HDC Coalition Comment on Seattle Comprehensive Plan Update – Expand Scope for Abundant and Affordable Homes

We, the undersigned organizations, represent a coalition committed to advancing housing affordability and addressing climate change through Seattle’s Comprehensive Plan update, including affordable housing developers and operators, environmental advocates, climate activists, and grassroots housing organizers. We thank you for the opportunity to comment on the scope of the environmental impact statement (EIS) for the One Seattle Plan 2024 Comprehensive Plan update. It is essential that the City analyzes a full range of growth alternatives in the EIS. We urge you to expand the scope of analysis of each of the alternative growth strategies and to advance a new transformative Alternative 6, to provide as much flexibility to build as many homes as possible.

This Comprehensive Plan update is a once-in-a-decade opportunity for Seattle to lead the region by reforming land use, increasing density, and allowing for mixed uses in neighborhoods. At this distinctive moment in time, the urgency of the city’s affordable housing crisis is combined with a growing climate crisis and the disturbing reality of persisting inequities. We cannot ignore the interconnectedness that must bind our efforts inextricably on housing, and climate action.

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3 Housing Facts for Transgender Awareness Week

3 Housing Facts for Transgender Awareness Week banner

November 13-19 is Transgender Awareness Week, a week for elevating transgender existence and resilience and for calling attention to the issues that transgender and gender non-conforming people face. It’s a week of education and action in the lead up to Transgender Day of Remembrance (TDOR), when transgender communities and their allies hold vigils to commemorate the lives of all transgender people lost to violence in the last year.

When it comes to housing security for transgender communities, and particularly for BIPOC transgender and gender non-conforming people, the numbers are stark. We realize that our vision for a King County in which all people live with dignity in safe, healthy, and affordable homes is one that cannot be achieved without reckoning with these disparities. As such, we’re including a roundup of good resources and stories of both the challenges and palpable successes of Queer and Trans BIPOC housing projects taking root in our community with great resiliency and triumph.

But first, the facts are:

#1: Transgender and gender non-conforming people experience homelessness at a much higher rate than the population at large.

In 2015, the U.S. Transgender Survey found that 30% of respondents—and more than half of Black women and Indigenous respondents—had experienced homelessness at some point in their lives.

#2: Housing safety nets are often unavailable or unsafe for transgender people.

Studies show that transgender and gender non-conforming people experience discrimination in shelters or may avoid accessing shelters for fear of mistreatment.

#3: The crisis is worsening.

Between 2016 and 2019, HUD’s Point In Time Count found that the number of transgender people experiencing homelessness increased by 88%. More research is soon to be released through the 2022 U.S. Transgender Survey results next year, but we know that the COVID-19 pandemic has further exacerbated existing inequalities across the board—and especially for transgender BIPOC communities.

As HDC, we know that when we talk about housing, we’re talking about so much more than four walls and a roof. Stable housing is foundational, and the lack of housing ripples out into all other aspects of life, from education, to health, to employment and economic security. In honor of Transgender Awareness Week, we hope you’ll join us in learning more about the intersection of transgender issues and housing, and what others are doing to build a safer housing ecosystem for everyone.

Further Reading

Note on the data sources: You may notice that some of the research cited in this post is on the older side, in particular the 2015 U.S. Transgender Survey. At this time, the 2015 U.S. Transgender Survey is one of the broadest and most well-regarded data sets on transgender people in the United States. A new U.S. Transgender Survey is underway this year and is highly anticipated.

Appreciating Mark Santos-Johnson

A picture of Mark Santos-Johnson

Mark Santos-Johnson, the Community Development & Housing Manager at the City of Renton, retired on May 20th.

Mark has worked tirelessly in the housing sector for more than 40 years – from working to develop and manage the Broadview Emergency Shelter with the Fremont Public Association (now Solid Ground), to working as the manager of the Low Income Housing Tax Credit (LIHTC) program at the Washington State Housing Finance Commission supporting the construction of thousands of affordable homes across the state, to spending the last twenty-two years at the City of Renton dedicated to developing affordable housing and providing greater opportunities for the community’s current and future residents.

