A letter from our Deputy Director, Michael Lucas.
In 2015, we thought we dreamt big.
We embarked on an transformative strategic planning process—and it was through that process that we made the conscious and critical decision to strive to be great by staying small.
We decided to resist calls to expand into other counties. We decided to focus on the most fundamental issues of safety and stability through our intimate partner abuse and tenants’ rights work, instead of expanding to take on other disparate substantive issues. With that focus, we decided to be intentional about going deeper and stronger—deeper into the community, stronger with our services, evolving by partnerships and a more holistic approach to standing with our clients.
We made the conscious and critical decision to strive to be great by staying small.
Ironically, the decision to stay small and focus on impact resulted in unprecedented growth. Since those decisions, we have more than tripled the size of our team—and our budget. We have become an impassioned and impactful collection of lawyers, social workers, community advocates, and all the other critical people to make this organization run smoothly and help our clients tell their stories. We now operate out of ten satellite offices in addition to our main office—eight in APS schools and two in the Fulton County courthouse.
We are meeting our clients where they are—and having a greater impact on their lives, their schools, their neighborhoods. And it all started because we used strategic planning as a chance to dream—and dream big.
With our dreams achieved, it was time to re-imagine our future. This month, we all came together with our friends at Briteweb to engage in another round of strategic dreaming.
Knowing how transformative strategic planning can be when you take it seriously, we set out to engage our staff through a very ambitious process—both in terms of inclusivity and thoroughness. Over the course of five days, our staff and board of directors set the course for the next three to five years for AVLF.
Ironically, the decision to stay small and focus on impact resulted in unprecedented growth.
It was the most inclusive process our seasoned consultants have ever seen, with thirty-four staff participating in the opening full-day session, nearly all of them returning for the closing Saturday session, and fully engaged smaller teams and the board of directors participating on the days in between.
We spent a lot of time discussing the core values of this organization. We talked about why we get up in the morning and come to work. We talked about our values: integrity, creativity, collaboration, respect, and empathy.
And from this foundation, we dreamed of what AVLF might look like in the future.
We dreamed of expanding our nationally recognized work with survivors of intimate partner abuse out into the community, establishing a Standing with Survivors program that we believe can grow to have a similar reach as our Standing with Our Neighbors effort – and will help us reach the survivors who otherwise would never make it to the courthouse for our help. We dreamed of innovative ways to strengthen our support of our volunteers, especially as we grow to integrate more non-lawyer volunteers into our fight for justice (e.g., accountants, paralegals, experts). We dreamed of expanding the reach of our groundbreaking pro bono family law program, as the community need continues to overwhelm the resources currently available. We dreamed of ways to further the reach and impact of our innovative Standing with Our Neighbors program – doing more at the intersections of housing and education, health, homelessness, and even trauma.
We won’t achieve our dreams overnight, but if our past experience is any indication, we will make them a reality.
Finally, we dreamed of being excellent. We dreamed of being the best run non-profit in the country. We dreamed of all the ways we could invest in our people, as they work so tirelessly to invest in this community. What if our people had the best support behind them—a human resources department that made sure they were thriving, a finance department that efficiently processed all the client assistance we disseminate to stabilize families, a communications department that helped make sure our clients’ amazing stories were amplified? What if we insisted on inclusivity and transparency and, in doing so, were able to marshal all the incredible ideas and talents of our team?
We won’t achieve our dreams overnight, but if our past experience is any indication, we will make them a reality. And coming out of this most recent process, it is clear we have the most amazing team energized and poised to do exactly that.
Stay tuned right here to see what we do together.
Want to read other Letters From Leadership? They are an easy way to find out what drives us here at AVLF. You can find them all here.