Designated State Entity Assurances

Whether you are with the Designated State Entity or the SILC or a Center that receives Part B money, these new (and not yet implemented) assurances will be of interest to you. One of the most common difficulties reported between the DSE and Centers and SILCs has to do with timely payment, for example, and these assurances state that the DSE MUST make timely and prompt payment to Centers and SILCs. This requirement creates a platform fora conversation and the development of a process that will result in these timely payment. Most of these address potential areas of tension between the DSE and those funded through the SPIL. The areas specifically are:

  • The DSE acknowledges its role as the fiscal intermediary to receive, account for, and disburse funds received by the State to support Independent Living Services in the State;
  • The DSE must make timely and prompt payments to Part B funded SILCs and CILs:
  • When the reimbursement method is used, the DSE must make a payment within 30 calendar days after receipt of the billing, unless the agency or pass-through entity reasonably believes the request to be improper;
  • When necessary, the DSE will advance payments to Part B funded SILCs and CILs to cover its estimated disbursement needs for an initial period generally geared to the mutually agreed upon disbursing cycle;
  • The DSE will accept requests for advance payments and reimbursements at least monthly when electronic fund transfers are not used, and as often as necessary when electronic transfers are used, in accordance with the provisions of the Electronic Fund Transfer Act (15 U.S.C. 1693-1693r);
  • The DSE will abide by SILC determination of whether the SILC want to utilize DSE staff;
  • If the SILC informs the DSE that the SILC wants to utilize DSE staff, the DSE assures that management of such staff with regard to activities and functions performed for the SILC is the sole responsibility of the SILC in accordance with Sec. 705(e)(3) of the Act(Sec. 705(e)(3), 29 U.S.C. 796(e)(3));
  • The DSE will assure that the agency keeps appropriate records, in accordance with federal and State law, and provides access to records by the federal funding agency upon request;
  • The DSE assures that the SILC is established as an autonomous entity within the State as required in Sec 1329.14 of the WIOA regulations;
  • The DSE will not interfere with the business or operations of the SILC that include but are not limited to:
    1. Expenditure of federal funds,
    2. Meeting schedules and agendas,
    3. SILC board business,
    4. Voting actions of the SILC Board,
    5. Personnel actions,
    6. Allowable travel,
    7. Trainings and;
  • The DSE will fully cooperate with the SILC in the nomination and appointment process for the SILC in the State.

*Statewide Independent Living Council (SILC) indicators of minimum compliance, required by WIOA, and assurances — applicable to both the SILCs and the Designated State Entities (DSEs) — were sent from the Independent Living Administration to SILCs and DSEs in late September, 2017.  ILA will be consulting with the network to develop a plan on setting effective dates for both the indicators and assurances.  You can download the full text at, and click on “SILC Indicators and Assurances for the Designated State Entities” to open the document.

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State Independent Living Council Assurances

When your SILC accepts funds you agree to a set of assurances. You make a promise that you will do some specific things. We suggest that, whenever it fits, these promises be worked into your written policies and procedures. Sometimes you will tailor that policy to say more about your actual practice. For example, the first of the assurances is that you will meet regularly with the appointing authority in your state with recommendations for actual nominees to the council. How do you approach this? Do you assist people with getting and completing the application to serve on the SILC? Do you meet with the authority annually or quarterly? Do you keep a checklist or grid to indicate term limits and positions filled (like areas of the state)?

We suggest you expand your written policies and procedures further, and address these new assurances:

  • The SILC regularly (not less than annually) provides the appointing authority recommendations for eligible appointments;
  • The SILC is composed of the requisite members set forth in the Act (Sec. 705(b)(2), 29 U.S.C. Sec. 796 (b)(2));
  • The SILC terms of appointment adhere to the Act (Sec. 705(b)(6), 29 U.S.C Sec 796(b)(6));
  • The SILC is not established as an entity within a State agency in accordance with 45 CFR Sec. 1329.14(b);
  • The SILC will make the determination of whether it wants to utilize DSE staff to carry out the functions of the SILC;
    1. The SILC must inform the DSE if it chooses to utilize DSE staff;
    2. The SILC assumes management and responsibility of such staff with regard to activities and functions performed for the SILC in accordance with the Act (Sec. 705(e)(3), 29 U.S.C. 796(e)(3)).
  • The SILC shall ensure all program activities are accessible to people with disabilities;
  • The State Plan shall provide assurances that the designated State entity, any other agency, office, or entity of the State will not interfere with operations of the SILC, except as provided by law and regulation and;
  • The SILC actively consults with unserved and underserved populations in urban and rural areas that include, indigenous populations as appropriate for State Plan development as described in Sec. 713 (b)(7) the Act regarding Authorized Uses of Funds (29 U.S.C. Sec. 796e-2(b)(7)).

