Redesigning space with Tobin Dane and Edison Box

I recently wrapped up freelance work with one of my favorite clients, Tobin Dane. A small but mighty operation in a trendy office space sporting colorful murals and industrial chic shelving by Portland-based artists, Tobin Dane creates start-up companies in a wide variety of industries. Since moving to Portland, owner and founder Tobin Goodgame has focused business on concepts that concern many city natives, space being one of them.

According to Metro News and the U.S. Census Bureau, our fair city was the 15th fastest growing large metropolitan area in the country from 2013-2014. We are also a hub for entrepreneurs and startup companies. This then begs the question: when space is at a premium, where do we live and work?

In answer to this anxiety-inducing question, Tobin Dane created Edison Box: a startup that creates custom live-work-play spaces for the sustainably-minded urbanite. These space are made from upcycled shipping containers that are insulated, wired, and delightfully plug-and-play upon arrival. They come in different sizes to meet your various needs.

It was clear from the get-go, that we were going to need a full-service design agency to properly brand and deliver the message of Edison Box. To that end, I whipped something up to pitch the idea to the likes of Cinco, Sincerely Truman and other talented folks like that.

Here’s what hit the keys:


The dimensions in which we exist and move. The distance between two points. A period of time. An (in)finite element that shapes each one of our lives.

Space influences our days and nights, our work and play, our movement and our stillness. From space, our hopes and dreams, aspirations and genius are seeded and determined.

But like any garment fit to flatter, space is the individual’s domain. That which inspires one mind may dull another. That which fulfills one mission may fail in another.

We’ve come to revere the force of space, to acknowledge its place in the creative process. That’s why we’ve dedicated years of exploration and (de)construction to the design of custom space solutions, physical structures of your essence manifest, that ignite innovation and empower your reach like never before.


The secret sauce of great public speaking

Public speaking event

I recently went to a fantastic Artist Talk at the Portland Art Museum (PAM) by my good friend Avantika Bawa. In addition to being an active contemporary artist and curator, Avantika’s CV boasts an exhaustive list of residencies and shows spanning the continental US, Canada and Asia. She is also Assistant Professor of Fine Arts at Washington State University Vancouver (WSUV), commissioner of the Oregon Arts Commission and co-founder of Drain: A Journal of Contemporary Art and Culture. Ambitious and humble, creative yet grounded, she is a constant source of inspiration and mentorship. It’s no surprise she was invited to lead an Artist Talk at PAM.

For those of you who may be unfamiliar with PAM public programs, the Artist Talks Series is a monthly opportunity for artists to lecture on exhibited works and relate them back to their own practice. Avantika’s talk centered around Richard Artschwager, whose work was on display at PAM. In fact, her talk actually took place in the gallery displaying a collection of his pieces.

An American painter, illustrator and sculptor, Artschwager is well-known for his “blps”—lozenge shaped marks that he installed in subways, galleries, and other architectural features and facades. These simple shapes interrupt patterns of disengaged looking and inspire attention to architecture and space.

Up to this point, we had all been seated amidst examples of Artschwager’s work, facing both Avantika and the screen on which she loaded a digital presentation of key text and images from her speech.

The introduction of architecture and space however signaled a shift in the presentation towards that of the Portland Art Museum itself.  Avantika introduced Pietro Belluschi, the Portland architect who designed the main PAM building. Just as architecture and space played a role in Artschwager’s artistic statement, so too did they influence our experience of that Artist Talk; Avantika led us out of our chairs and the comfort of Artschwager’s work, and onto an interactive walking tour of the building’s galleries. We experienced firsthand the interplay of architecture and art, noticing the relevance of “typical” museum features, like the benches we so often see throughout our meandering visits.

What’s in the secret sauce?

After Avantika’s talk concluded at the entrance of PAM, I was truly impressed. The fluid marriage of style and form in her lecture and the creative use of space and movement really joined us all together in a temporary but engaged community of art smart listeners.

How did she do it? What’s in the secret sauce of great lectures, presentations and public speaking events in general?