While with the City, Mark helped lead the revitalization and transformation of the Sunset neighborhood in Northeast Renton. He worked very closely with the Renton Housing Authority for many years and in 2015-2016 he coordinated a broad effort with many partners to complete and submit two requests for HUD Choice Neighborhoods Implementation grants to support the Sunset community revitalization. When the project did not receive HUD funding, Mark continued to work with existing and new partners to implement as much of the Sunset Area Transformation Plan as possible with other funding. More than $150 million have been invested in the Sunset neighborhood over the past ten years with an additional $230 million projected in the next several years. In addition, Mark played an instrumental role in shepherding and advocating for the formation of the South King Housing and Homelessness Partners (SKHHP) working in collaboration with neighboring cities. Mark also has played an instrumental role in advancing homeownership opportunities for low- and moderate-income households. An HDC 2020 Carla Okigwe Award winner, Mark has been a tireless advocate for the community and worked to help Renton and other South King County cities to better respond to their communities housing needs.  

HDC asked Mark to respond to the following question, on his retirement

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HDC Statement on Initiative 135

Housing is a human right and the foundation needed for a community to thrive. Yet, residents of Seattle are facing an unprecedented challenge in finding and keeping a home that they can afford. Rising rents continue to displace people further from their communities and push our most vulnerable neighbors into homelessness. Black, Indigenous, and People of Color (BIPOC) and low-income families are disproportionately impacted, with a higher share being housing cost-burdened or experiencing homelessness. We are fast losing our economic and ethnic diversity.

Simply put, the need for affordable housing in Seattle is greater than ever and we need to do everything we can to increase the city’s supply of affordable homes. As daunting as the crisis is, we know what works. Seattle has a strong history of taking action to address the sustained affordable housing needs of our low-income neighbors paying too much for rent or experiencing homelessness.

Seattle Housing Authority’s Hoa Mai Gardens

The City has a robust system for efficiently developing and operating affordable homes, including through the Seattle Housing Authority, multiple public development authorities, and many non-profit and community-based organizations. Altogether, our HDC member organizations have created or preserved 20,000 affordable homes in Seattle, leveraging federal, state, and private resources to stretch public dollars for more homes, while lifting up community voice and fighting displacement.

The primary constraint on our ability to scale proven affordable housing models is the limited public resources available to fund affordable housing. As HDC, we are concerned that Initiative 135, filed by the House our Neighbors coalition, distracts funds and energy away from what our community should be focusing on – scaling up affordable housing for low-income people. We do not need another government entity to build housing when there are already insufficient resources to fund existing entities.

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Patience Malaba Named New Executive Director

We are very pleased to announce that Patience Malaba has been selected as HDC’s next Executive Director.

Patience Malaba, HDC’s new Executive Director

For almost four years at HDC, and in increasing levels of responsibility, Patience has served as HDC’s Director of Government Relations and Policy. Prior to that, she managed Seattle for Everyone, a broad coalition that was central to the success of Seattle’s Housing Affordability and Livability Agenda (HALA). Previous positions also include work with Futurewise and the Services Employees International Union (SEIU) Local 6

Patience has been recognized for her leadership in addressing the intersecting crises of affordable housing, racial equity, and climate change and was the 2020 Bullitt Foundation Environmental Fellowship awardee. A powerful advocate for affordable homes and equitable communities, her efforts have advanced cross-sector partnerships that result in equitable access to affordable housing. A demonstrated commitment to housing access, equity, and community makes her the ideal person to guide HDC into the next phase of our leadership role in creating affordable housing for all people in King County.

Board Chair Brian Lloyd stated: “I’m proud of the Board for undertaking a rigorous and diligent selection process. After considering multiple finalists, it was clear to the Board that Patience was the candidate who will continue HDC’s tradition of excellent member services and advocacy while also leading us in new ways of improving equity and serving community. She is ideally qualified and positioned to hit the ground running. From her birthplace in a Zimbabwe village to her leadership in our Seattle community, Patience has an inspiring personal story and a commitment to justice that fits our future work.”