*Statewide Independent Living Council (SILC) indicators of minimum compliance, required by WIOA, and assurances — applicable to both the SILCs and the Designated State Entities (DSEs) — were sent from the Independent Living Administration to SILCs and DSEs in late September, 2017.  ILA will be consulting with the network to develop a plan on setting effective dates for both the indicators and assurances.  You can download the full text at, and click on “SILC Indicators and Assurances for the Designated State Entities” to open the document.

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What do the new indicators say about open meetings for SILC?

Because the Statewide Independent Living Council is crafted out of the Rehabilitation Act’s Purpose, let’s look at those words:

45 CFR 1329.2 Purpose. The purpose of title VII of the Act is to promote a philosophy of independent living (IL), including a philosophy of consumer control, peer support, self-help, self-determination, equal access, and individual and system advocacy, in order to maximize the leadership, empowerment, independence, and productivity of individuals with disabilities, and to promote the integration and full inclusion of individuals with disabilities into the mainstream of American society…

One of the elements of consumer control is found in the makeup of the SILC itself, which must have more than 50% people with disabilities who don’t work for either the State or a Center. That is the majority which approves the State Plan for Independent Living (SPIL) on behalf of the SILC, as well as the SILC’s policies, procedures, staff and operations.

But no council can represent all of the people in the state who have disabilities. The SILC must allow for public comment at its meetings, hold open meetings accessible to people across the state, and invite feedback into the development of the SPIL from a broad range of consumers throughout the state.

In last week’s post we looked at the policies and procedures that are required in the new SILC Indicators, and a lot of them —  items c. through g. specifically — apply to the public nature of the SILC. This is an area where you have both state and federal requirements to consider as you develop your policies.  You will want to refer to your state’s Sunshine Act or Open Meetings laws and regulations. Often there is someone in the governor’s office that would be willing to train your board on this, or review your proposed policies, or both.That portion is very specific to the state and these vary widely from state to state.

The federal expectations are included in the Indicators*. Additional federal requirements are outlined in item 4. of the indicators. These are requirements from the federal level that may require more than your state does, so be sure to consider both. Here is what you need to do:

4. The SILC receives public input into the development of the State Plan for Independent Living in accordance with 45 CFR 1329.17(f) ensuring:

  • Adequate documentation of the State Plan development process, including but not limited to, a written process setting forth how input will be gathered from the state’s centers for independent living and individuals with disabilities throughout the state, and the process for how the information collected is considered.
  • All meetings regarding State Plan development and review are open to the public and provides advance notice of such meetings in accordance with existing State and federal laws and 45 CFR 1329.17(f)(2)(i)-(ii);
  • Meetings seeking public input regarding the State Plan provides advance notice of such meetings in accordance with existing State and federal laws, and 45 CFR 1329.17(f)(2)(i);
  • Public meeting locations, where public input is being taken, are accessible to all people with disabilities, including, but not limited to:
    • proximity to public transportation,
    • physical accessibility, and
    • effective communication and accommodations that include auxiliary aids and services, necessary to make the meeting accessible to all people with disabilities.
    • Materials available electronically must be 508 compliant and, upon request, available in alternative and accessible format including other commonly spoken languages

*Statewide Independent Living Council (SILC) indicators of minimum compliance, required by WIOA, and assurances — applicable to both the SILCs and the Designated State Entities (DSEs) — were sent from the Independent Living Administration to SILCs and DSEs in late September, 2017.  ILA will be consulting with the network to develop a plan on setting effective dates for both the indicators and assurances.  You can download the full text at, and click on “SILC Indicators and Assurances for the Designated State Entities” to open the document.

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The SILC Indicators are here…let’s talk SILC policies and procedures

Whether or not your SILC is a 501(c)(3) entity, you need written policies and procedures to guide how you do business.