I was delighted to be one of under twenty attendees at this Artist Talk. The more intimate settings made it easier for us to make eye contact with Avantika (and vice versa), and in effect, to gently guide ourselves away from distractions, whether physical (the temptation to text), or mental (nagging questions like, “Did I put that wool sweater in the dryer?”). Purposefully limiting attendance to a public speaking event can also generate a sense of exclusivity, which can in turn set the stage for greater audience engagement.


“Put a blp on it.” A play on Beyonce’s hit song “Single Ladies (Put a Ring on It),” this was just one of many witty recommendations that punctuated Avantika’s presentation. This sprinkling of humor kept our attention fresh and focused, frequently drawing us back to the event at hand through a spontaneous and collective laugh. It levelled the playing ground, making the talk about a community of people interested in the same thing, rather than one person talking at a bunch of people.


Preaching the importance of visuals in contemporary pedagogy seems like old news, but a good thing can never be said too many times. Some of us learn best visually, or with a combination of auditory and visual cues. Visuals are also vital to dissolving any sense of knowledge hierarchy amongst audiences. In the case of Avantika’s talk, they served to familiarize the newbie art listenership to the works in question, while providing more advanced art connoisseurs with a sense of satisfaction as they reconnected with imagery of the art that they had so eagerly anticipated.


By leading us out into a walking gallery tour underscoring the themes of her talk, Avantika once more kept us engaged. Some people (myself included) cringe at the idea of a long seated lecture; between the discomfort of my seat and the dancing of my fidgeting feet, I am often challenged to keep my focus under these conditions. Incorporating movement and hands-on experience in this way was not only reinvigorating, but it added to my understanding of the concepts at play.


Being surrounded by the very art that we were discussing really grounded this talk, making it relatable to a wide range of people. Now, a gallery is not the most appropriate context for every speech, so it’s important for presenters to ask themselves, What physical space will help engage my listeners in the intellectual, emotional, and psychological space of my presentation?

Who’s got schwager?

In this day and age, public speaking is almost a guarantee in our professional lives. And while it might give many of us the chills, it doesn’t have to be that way. Success in presentations and lectures of this nature lies in a basic understanding of humanity: connection. We want to feel like we’re special, like we’re part of a community of equals, where our differences are considered and embraced. When that is achieved, education and action are imminent, for in the end, what are public speaking opportunities if not moments to inspire change?

Try your hand at incorporating a sense of intimacy, humor, visuals, movement and context in your next speaking gig, and we’ll see who’s got schwager.


8 questions you should ask before recruiting volunteers

Volunteer shirt

“Why don’t you just find some volunteers to help you out?”

This is one of the most common suggestions that a nonprofit will receive in its lifetime. “Volunteer potion” (as I like to call it) makes an entrance in conversation almost as much as the party line, “Aw, you work for a nonprofit, GOOD FOR YOU!”

Having volunteers to support your organization’s programs and events can be a wonderful thing for both companies and volunteers alike. Volunteerism gives many people an organized way to give back to their communities, to meet new people and to simply feel good about themselves. From the NPO’s perspective, volunteers can be a great help in times of need. They can add some fresh fare to your team and they can even attract promising candidates for that job opening you’re bound to have.

Though there are many advantages to volunteerism, it is not the one-size-fits-all solution to the plight of the modern nonprofit. Often in our rush to solve the continual resource challenge of our existence in the most cost-efficient way possible, we forget that volunteer programs are not actually free. True, volunteer labor is free, but you should also be considering the labor and materials costs involved in volunteer recruitment, training, scheduling, oversight and appreciation. If you don’t, you could find yourself paying the consequences in the form of quality control issues, dissatisfaction amongst the demographic you serve or disgruntled volunteers inclined to drop a less-than-flattering review on your VolunteerMatch profile.

With all of these potential risks and rewards to consider, how do you know if volunteerism is right for your company? Here are a few simple questions I recommend asking yourself before you seriously pursue a volunteer model:

1. What will volunteers be doing?

The type of duties that your volunteers will be performing can greatly influence the time that you devote to recruitment and training. The more specialized the skillset, the longer it can take to find the right volunteer and/or the smaller the pool of candidates. Many people have the ability to register participants at a cause-oriented walk, but fewer will be able to teach a  Photoshop class to teens.


