizations, etc.
 Lead process/discussion for developing criteria for strategic partnerships and collaborations.
 Lead and facilitate discussion on strategy for resource acquisition and financial health (land, fundraising, debt management).
 Lead and facilitate discussions on each of the issue areas noted below.
 Coordinate the writing and editing of drafts and the final strategic plan document, including a separate, shorter document for external dissemination if necessary.
 Lead in the development of a work plan and timeline (including roles, tasks, deliverables, deadlines, meetings, and decision-making and approval processes)
 Assist to create a system of monitoring, reviewing and adjusting the strategic plan as needed.

Issues to Address
Specific areas that need to be addressed in this process include, but may not be limited to:
 Organizational Culture
o Shared understanding of vision.
o Cultivating values of reflection and accountability.
o Identifying tactics for conflict resolution, and offering and receiving feedback.
o Plan for implementing political education as organizational practice.
 Partnerships
o Negotiating partnership with Neighborhood Foods Co-op.
o Identifying support needs for Neighborhood Foods Co-op.
o Assessing of current partnerships
o Identifying or building new partnership with organizations or coalitions that align with our work and vision.
 Personnel Management
o Create systems for staff onboarding; creating policies, procedures handbooks.
o Creating systems for managing and supporting seasonal, volunteer, stipend, and youth apprentices.
o Plan for professional and leadership development of board, staff and community.
 Programming & Evaluation
o Developing community education programs, youth program model/curriculum.
o Developing Community stewardship of land.
o Developing measurable outcomes/tools; and ways to evaluate/measure our impact.
 Financial Health & Development
o Create short / long term goals and plans in support of financial stability & health.
o Identify funding that aligns with the work, values, and vision.
 Board Leadership & Governance
o Assess and develop board’s capacities.
o Develop Accountability measures.
o Succession planning of organizational leadership.

 Be willing to commit to a minimum of 6 months to this process.
 Applicants should have experience with organizations managing complex change, addressing conflict, and building new culture.
 Applicants must have a critical analysis of race, class, power, as it relates to justice, Nonprofit Industrial Complex, and the work of UTC.
 Applicants must be willing to facilitate this process with a team of diverse stakeholders. Our strategic planning committee will consist of board members, staff, and community members. Candidate must be able to meaningfully engage all stakeholders.

We will be soliciting proposals from consultants through January 21st. Interviews will follow shortly thereafter, with the aim of having the technical assistance in place to begin the strategic planning process in mid-February/early March.

To Apply
UTC is an equal opportunity, affirmative action employer. Black and People of Color, and gender oppressed Consultants are strongly encouraged to apply.

For consideration, please submit the following via email to Noelle@urbantreeconnection.org and indiablunt226@gmail.com no later than Sunday, January 21, 2018.

1. Resume
2. Letter of Interest
3. A description of the applicant’s general approach to strategic planning consultation, including methodology, perspective, or philosophy that guides your work with organizations in this undertaking
4. A detailed timeline and projected budget of total strategic planning process
5. Example(s) of a finished strategic plan created by your company or references or References of organizations with which you have facilitated strategic planning

To Learn More about Urban Tree Connection, please visit: http://www.urbantreeconnection.org

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