Let’s take a moment to highlight the first of the Statewide Independent Living Council Indicators*, which is all about policies. (We will review the rest of the indicators, along with SILC and DSE Assurances, in later posts.)

These are indicators of minimum compliance for SILCs, and are an expansion of the content of Title VII of the Rehabilitation Act and regulations. Indicator #1 is that the SILC have written policies and procedures in a number of areas. Here is a list:

a. A method for recruiting members, reviewing applications, and regularly providing recommendations for eligible appointments to the appointing authority.

b. A method for identifying and resolving actual or potential disputes and conflicts of interest that are in compliance with State and federal law;

c. A process to hold public meetings and meet regularly as prescribed in 45 CFR 1329.15(a)(3)

d. A process and timelines for advance notice to the public of SILC meetings in compliance with State and federal law and 45 CFR 1329.15(3);

e. A process and timeline for advance notice to the public for SILC “Executive Session” meetings, that are closed to the public, that follow applicable federal and State laws;

i. “Executive Session” meetings should be rare and only take place to discuss confidential SILC issues such as but not limited to staffing.

ii. Agendas for “Executive Session” meetings must be made available to the public, although personal identifiable information regarding SILC staff shall not be included;

f. A process and timelines for the public to request reasonable accommodations to participate during a public Council meeting;

g. A method for developing, seeking and incorporating public input into, monitoring, reviewing and evaluating implementation of the State Plan as required in 45 CFR 1329.17; and

h. A process to verify centers for independent living are eligible to sign the State Plan in compliance with 45 CFR 1329.17(d)(2)(iii).

If you don’t have all these policies, you need to develop them or borrow them from a SILC that has them. Typically the Council approves all the policies and procedures. These areas are in addition to our recommended financial policies and procedures.

Join us next week for a discussion of the open meetings portion of this specifically.

*Statewide Independent Living Council (SILC) indicators of minimum compliance, required by WIOA, and assurances — for both the SILCs and the Designated State Entities (DSEs) — were sent from the Independent Living Administration to SILCs and DSEs. While the effective date has not yet been determined, ILA will be consulting with the network to develop a plan on setting effective dates for both the indicators and assurances.  You can download the full text at, and click on “SILC Indicators and Assurances for the Designated State Entities” to open the document.

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More links to Training Bites

Here are some more short (under 30 minutes) training segments for orientation for SILC and Center board orientation:

Suggested links for orientation for SILC Council members:

These seven (7) links — a total of about 10 hours of on demand training in several formats — will be helpful to new SILC members as they begin to understand the principles and responsibilities around  serving on a SILC.

Suggested orientation for CIL Board members:

Suggested links for on-going Center Board training:

The following are topics that could be viewed at a CIL board meeting. Some CILs build a short training into every meeting so that the SILC members receive on-going training as required.

Functions of a Non-profit board. This multi day training was a train the trainer model for assisting in board and council training. It has several sections that you will find useful. You can easily divide this section into 20 to 30 minute segments by noting where the part you want to do begins and ends. You will want to watch the captioned videos first and decide if they are helpful to your board and what you want to do regarding dividing the section, or use my suggestions here:

  • Module 3: Board Responsibilities, 2:50 through 25:34 — Board legal and ethical responsibilities and conflicts of interest.
  • Module 5: Corporation — establishing, types of corporations, other corporate responsibilities. 9:07 through 29:30.
  • Module 5: How Boards Operate — 29:35 through 44:09 regarding officers.  44:10 through 1:20:59 Parliamentary Procedures.

Even more topics are available on this training page, but the handouts are proprietary and not available on our website. You can find contact information for these at

Internal controls are discussed at  and click on “View the Training”.  For a streamlined view, show 5:29 through 33:44. Remember that all training on our site either includes captioning or, as is the case with this training, have a transcript available as an accommodation.

On-going training for boards and councils

One challenge we all face is that of keeping our boards and councils well trained and up to date. There are several approaches to this.

Probably the most common is to prepare a notebook or manual and give it to the new member as they come on board. Typically this has dividers and includes things like the bylaws, articles of incorporation, staff names and titles, a board contact list, policies and procedures, and maybe some history about your organization or independent living. Most include the most recent brochures and annual report, and maybe any recent news articles. This notebook absolutely has value. It gives the new member a reference point. (It is even more effective if an experienced board member goes over it with them, or sits next to them during meetings to assist with finding references.)