If volunteers are going to be continuously working directly with the demographic that your nonprofit services, you will probably want your recruitment process to be more extensive. You may want to consider the use of an application, interviews, reference checks, and perhaps even background checks. Do remember though, the more complex your recruitment process, the more time it will require. Which brings me to…

3. How much time can you commit to volunteers?

This is an extremely important consideration because, unlike your volunteers, you are actually being paid. If you need 40 working hours to recruit and train volunteers for a 2-hour event, then volunteers may not be your best option. You might be better off putting a call out to your Facebook page for help, or asking staff and interns to put out feelers through their own social networks.

4. how much time does training require?

It can be very effective to organize one catch-all volunteer orientation and training that is appropriate in both subject matter and geography for all volunteer positions; however, if your volunteers live in distant cities and will have vastly different responsibilities, small group or one-on-one orientations might be more appropriate. While arguably better from a relationships standpoint, these are not the most time-efficient options. You have to ask yourself: is my time investment up front worth the anticipated benefit of this volunteer?

5. Are your needs ongoing or one-off?

If you are looking for volunteers for a one-time event, you may not need to vet them as closely as you might for a longer-term commitment. For longer-term volunteer posts, you want to make sure you find a great fit for your organization, someone who can represent you and your company well over time, to many different people and under potentially changing circumstances. Again, this recruitment process can take more of your time.

6. Can you provide direct oversight?

I think that some level of direct oversight is key to enduring volunteer programs and positions. Since volunteers aren’t being paid, it’s important to acknowledge their work, and the best kind of acknowledgement—better than words of encouragement via email or phone—comes from your presence. If your ability to interact with volunteers during their shifts is limited, you may put yourself at risk of a higher turnover.

7. CAN YOU show appreciation?

Acts of appreciation may very well be the #1 reason why volunteers decide to continue with a particular organization week after week, month after month, and perhaps even year after year. Your appreciation doesn’t need to be fancy—a heartfelt card will do in some cases—but it should be included in your program vision. Make sure you are in a position to reward a job well done before you begin recruitment.

8. are you thinking long-term?

Last, but certainly not least, it’s important for you to take a moment to forecast your ability to sustain a strong volunteer program over time. Volunteers can get very attached to the populations with whom they work with and vice versa. It’s also a lot of time and effort on your part to develop a volunteer program in the first place. Do justice to yourself, your potential volunteers and the population(s) you work with by approaching your program-in-the-making as a longer-term commitment, not just a fair weather fancy.

There are certainly many other factors and nuances that an organization should consider before contemplating the creation of a volunteer program, but these are some helpful starter questions to get the newbie started. Beneath it all, this list attempts to remind us that volunteerism is a two-way street. Not only are volunteers providing a service to your organization, but  your organization is also providing a service to volunteers. Whether your volunteer positions offer a sense of life purpose or valuable means to jumpstart or transition a career, it is important for organizations to honor the mutually beneficial nature of this relationship by giving a volunteer framework adequate consideration before launch.


3 catchy reasons why you should think in the short-term

Inspired by a wonderful 10-week ukulele program that we organized at an independent senior community a few years back, HCA decided to provide ongoing weekly piano classes for residents of Community X in late 2012. Despite expressed resident interest in music classes and some smashing promotional efforts, the classes struggled with attendance throughout the 2013 year. We eventually decided to take a short hiatus to regroup and reconsider our subject and approach.

After enjoying a slam-bang series of art workshops and an equally successful 10-week fine arts program at two different communities in late 2013 and 2014, we got to thinking about timing. Where do you see yourself in 5 years? That’s a common and anticipated question during job interviews. Where do you see yourself in 3 months? Not so much.