In response to the announcement, Patience stated: “I am honored and excited to lead HDC as we continue our mission to build, sustain, and inspire a diverse network committed to producing, preserving, and increasing equitable access to affordable homes. The work of HDC has never been more vital. At this distinctive moment in time, the urgency of the exacerbated affordable housing crisis is combined with a growing climate crisis and the disturbing reality of persisting systemic inequities that call for bold action. Our unique and timely strategic plan is molded for such a time, to advance systemic change for an equitable future. HDC has been the backbone and glue for the housing community over the last 34 years and I’m eager to continue in that tradition while also growing our impact in an ever-changing environment.

Patience will start her new role on March 21st.

We invite you to join us for our Annual Celebration Event on March 29 as we welcome Patience into her new role and hear from her as our headline speaker. Now is the perfect time to remind all of us– members, stakeholders, board, and staff, that the success of HDC is a shared task; we are all called to donate, volunteer, educate, and advocate in whatever ways we can to serve our shared vision. This is how we can build on the foundation that HDC has been to date and grow our impact as we reach into the future.

— Brian Lloyd, Board President and Andrea Sato, Transition Committee Chair

HDC Seeking Fair Resolution to Concrete Strike

Unionized concrete truck drivers stopped driving throughout King County and the impact of the concrete truck drivers’ strike has a significant detrimental effect on the production of affordable housing. The negative impacts are substantial and as housing advocates, we are seeking a fair resolution as fast as possible.

As the Housing Development Consortium (HDC), we support the workers being paid fair wages and recognize the connection between wages and housing stability. We urge bargaining partners to advance good faith negotiations that include a fair contract for workers in tandem with ensuring the creation of desperately needed affordable housing.

The concrete strike has measurable financial impacts on affordable housing projects. The related delays cost the projects in two ways. First, the general contractor is entitled to schedule extensions that come with a cost. Second, the delay will force additional interest to accumulate on the construction loan and will incur delay penalties due to the late delivery of the Low-Income Housing Tax Credits. The combination of these two is enumerated at a negative cost impact of $3.8M collectively and grows each day the work stoppage continues.

This shortfall will need to be filled by public funders, which will divert funds that otherwise could subsidize additional new affordable housing units. Our analysis estimates that the impact will prevent the construction of at least 38 new units, thus further contributing to our housing crisis in the Puget Sound region.

The second impact is the fact that approximately 4,000 people who need housing security and safety now will have to wait longer for housing. Over 1400 units of housing will be delayed by the strike and the recovery time thus causing an extension of housing insecurity for seniors and families along with the associated health risks.

The region’s housing is already in a sustained crisis. We are two years behind in housing production. Not keeping up with population and job growth has exacerbated the upward pressure on housing costs. We need to address the housing backlog soon to soften the impact on home prices and rents. This has also contributed to the displacement of Black Indigenous and People of Color (BIPOC) households through gentrification. People who would like to live close to their jobs in our communities are being pushed further out and spend hours commuting.

It’s time for both sides to meet at the bargaining table to put the issue of affordable housing at the center of its negotiations to better the lives of our communities. In much of our region, the wage gains workers may win in their contracts lag far behind the increasing costs they confront when they rent or try to purchase a home. By coming to an agreement on contract terms and immediately supporting affordable housing projects to move forward urgently, employers and unions can play a crucial role in creating more desperately needed housing.

Brian Lloyd is the Board President of the Housing Development Consortium of Seattle-King County. HDC strives each day to create a more robust and connected sector to better respond to our region’s incredible affordable housing need.

HDC Member Highlight: The Nehemiah Initiative

The Nehemiah Initiative Seattle has had quite a start-up year. The nonprofit formed on January 1 of this year but has been a functioning group and mission for almost 20 years.