It is also a useful practice to make sure that you give background when you ask the board or council for action. By providing a one-page brief or subject page in the board or council meeting information packet for every anticipated motion, you can address the obvious questions and provide some of the information needed for sound decision making. You can also give the various options and the pros and cons of each for consideration. If you board packet is provided to the members in advance, this gives them an opportunity to be better prepared for the motion, discussion and vote.

Having a board or council retreat or training day (often combining training with planning), can provide another opportunity to provide training support outside the tighter time constraints of a regular meeting.

There is one more training option that I’d like to suggest. If you take a short period of time at each meeting — not more than 30 minutes, and often 15 or 20 minutes — you can cover a number of topics through the year. While it takes a little time to sort out the topics you want, you can find many resources on our website. If you board meets monthly, that is the equivalent of a full day of training, but is much more easily digested and applied. Here is a sample for SILCs of the kinds of things you can use from our website.  In future posts I will give a similar list of links for board and council member orientation and CIL Board training in a future post.

Suggested links  SILC Council member trainings:

The following are topics that could be viewed at a SILC meeting. Some SILCs build a short training into every meeting so that the SILC members receive on-going training as required.


Rebranding – Transforming your Image

  1. Know why you want to change your name, image and logo. What is the new image you want to portray? Youth? Movement? Freedom? Are there any negative perceptions that you want to  overcome? How do you dispel the perceptions that your CIL is a caregiver  or residential program? Take time to thoroughly explore your reasons so that you can know if you are successful.
  2. Take time to be curious, to image new possibilities. Beth Comstock, on her blog “How I Unlearn”, said this: “Sometimes, setting aside your emotions and direct impressions is a crucial skill. When we have a tight deadline, we can’t indulge every stray thought. But selectively listening to stray thoughts can be productive. If you find yourself dreading a project or consistently annoyed by it, it’s worth taking ten or fifteen minutes to think back to the moments when you felt that way and why. It might help you see the outlines of a problem that’s just below the surface. The same goes for sudden bursts of curiosity. At first blush, curiosity can actually look like distraction. But if something about your project is causing you and your team to ask a series of questions or go off on tangents, take a moment and ask yourselves why. Is there a potential opportunity lurking behind this curiosity, an assumption that could turn your work on its head? When curiosity crops up, don’t always ignore it. It might point out where your assumptions are holding you back.”
  3. As a non-profit you have a public that is interested in what you do. In an article on rebranding, in Non-Profit Quarterly, Carlo Cuesto said “In order to tell our own story, we need to listen to and embrace the stories of those we wish to reach. A story is a gift, not a donor-acquisition strategy. Stories bind us together by allowing us to glimpse the other. And when we glimpse the other, we seek to understand it in all its nuanced glory. It overtakes and ripples across our consciousness, forcing us to reconcile what we are experiencing with what we think we already know.” If your center is effective, your consumers have stories that will connect with what you do in ways that mere descriptions cannot.
  4. Engage your whole community in the discussion. We are community controlled entities, and our consumers should be involved in the exploration of a your center’s role and identity. When you step into your new “skin” it should be a good fit for your best moments.
  5. Make sure the image you want to portray is what you project. What is the story about disability that you want to tell to the community? Some organizations focus on ability — so you see the new brand of Ability 360 in Phoenix (formerly called Arizona Bridge to Independent Living (ABIL). “Ability360 puts the focus on the word ‘ability’ and not ‘disability’,” said Ability360 President and CEO Phil Pangrazio. “The all-encompassing 360-concept demonstrates more inclusiveness of people with all types of disabilities and the new name helps clear up confusion that has existed for many years about who we are and what we do.”The new logo, designed by Phoenix-based graphic design firm P.S. Studios depicts the word “Ability” in gray, sans-serif capital letters and “360” in light blue with the “0” designed as an arrow pointing upward. “The new logo with the upward-pointing arrow, is more modern than our previous logo, promotes positive and forward-moving energy in a very simple design that, most importantly, replaces the previous logo that conveyed a stereotypical image of disability with a wheelchair at its core,” Pangrazio said. “We’re thrilled to be moving forward under a new, streamlined and highly effective name and brand.”
  6. Don’t get caught between your past and your future. Make a plan and roll out your new brand with fun and fanfare. At that point all the old signage, logos, brochures and business cards should be gone and the new ones in their place. Don’t drag your transformation out over time. Don’t allow drawers of old stuff filed away because someone likes it. Other than a copy or two for your archives, the old will inform but cannot speak for the new image/brand. You will use the power of “new” to connect even more people to your center and your work.
  7. You have some “unlearning” to do as part of this change. If you and your stakeholders — board, staff, consumers — hold on to the old name or other old thinking, how do you expect the community at large to perceive you differently.