While our curiosity and culture clearly value the long-term (and with good reason), there are some undeniable advantages and benefits to incorporating some shorter-term goals, opportunities and relationships into the mix. What’s more, if we can learn to break down all that long-term stuff into a few series of shorter-term stuff, we can progress even faster towards the proverbial 5-year plan. Here’s why:


Now that more traditional notions of the “career” are being challenged, we’ve noticed that more and more of our interviewees are interested in experimenting with new job opportunities before committing to a change in the long-term. Many interviewees are looking to work in flux to accommodate increasingly mobile lifestyles. On top of this, the economic trends and the shift towards technical vocations due to skyrocketing tuition costs have a lot of college students out looking for miscellaneous ways to earn money and gain experience during the summers or an isolated semester. By giving shorter staffing stints at your company, you can more rapidly grow and diversify your network, opening doors for more permanent staffing solutions in future.


When experiences have definitive start and endpoints that are spaced relatively close together, people tend to fulfill their tasks in a more aggressive fashion. In the longer-term, it’s easier for complacency to set in, for individual hours, days and months to matter less. But when you’ve got results that you need to churn out in a finite amount of time, the clock becomes the butter to your toast. Butter up and see how much more efficient you and your staff can become.


In economic terms, reducing the supply of a product drives up demand. The same principle applies to time: shortening the length of a goal-fulfilling period or opportunity can increase its perceived worth. This may not always be true on a staff level — many people will still value their enduring bread and butter jobs more — but it’s certainly true from a product and consumer level. At HCA, our 10-week programs consistently attract stronger participation numbers than any of our ongoing classes. There’s something about a “limited edition” class that makes our residents commit to it with greater fervor.

This last reason was the tipping point for our decision to launch a 10-week piano class at Community X. In our excitement to provide ongoing music classes at yet another community, we ourselves for- got how influential the role of time could play in our own programs. We are psyched to provide an environment where our staff, participants and funders can all feel the excitement of a more rapid culmination towards that final class, one that we hope will be a student performance!

How do you balance the short and long-term in your professional life? In what ways have you benefited from greater consideration of the short-term?


What your latest Netflix binge can teach you at work

Man with eyes glued to TV

Who recently motored through all five seasons of Breaking Bad in a sleepless haze of pajamas, Nutella and per episode potty breaks?

I’m talkin’ to you. Yeah, you.

Netflix’s instant streaming service has redefined popular notions of the binge, shifting its context from the kitchen to the screen. As many of us can attest, a good NB (Netflix Binge) is comprised of a few stages: the thrill of anticipation as we wait for a new season to become available, the exhilaration and high of watching back-to-back episodes sans commercials, and of course, the lows of withdrawal as we mourn the finale of yet another “once-in-a-lifetime series.”

Interestingly, the life trajectory of the Netflix Binge rather closely resembles the trajectory of any project or program-oriented company, HCA included. We have long stretches of expectations and preparation as we make ready for upcoming programs and events followed by brief but intoxicating moments of joy during their culmination. Last but not least, we too face the threat of the post-project doldrums as we come down from our successes and return to the drawing board.

This “winter of in-between” can be a tough time for any professional, but certainly not insurmountable. Moreover, the downtime between projects and programs can be some of the most exciting and impactful periods for your company, if given the right perspective. Fortunately for you, that perspective employs a lot of the same recovery techniques that sociologists ‘round the world might recommend to avid Netflixers:

1. Stay opeN

Similar to Netflix Binges, fabulous projects sometimes leave you asking yourself, how will anything or anyone else ever measure up? Ironically, this is exactly the attitudinal pit- fall that can bring this fear to fruition. This is why it’s essential to reward yourself for a job well done, without labeling it as a professional peak. Bigger, better ideas come to those who view themselves and their environments in a constant state of progress. Spend less time setting limits and more time eliminating them with an open mind.

2. Stay inspired

This goes hand in hand with the recommendation to stay open. When you feel trapped in the graveyard of great ideas from projects past, put aside some time to read an inspiring book. Watch the latest video trending on TED Talks. Go see a movie, take a day o#, walk on the beach — do whatever you need to do to shake up your routine and shake o# the post-project blues. People say they get their best ideas in the shower for a reason…

3. Stay social

Great friends don’t just get together at birthdays, weddings and other “milestone” moments. They also catch up over a casual cup of chai, a last minute jaunt around the neighborhood or a free concert in the park. These anticlimactic “in-between” moments aren’t just the stuff of bosom friends (thank you, Anne Shirley), they form the cornerstone of epic professional teams! You don’t need to be in the middle of an adrenaline-pumping project to justify a lunch or coffee meeting, a call or an email. In fact, your ability to carry through on a social agenda beyond production deadlines will speak volumes about your authenticity and the kind of team/company that you run. Ultimately, you want all your colleagues to work alongside you in your goals to stay open, inspired and social.