The Nehemiah Initiative Seattle is a faith-based community development initiative (FBDI). Its mission is to empower the African American community in the Seattle region and beyond to support the retention of historically Black institutions by advocating for development of real property assets owned by those historically Black institutions.

In their first year, the Nehemiah Initiative is working to provide affordable homeownership and rental opportunities on Black-owned church properties. This endeavor addresses the critical need to increase Black homeownership while symbiotically conserving Black churches. Currently, with the displacement of Black congregates, Seattle churches are closing as congregates move to the suburbs. Due to gentrification, this has resulted in a loss of over a dozen historically Black churches over the last 10 years.

Black churches have major purpose with community building and has served that purpose for hundreds of years. These institutions have been centers for resources, political activity, economic advocacy, and social gatherings. At the same time, churches are the most Black-owned property in the city. The Nehemiah Initiative strive to create solutions that align these missions to benefit both churches and community.

The Nehemiah Initiative is exploring all housing options in this effort – from single family, multifamily, cooperative, condos, townhomes, and single cottages for each of their sites. Since the need is so great to close the Black wealth gap, while addressing gentrification, a wide array of tools is needed to make these property developments financially feasible and retain Black communities in Central Seattle. In addition, it would change the economic model of churches relying on solely congregation contributions to revenue gained from property development. Expanding affordable homeownership funding and rental options is imperative to address these challenges.

There has been favorable work on a state-level, city-level, and now federal focus on increasing Black homeownership. Major focus of favoritism of white families in homeownership.  Wealth creation. 7 min ish. During the legislative session, the organization focused on HB 1377. Now, they are working with the Equitable Development Initiative to inform the local implementation in Seattle.

The Nehemiah Studio is an on-going set of studio courses at the University of Washington in the College of Built Environments. They ran these courses in for the last two school years and are running another in 2022. The course employs students studying urban design, architecture, and real estate to comprehensively study the church sites to produce a vision for these developments along with financial analysts. In 2021, students produced a comparative analysis with the additional density bonuses offered for building on faith-owned land and the underlying zoning and developed scenarios based on client needs/desires, site constraints, zoning, neighborhood needs, and stakeholder input.

A major setback the organization is grappling with is an amendment added to CB 120081 for religious property density allowances that was passed few weeks ago. The Nehemiah Initiative was intended to explore housing options for 80% average median income (AMI) to develop workforce housing and moderate-income rental housing. This amendment requires the development to serve low-income renters at 60% (AMI) to qualify for the density bonus, but in return would require deep subsidies for the Nehemiah Initiative’s development plans. Considering this amendment, the organization is left to use homeownership developments as an only option to support their communities’ needs.

Despite this challenge, the Nehemiah Initiative has major milestones ahead on the second half of their first year. Not to mention, the organization is a key leader in HDC’s Black, Indigenous, and People of Color (BIPOC) Homeownership Initiative. The goal of this is increasing Black homeownership by 60,000 new homeowners – or 3,000 new homeowners annually – doubling the Black homeownership rate and closing the Black-white homeownership gap in the Puget Sound region by 2041.

Currently, the organization reflects on historic planning debacles and policy making. They are exploring possibilities to create workforce rental housing for their communities with the Office of Housing and other community partners. To contribute to the Nehemiah Initiative today and help the African American community thrive from within, the organization is accepting contribution in the form of checks to Goodwill Baptist Church 126 15th Ave Seattle, WA 98122 in care of Nehemiah Initiative.

HDC Member Highlight: BUILD LLC

BUILD LLC is a multi-disciplinary architectural design firm with a diverse portfolio of work that demonstrates elegance, integrity, and simplification of the complex. With over 20 years of experience rooted in integrated design and a working knowledge of construction, BUILD partners with commercial developers, corporate and facility managers, institutional and educational planners, and residential clients to create projects that provide lasting value. BUILD’s focus is on thorough research, accurate program design, ensuring client value, and solving the right problems.