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Sharing expenses in another tight year…

Most centers are only seeing an increase in funding next year if they have developed funding from another (usually new) source. Of course, as we know, the new money brings additional work with it, and the need to track staff time across to this new fund objective, as well as allocate other costs. The new source must also bear its share of indirect costs. New projects don’t always break even the first few months.

Which could leave you with a need to reduce some of your fixed costs. The biggest of these fixed costs, typically, is rent.

Through the years you may have seen examples of nonprofits sharing space in order to reduce cost. Maybe your center has two or three empty offices that have ended up being catchall storage. Clean the space out, find a home for everything or if it has been long enough, get rid of it. And think about who would be good to have in that space.

I have seen arrangements like this that are strictly partnerships of convenience. In our Center’s first office there was a local attorney who wanted space in Stockton, KS. We rented him space, reduced the space charged to our grant, and had a little profit left over to keep as discretionary dollars. We didn’t really work with him, since his area of law was unrelated to our work, but it was a good partnership all the same.

Probably the most note-worthy and the most entrepreneurial of shared spaces is the Center for Independent Living in Berkeley, CA, which is one of the partners in the Ed Roberts Campus( ERC) design, construction and use. The ERC commemorates the life and work of Edward V. Roberts, an early leader in the independent living movement of persons with disabilities. Ed believed in the strength of collaborative efforts: He called it “working toward our preferred future.” The website for the ERC further states, “The ERC is a universally designed, transit–oriented campus located at the Ashby BART Station in Berkeley, California. The 80,000 sq. ft. project incorporates exhibition space, community meeting rooms, a child development center, fitness center, offices for non–profit organizations and vocational training facilities. The building integrates sophisticated design responses to the issues of universal design and environmentally sustainable development.”

This is exemplary, first, because of the vision and planning of the partners, including CIL, the World Institute on Disability, the Disability Rights and Education Fund, Through the Looking Glass, Computer Technologies Program, Bay Area Outreach and Recreation and the Center for Accessible Technology. Second, the scope of sharing a building this size is immense. A number of the tenants in the building, while they don’t co-own the building, benefit greatly from co-location with these entities. Coordination on this scale is not simple. The partners of the ERC developed a separate board for the oversight of the project, and thought about both shared and individual support (like a receptionist, security, maintenance and housekeeping).

While your situation is most likely a smaller setting than what is found in Berkeley, you still may have a lot to gain from considering and planning for colocation. Sometimes the city or county will work with you to bring resources together for their community. They might build a community building that houses key resources for community access, making it convenient for you to work with partners, and for the community members to access everything they are looking for in one stop. Sharing bathrooms, conference rooms and waiting rooms can reduce everyone’s cost for those aspects of the space.

In other communities, multiple nonprofits have come together to share not just building resources, but some of their management costs, like sharing the contract time of an accountant who is well-versed in federal funding requirements and practices.

In a recent article in the Nonprofit Quarterly, Larry Levin said: “Once a marriage of convenience among nonprofits in a similar sector, the growing trend of colocation shows it can be based on any number of factors, including a shared desire for geographic proximity to a community resource or the goal of serving as a catalyst for community change. There’s even a push to see nonprofit facilities and nodes play a significant role in urban and regional planning.”

Whatever your reason or your process, whether in your building or the building of one of your partners, sharing space means sharing costs, and that may save you money. If you use shared space, tell us who you share with, and the advantages and disadvantages of your arrangement.

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Students with mental health disabilities — youth in transition?