What practices do you incorporate into your project pipeline to keep your staff fresh and motivated?


Fanning the flame: how to beat the distance in professional relationships

Like most property management and development companies, HCA is built on long-distance relationships. Not only is our company itself split between California and Utah, but our SoCal portfolio alone stretches from Coachella to Bakersfield, a distance of about 250 miles. Here in resident services, we spend most of our days engaged in emails and phone calls with program instructors, property managers and other colleagues and partner representatives that live and work some- where within that radius and quite possibly even farther. Were it not for consciously scheduled meetings and functions, we might never run into them at our offices or en route to our favorite local lunch spot.

With technology advancing at the speed of light, outsourcing and long-distance relationships are be- coming common — if not standard — bedfellows of the average professional. Furthermore, whether you’re a nonprofit in affordable housing or a luxury hotel business, the facts remain the same: isolation and disconnection can quickly beget dispiritedness, inefficiency and higher turnover amongst the ranks. In short, your ability to make the most of your long-distance work relationships directly impacts your growth and bottom line. Thus we arrive at the burning question…

What practices can you incorporate into your work routine to maintain and improve those longer-distance relationships?

1. Treat to a meal or snack.

This is my top-rated piece of advice on the matter because it is the only one that absolutely must be done in-person and that can support an extended face-to-face exchange. Driving can be a tiring activity and a lot of people might argue that two hours of driving for a one-hour meal might not be worth it. After years of traveling to and from our Woodland Hills office to distant properties however, I can’t tell you how appreciative and valued it makes staff feel. Concerned about meal expenses? Swap a meal for a morning or afternoon coffee break at $3 a head. Can’t justify the time to your boss? Try hooking on another work duty with your visit; for example, I always schedule my snack/meal treats right before or after a class that we need to photograph for promotional materials. In the end, it’s about the gesture, not the extravagance of your treat; it really is the thought that counts.

2. Share photos & videos.

The advent of camera phones significantly increased the ease and importance of image-sharing in contemporary society. When I finished prepping boxes full of scholarship materials for mailing last week, I was able to upload a phone pic of the finished product to our Facebook page in less than a minute. If your “treat” (see above tip) involves taking photos as mine frequently do, or if your conversation was about a tangible task or product, try to shoot over a photo or video update to your long-distance colleague. It’s a great way to show her/him that you are prioritizing that task while being inclusive in the process.

3. Send a handwritten card

Nothing says, “I’m thinking of you from our office 100 miles away,” like a handwritten card. Email and the Internet are becoming such standard methods of communication, that a touch ‘o’ the quill to paper is increasingly meaningful. Perhaps you want to send something to the tune of “thanks for hosting my visit” or “great catching up with you.” There’s no need to limit yourself to post-visit etiquette either. It’s never a bad time to express heartfelt appreciation; in fact, people tend to treasure out-of-the-blue gratitude even more. Mention great work to supervisors: Like many paper and service-driven industries, housing can often be one of “no news is good news.” While a handwritten card is a great way to buck the norm and give your long-distance colleague the warm and fuzzies, a mention of great co- operation and collaboration to her/his supervisor can also go a long way. Perhaps your praise gets passed back down, now fortified by supervisory validation. Maybe it comes up at the annual review as a bullet point underneath a potential raise. Either way, making the extra effort to pay back what’s due can really help set the tone for a long and prosperous working relation- ship, despite any distance.

What is the key to your long-distance relationships at work? How are you adapting to this trend?