They have the experience and expertise in everything from master planning, feasibility studies, and project cost analysis, to full design documentation and various permitting and entitlement processes. The BUILD team has developed and built nearly every type of project, and always brings an unmatched, robust, construction administration service during the crucial phases of project building, implementation, and commissioning.

BUILD is truly a full-service firm, and their foremost attention is in relating to clients on a fundamental level, and ensuring that they handle each client and project with respect and care.

BUILDing a Foundation

BUILD’s founder Kevin Eckert and his longtime partner Andrew van Leeuwen began their careers at Swenson Say Fagét engineers where they learned the nuts and bolts of construction, and designing and permitting from the engineers perspective. Not surprisingly, when Kevin subsequently founded BUILD, the firm offered design and construction services; although BUILD no longer provides the latter, the team brings this sensibility and know-how to all of their projects—every line they draw is executed with a deep knowledge of the complexity that goes into putting buildings together and their commensurate construction costs.

BUILD brings their collaborative and education-driven values to HDC. At the heart of BUILD’s philosophy is the sharing of information, and the widely-read BUILD blog allows the team to engage in a dialogue — ideas, insights, concerns etc. — with a global audience. The architectural paradigm of the past incentivized architects to keep their ideas, methods, and processes to themselves, which resulted in an exclusive system of design. This is antithetical to the very nature of an affordable and equitable society, and social media offers design professionals the opportunity to create a new transparent model. For the last 15 years, through its various social media platforms, BUILD has been able to foster communication and collaboration with the public and within the profession.

BUILDing with Values

“As architects concerned with our collective future, and who care deeply about community, we aspire to make projects that ensure a high quality of life for current and future generations. This begins with having a home that meets our basic needs; we know that being able to feel secure contributes to an entire household’s well-being and sense of belonging, particularly the most vulnerable: our children. According to BUILD, “We also appreciate that all other forms of security (nutrition assistance, employment, relationships…) flow from having stable and dependable housing. We continue to advocate for removing barriers to providing more access to affordable housing through our work, our widely read blog, and in our communities.”

BUILD is working on several projects through its satellite office in Sisters, Oregon, which include workforce housing that will allow families to reside within walking distance of their employers and schools, and the opportunity to purchase their homes—and by default, to build equity. This kind of work excites BUILD. Additionally, BUILD was asked to design and develop a series of prototype cottages and townhomes for multiple sites within and on the edge of the current Sisters Urban Growth Boundary. Projects of this scale further underscore BUILD’s commitment to creating affordable home options for local families and local businesses.

BUILDing Community

BUILD LLC considers it a priority to create impactful philanthropic programming, and to engage with, enrich, and bolster various non-profit organizations.

In 2020, BUILD launched its Humanity in Action Racial Equity Scholarship to support entrepreneurial high school students focused on inciting change. As a company that provides urban planning and design services, BUILD has the opportunity to shape our physical environment and influence locales throughout the Northwest. The BUILD staff continually strive to make places that are accessible for all, and to do so in a socially- and racially-just manner. In the midst of the most powerful social movement our country has experienced in decades, BUILD’s scholarship recognizes the important work so many are performing in support of racial and social equity. The first scholarship was awarded in 2021.

From 2009 to 2019, BUILD hosted and participated in a yearly charity ride from Seattle to Vancouver, the revenue of which supported two organizations each year, raising an annual average of $22,000 and a ten-year total of $206,000. For 2019’s 188-mile ride, proceeds benefited Seattle’s Bike Works and Team Gleason. Post-pandemic, they fully intend to resume this impactful, team building, and fun program!

Entering HDC membership during the current health crisis, BUILD is navigating – professionally and personally – the intersection of health and housing. “While we at BUILD have a deeper understanding of disease transmission and how to design buildings and systems that will reduce potentially negative health outcomes, over the last 15 months we have been confronted by the systemic racism and inequalities that are embedded in our culture, and by extension, our industry. We are no longer conducting business as usual; we have made personal commitments to continue educating ourselves on the myriad inequities and injustices that pervade society, and the roles we may play in eradicating them—for each other, for our clients, for our profession, and for our world.”