The research team of the National Council on Disability (NCD) – a U.S. federal agency that provides advice to the President, Congress, and other federal agencies – has released the results of a national study on the experiences of students with mental health disabilities on U.S. college campuses during a session at the national conference of the Association on Higher Education and Disability (AHEAD).

To understand challenges, best practices, and emerging trends of supporting students with mental health disabilities, NCD’s report, Mental Health on College Campuses: Investments, Accommodations Needed to Address Student Needs, relied upon interviews with students, social science researchers, mental health service providers, college administrators, college legal counsel, and advocates. It also targeted critical student subpopulations, including veterans, Greek life, athletes, graduate and international students, amongst others.

The Mental Health on College Campuses report is available on NCD’s website at Key findings include:

* Colleges are struggling to provide adequate mental health services and supports for students with mental health disabilities due largely to increased numbers of students with mental health challenges attending colleges and a lack of financial resources by the colleges.

* Students with mental health disabilities are often placed on lengthy waiting lists for mental health services – sometimes waiting over a month. Many schools do not screen for emergencies when students seek help.

* Community colleges are the least equipped to deal with student mental health issues when compared with state colleges and universities, even though they statistically serve the most at-risk student populations.

* The U.S. Department of Education, Office of Civil Rights (OCR) has not provided guidance to colleges on how to respond to students that pose a threat to themselves.

* Multiple restrictions in the provision of federal and college financial aid negatively impact the ability of students with mental health disabilities to complete their postsecondary education.

About the National Council on Disability: First established as an advisory council within the Department of Education in 1978, NCD became an independent federal agency in 1984. In 1986, NCD recommended enactment of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and drafted the first version of the bill which was introduced in the House and Senate in 1988. Since enactment of the ADA in 1990, NCD has continued to play a leading role in crafting disability policy, and advising the President, Congress and other federal agencies on disability policy.

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(Taken in large part from the July 21, 2017 press release.)

Clarify and agree — in writing!

Back in the 1980s, when I was a very young manager of a new Center in Kansas, the Rehabilitation Services Administration’s regional office brought in a speaker named John Conway to talk to centers and other RSA funded entities about how to evaluate staff. Conway was a fan the phrase, “Clarify and agree!”  In respect to employment evaluations, this meant breaking the job down in outline form — sometimes a very extensive outline — and going through with the employee to clarify several things.

First, we clarified what all the job tasks were — that was the outline. These were called Functions (for the Roman numerals out of the job description) and Responsibilities (for all the detail added into the outline.)

Then the genius of his system — we clarified the amount of Authority the staff person had to accomplish those items. If it was a routine task that they did without permission, that was a A item for Act without checking. If it was a task that the person did without permission, but needed to report on, that was a B item for Both Act and Check. If it was an item that needed prior approval it was a C item — Check First.

The conversation that took place made an excellent employee evaluation — one that usually took a couple of hitches to complete because it was an extensive conversation about the job. Let me give you an example of my first evaluation with the board. One of the responsibilities was to give news releases to the local papers in the many counties where our center was located. I marked that an A — Act without checking. The board marked it a C – Check first. One member explained that she got the morning paper, but sometimes before she could open it she got a phone call asking about an article we’d placed there. She did not like to be surprised. We ended up agreeing that I would let the board members know in advance when an article was going to be in the paper, and if desired, would give them a copy of the news release at the same time as it was given to the paper.

“Clarify and agree” became  an important management concept for me. Do you see what I mean? There I was doing something that irritated my board vice president (soon to be president) just when I most needed to cultivate a positive working relationship. By clarifying and agreeing together we resolved a potential conflict before it blew up in my face.

I think this same approach is important as a planning tool. Your mission only guides you forward if it is absolutely clear. Those grandiose goals are only meaningful if you break them down into small enough pieces to clarify exactly who is going to do what. And in planning especially, but in all these conversations, the deadline for getting it done.

This also works as a partnership tool. As you work with other entities in the community, it is good to take time to be clear on who is doing what. Get specific. Walk through a task in your mind and jot down enough detail to have the conversation. Here is an excellent article about clarifying before you commit. As author Randy Taussig states, “As a leader of your business, you’re responsible for developing and articulating a vision that everyone understands and can follow. The key is to gain clarity first, commitment second. This will foster the alignment and enthusiasm that will get you there faster!

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