Get your peel on: the power of pizza

Pizza Peel

Just this past weekend, we hosted our second resident services holiday party at HCA: a make-your- own-pizza themed extravaganza at the home of a long-time colleague. We know what you’re all thinking: pizza parties. Those glorious, grease-laden, soda-swishing sports team, birthday or fundraiser events you used to go to in middle school, before you knew – or cared — about preservatives. Like baseball, pizza is an American pastime.

A lot has changed about pizza over the years, and it’s come a long way from its juvenile conditions of yore. We’ve got gluten-free crusts, creative and unlikely toppings combinations and other artisanal influences that have turned this savory pie into an entrée of choice for both grown-ups and kids alike. Yet thankfully, all the things that made pizza great – the memories of celebrations, family and friends, youthful fun – haven’t changed at all. The messy, imperfect process of pizza making encourages humility and a shared nostalgia that supersedes professional hierarchies and personal differences. It makes us all more vulnerable, and in essence, creates the perfect conditions for a successful team-building event.

Feeling skeptical? Don’t believe us? Here are 3 more reasons why a make-your-own-pizza party is an effective alternative to other team building retreats and exercises:

Pizza making is fun.

Paul Spiegelman, chief culture officer at Stericycle, once said, “When fun is a regular part of work, employees get to know each other as real people.” Pizza making may be less performative than the “Pajama Days” or “Dress like the 70s days” that Spiegelman advocates, but it’s just as fun! It’s messy. It’s kinetic. It’s way more hands-on than your average dinner a”air. You can even make smiley faces with your toppings.

Pizza making is democratic.

Whether you’re the CEO or the newest intern, your access to top- pings, your likeliness to get sauce all over and the unpredictability of your final product are equal. You decide what goes on your personal pizza just as others will decide what goes on theirs. Last but not least: it’s always lame to eat your pizza with silverware, regardless of your place within the professional hierarchy.

Pizza making is introvert-friendly.

As Susan Caine points out in her New York Times best-selling book, Quiet: The Power of Introverts, the American preference for extroversion has shaped many of our social and professional traditions, leaving many of our best resources untapped — or worse — drained. Forming a pizza doesn’t necessarily require a crowd of people or an explosion of conversation. You have the option to gather your co-workers around to vote on chicken sausage versus pepperoni, or you can contemplate this toppings conundrum on your own.

Surrender to the power of pizza and make your next team-building event a cheesy one.


Catered classes: 3 tips for teaching seniors

It’s not news that Amer­ica is get­ting older. Accord­ing to the Admin­is­tra­tion on Aging, the pop­u­la­tion of Amer­i­cans in the 60+ age bracket grew almost 25% between 2000 and 2010, and is pro­jected to grow an addi­tional 30% by 2020. This trend in aging has notice­ably impacted the afford­able hous­ing indus­try as more and more senior com­mu­ni­ties are being devel­oped to meet this grow­ing com­mu­nity of elderly. At HCA, we have eas­ily dou­bled the amount of senior pro­gram­ming that we pro­vided just five years ago. In fact, our annual schol­ar­ship pro­gram, which received appli­ca­tions exclu­sively from young adults when it was launched back in 2006, received almost 3 times as many sub­mis­sions from senior res­i­dents than younger res­i­dents in 2013.

These num­bers unequiv­o­cally call for a con­tin­ued increase in senior pro­gram­ming by afford­able hous­ing non­prof­its like HCA. Yet, if there’s any­thing we’ve learned over the past few years, an increase in class time alone insuf­fi­ciently addresses this elderly move­ment. We also need to change how we’re teach­ing. An ele­men­tary school teacher employs dif­fer­ent meth­ods and modal­i­ties to teach high school stu­dents; our pro­gram instruc­tors must sim­i­larly adjust their styles to reach senior audiences.

1. Use com­mon sense(s)

Take a moment to rem­i­nisce about your favorite — and not so favorite — teach­ers grow­ing up. Do you remem­ber your eye­lids get­ting heav­ier through that marathon of Pow­er­Point slides in fresh­man biol­ogy? Do you remem­ber how excited you got about your Eng­lish final, where you had the choice to write, video­tape or give a live per­formance of a mod­ern inter­pre­ta­tion of Hamlet’s fight scene with props, cos­tumes, soundtracks and the works? Chances are that var­ied, sensory-motivated lessons and assignments go hand in hand with your fond­est aca­d­e­mic expe­ri­ences of yore. Most other roads sim­ply led to boredom.