Welcome to the HDC movement, BUILD!

HDC Member Highlight: BEE Consulting

It was BEE Consulting’s mission-driven work that led them into the affordable housing sector.

Formed in 1999, BEE Consulting’s primary focus has always been to perform superior building envelope design for their clients and community. Over the years, the team has added additional services that round out the package of what their consultants can provide including full building energy analysis, weatherization design, window testing, air barrier design and testing, and infrared thermography.

BEE’s team is comprised of a group of licensed professional engineers, consultants, experienced construction inspectors, highly qualified fenestration and air barrier testing technicians and CAD drafters who have extensive experience in envelope details and materials specifications. Their team’s diverse backgrounds and connections abroad help them give a special insight to the international work and development practices.

As new members of HDC, the BEE Consulting team is excited to collaborate with other leaders in the sector on sustainable and affordable building. Their team is eager to provide insight and advise as much as possible. They look forward to giving back to the community through affordable and energy-efficient solutions.

BEE has already partnered with many fellow HDC members. BEE consulted on one project especially cherished to members and partners, the Filipino Community Village. Located in the Rainier Valley neighborhood of Seattle, Filipino Community Village provides affordable housing opportunities for households with seniors 55 and older. You can watch a recording of project partners discussing the incredible collaboration and project during our Affordable Housing Week event, Increasing Options for Aging in Place.

With BEE, the team is designing for more cost-effective and sustainable communities. They explore affordable solutions that can also reduce a building’s carbon footprint and energy costs. This is fundamental to their decision making and recommendations. BEE offers many services to meet each building envelope engineering needs, including a variety of services for new design, remediation, research, and forensics. They have a strict policy to provide accurate costs for all their services so developers can appropriately budget.

BEE has been sharing and advocating for a special promising practice for affordable housing: triple pane windows. Standard windows are single or double pane, but the extra glass can make units more energy efficient, comfortable, and durable. As with new double paned window installations, a seal between each pane makes the windows airtight and allows for improved insulation and can improve up to 20-30% on energy efficiency. Because of these insulating properties, triple pane windows can help regulate unit temperature at a comfortable level, reducing monthly energy bills.

While some sustainable building practices – like solar paneling – can be a very expensive investment, triple pane windows are particularly worthwhile considering windows can take up 30% of the wall. Triple pane windows are a durable, long-term investment as they last for 30-40 years. These can be utilized for large or small windows. Lastly, triple pane windows can help the overall comfort of a unit. Triple pane windows are more effective at keeping out sound, which is particularly beneficial in King County metropolitan areas.

As a steward of sustainable development, BEE Consulting is excited to be joining HDC and assisting fellow members in simple, eco-friendly improvements to projects. To learn more about this incredible team, visit their website or reach out to Telman Gasanov, BEE’s Principal & Energy Department Manager.

Welcome, BEE!

Harvard ManageMentor: Education, Commitment, Opportunity

Education. Commitment. Opportunity. According to our members, these keywords best encapsulate HDC’s Harvard ManageMentor program. We have officially closed our first year of the program and many teams and individuals across HDC membership took full advantage of the opportunity. Below is feedback we’ve collected about the program.

You can register for HMM Year 2 here. 

Year 1 Participant:

I was recently promoted into a junior leadership position, and Harvard ManageMentor seemed like a great way to start thinking of myself as a leader- instead of just an analyst.

Now that you’re in the program, what general factors have been especially important in sustaining high engagement? 

The goals I have set within the program, for use throughout the following weeks, have helped me to implement the new skills I’m learning and stay focused on adding what I’m learning to my daily routine.  I’ve also included the course as my main development goal for two consecutive annual performance evaluations which drive my wage increase and yearly bonus.

What specific courses have been the most interesting and relevant to you? 

I really learned a lot from Feedback and Coaching, as well as Meeting Management. I’m not comfortable being the center of attention, and it’s helped me to have some outside help in getting more comfortable in those areas – setting boundaries in a conversation, tackling difficult topics, and time management.

We often hear that “finding the time” is the biggest obstacle for adult learners with full-time jobs. How did you approached that time challenge?

For the first few months, I was training a new colleague and couldn’t find the time during my regular work schedule to fit it in. Starting in 2021, I was able to carve out a couple afternoons back to back each month to step away from the regular workspace and log in to the month’s session.  My manager has encouraged me to complete the work on company time whenever possible.

We also hear that it can be extremely helpful when participants have the chance to share what they’re learning with colleagues in their own workplaces. Have has your team found ways to do that?

The Coaching module gave me the idea to schedule a weekly conversation with my colleague, rather than wait for a fire that needs putting out to talk to each other. He joined the team last year and will be working separately from me and our manager even when we return to the office. I wanted to keep the lines of communication more open than they had been with my former colleagues, and build that relationship so that when I am promoted into a higher leadership position, we have the groundwork in place.

If you’ve already applied what you’re learning to a specific situation at work, can you briefly describe it?

I used the Delegating module to shift the dynamic between me and my colleague. He still had a tendency to come to me for answers that were easily found in our internal and external resources, so I started directing him back to those for the answers rather than just giving him the information. This has freed up more of my time and also empowered him to know where to go for answers on his own. He still comes to me if he doesn’t understand a policy or process, but now he knows where to start.

Anything else would you like to share with HDC, with other participants, and/or with future participants?

I really appreciate the opportunity to learn and grow using this program. When my manager approached me with the idea, it felt like a heavy lift, especially with the recent turnover on our team. But it has been a pleasure to hear all the anecdotes from diverse and interesting people in all kinds of different fields, and really helpful to watch the “Right and Wrong” videos acting out scenarios to show more useful ways to interact with one another.  I’m really pleased with the way this program has been put together, and I would recommend it to colleagues and friends who want to get more comfortable with seeing themselves as leaders.

Rafn Company on their experience with the program:

Finding a good external leadership training course is difficult and finding one with room for a Rafn cohort is really unique. The idea of a potentially ongoing source with a proven curriculum was too good to pass up. The structure could allow us to build a group of graduates over 3 – 5 years that would be really strong leaders. And the networking is a real plus.

Now that you’re in the program, what general factors have been especially important in sustaining high engagement? 

The structure that we put in place with internal meet-ups for our four participants has created real accountability amongst our team. Also having management interested and engaged with participants and seeing what they are learning. We think the café’s have strong potential if more people used them consistently.

How have the group café discussions been going? What has another café participant shared that has resonated with you or caused you to think differently about something?

The cafes help to keep people on track with the course work and are a good chance to network. Sharing would perhaps be more forthcoming if the cafes could meet in person. Sometimes sharing personal stories over Zoom with strangers is a bit more difficult. From our internal meetups, it was interesting to learn that a couple of our cohort did not previously view themselves as leaders, but the program has opened their perspectives..

We often hear that “finding the time” is the biggest obstacle for adult learners with full-time jobs. How did the Rafn team approached that time challenge? 

Despite the fact that we have encouraged our people to use their time at work to help get the homework done, they all report that uninterrupted time is key to learning and retaining the information. That has led most to doing the sessions from home. The plus is that it is super accessible and you can do the courses from anywhere.

We also hear that it can be extremely helpful when participants have the chance to share what they’re learning with colleagues in their own workplaces. Has Rafn found ways to do that? 

Our group of four participants meets once a month for an hour (via Zoom). They share what they are learning and what they are experiencing as they work through the course. We think that has really added value to the program for our team. Every one of our participants has expanded their leadership role within the company over the past year of the program, so the trickle down effect is in play at multiple levels on a daily basis.

Anything else would you like to share with HDC, with other participants, and/or with future participants?

Any technical staff would benefit from these courses. It is the kind of training that isn’t common in our industry. It really teaches how to better interact with others to get results and build camaraderie. Others suggest taking full advantage of the conversation cafes.