30+ years later, this is still the truth. Dull expe­ri­ences can dull any mind, age aside. Elderly stu­dents are as sus­cep­ti­ble to bore­dom — if not more so — than their younger coun­ter­parts. For pro­gram instruc­tors, this is your cue to ramp up the sen­sory appeal and spread it as much as pos­si­ble from the fin­gers to the nose to the ears and the eyes — and the mouth, if you teach cook­ing or have the good for­tune of a refresh­ments budget — so that everyone’s strengths are targeted.

2. Bump it up

I’ve said it before (like in this arti­cle) and I’ll say it again: strong pro­mo­tion is a necessary pre­req­ui­site to suc­cess­ful pro­gram­ming. If res­i­dents don’t know about your awe­some new Tues­day ESL class, they prob­a­bly won’t show up it. When it comes to seniors, we like to add one more caveat to the golden rule: if res­i­dents can’t read your pro­mo­tion, they are also likely to be no-shows.

No, we’re not talk­ing about a lan­guage bar­rier or fuzzy vision. We’re talk­ing about that beau­ti­ful 4×6” post­card you made that adver­tises your much-anticipated pro­gram in 10 pt cur­sive font. Know your audi­ence: make sure that any pro­gram pro­mo­tion uti­lizes siz­able, leg­i­ble font that can be read by the peo­ple you are targeting.

3. Stay within reach

This gem of wis­dom came up just this past fall dur­ing a brain­storm ses­sion for upcom­ing mosaic projects. After com­plet­ing our last mosaic project at Arbor Court, a beau­ti­ful Celtic knot design, we had visions of going even big­ger than its mod­est 3’ diam­e­ter. Why not, right? Well, as our tal­ented Art + Mag­a­zine Direc­tor Nuri Amanat­ul­lah pointed out, 3’ was about the biggest we could go before the mosaic became too deep for a wheelchair-bound senior’s reach. There are cre­ative ways to troubleshoot cir­cum­stances such as this. We could have dis­cussed ways to assemble the mosaic in smaller pieces. We could have cho­sen a rec­tan­gu­lar shape instead of a cir­cu­lar one. Regard­less, this exchange illus­trates an impor­tant guideline for senior pro­grams: make sure you, your class sup­plies and any other nec­es­sary learn­ing tools are within com­fort­able phys­i­cal reach of your senior participants. If you are start­ing a com­mu­nity gar­den, make sure the beds are raised so seniors can tend to their flower and edi­bles with­out exces­sive bend­ing. If you are organiz­ing a mural project, make sure the design is low enough for seniors to paint with­out the use of lad­ders, stools or other risky aids.

What sug­ges­tions do you have for cater­ing to seniors in your com­mu­nity programs?


It takes Kool and the Gang to celebrate: Hot tips to get company party RSVPs

December, the twelve and final month in the calendar year, arguably surpasses the graduation frenzy of June in sheer partydom. As you plan your own company party, you may find this evidenced in the response – or lack thereof – of your guest invites. (Yes) RSVPs are particularly tricky to come by for smaller companies that may not have the resources to match the celebrity, freebies and general za za zu of larger companies.

When the scales are uneven and invitations are flying left and right, how can you compete for an evening on someone’s social calendar? Here are a few tips from me to you:

  1. The early bird gets the worm. It’s never too early to drop a mention of your party as long as you know it is 100% guaranteed to happen. People are a social species for the most part. The prospect of connecting with folks who have common interests usually excites us. This is particularly true if you work for a smaller company, given that many may not even have the budget to pull this off.
  2. Ask yourself, “What would Ferris do?” As mentioned in our previous post on open house tips, a fun theme or uncommon activity can help your event stick out. Ferris Bueller made movie history by transforming a typical school day o# into a thrilling back-to-back chain of dance mobbing, car racing and dog chasing. What can you do to differentiate your party from the run-of-the-mill holiday parties that you’re competing with?
  3. Layer your cake. Layer your communication. Have you ever seen a single layer cake at a wedding, bat mitzvah or quinceanera? I’ll bet you haven’t. That’s because there are some occasions in life that merit more. Your party should be one of them. In this spirit, commit to party invites on multiple platforms: paper, electronic, email and phone. When it comes to the phone, tie in the matter of your party to a greater discussion about work. This way you’ll err on the side of thorough (as opposed to obnoxious) in your follow-up.
  4. Ready a reminder. Even though smartphones, laptops, tablets and Cloud storage have given us the ability to combine and synch our calendars, it’s still important to send out an event re- minder a few days to one week prior to your party. We can have access to all the technology in the world, but this won’t help if someone forgot to pop an event on the cali in the first place and now has a conflict. Catch these slips before you submit final numbers for chairs, foods and the like by sending a simple reminder.
  5. Parties are karmic. Remember that the other eleven months: It goes without saying, but we’re going to say it anyway: if you don’t focus on building relationships with your guest invites during the rest of the year, they will probably feel disinclined to reciprocate by attending your party. Parties are karmic in this way, so do your best to demonstrate an authentic interest in whomever you’re inviting throughout the year.

What other tips do you recommend for rustling up company party RSVPs?


Star staffing: how to hire for part-time jobs

While resources and budgets play a significant role in the diversity, depth and overall quality of our resident services here at HCA, staffing is by far the most determinant factor in our long-term performance. A great instructor will have the creativity, flexibility and initiative to overcome budgetary constraints with integrity, with or without direct supervision. Pinpointing greatness however, can feel a little like searching for Wally in a Where’s Waldo? spread.

When your position offers less than 5 hours of work a week, as is the case for many of our teaching positions, your search can start to feel like a quest for the proverbial needle in a haystack. How do you continue to attract strong candidates when your positions are very part-time? Here are a few pointers from our annals of hiring:

1. Post with transparency

Do very part-time jobs have less general appeal to job seekers? Absolutely. Which is why this should be one of the first items that you address in your post. Em- power the no-fit candidates with the information they need to weed themselves out of the running so that your inbox has room for submissions from job seekers who are actively looking for part-time jobs and more variation in their work schedule and environments (Yes, these people do exist!).

2. Roll the credits

If your company has a website, Facebook page or other online proof of existence, be sure to include it in your post. These platforms will lend credence to both your company and your posting while simultaneously familiarizing candidates with your culture and mission.

3. Phone first

As much as in-person interviews are preferable for both the employer and prospective candidate, we highly recommend a brief preliminary phone interview for super part-time jobs. This gives you the chance to reiterate any potentially deal breaking jobs deets (like the fact that this position is only 1.5 hours a week). There’s nothing worse than a candidate spending an hour in rush hour traffic to get to an interview that they would never have taken, had they been clear on the time commitment.

4. Foster creative freedom

At HCA, we encourage our instructors to incorporate their ideas as much as possible into their classes. They design their own programs, syllabi and supplies lists. Over the past several years, we’ve found that this perk excites even the most seasoned of instructors. Your target audience and position’s core capacities may be different, but there’s always a way to empower future staff with creative freedom. Figure it out and make it known to your candidate pool.

5. Flaunt your inner yogi

Show up front flexibility. Even if your hourly rate is high, chances are that your super part-time job won’t provide the lion’s share of candidates’ income. Make peace with this and let them know about things you can do to allow your position to fit in with their other paid commitments. Can you (eventually) offer flexible scheduling? Can you provide a (partial) work from home option? Is there a supply or resource that you can provide on-site to save staff the hassle of lugging it around?

6. Generate demand

All the above said, the right candidate will view your job as an opportunity, no matter how many or how few hours it promises. If you are interviewing multiple candidates for your opening – you should be – let each one know it. You want your position to feel like a Tickle Me Elmo during the Christmas of ’96, not a pack of generic chewing gum.
Super part-time positions will always be a challenge to fill, but you can ease your search and secure better staff by revising your hiring process and redirecting candidates’ focus. What hiring tips do you suggest for these types of positions?