With more capacity to tackle bigger projects, the youth programs staff and Executive Director Emily Gage were eager to take our youth programs to the next level. The central question was “What comes after Earn-a-Bike?”
And that’s where Alex Suchman, founder of AIS Collaborations, came in. Emily found out about AIS at the Chamber’s Community Action Committee meeting. “The Chamber is really intentional about bringing together local businesses and nonprofits to support one another,” Emily said, “I heard Alex talking about her work at the other end of the table and thought, ‘Hey! You can help us!’”
With Alex’s background working in public policy and with local nonprofits, she had a unique perspective on how to maximize the impact of our work. “I’ve always been attracted to the nonprofit sphere because of the creative, service-driven approach to making a difference,” Alex said.
When Alex came to Phoenix Bikes for her first meeting with Raymond, Emily, and Natalie, she wanted to grasp everyone’s visions for the upcoming year. “You can only get so far when ideas are just in people’s heads,” she said. “You need to get everyone on the same page and to understand goals in the same language.” She moderated a brainstorming session to coax out the thoughts everyone had about growth opportunities for the future.
After a couple hours, the team was encouraged to discover that they shared a common vision about the way forward. Alex was an expert facilitator, drawing those ideas out, getting them on paper, and helping to translate them into a plan of action. During that process of question asking and answering, the Pathways project was born.
When youth finish Earn-A-Bike, they now have several clearly defined “pathways” to follow for deeper learning: building professional-level skills in Advanced Mechanics, joining our junior racing team to improve their cycling skills and teamwork, and investing in our local community through specific leadership and service opportunities. Each of these programs now has a defined checklist of activities that makes it clear how students can build skills and progress to the next level. We’re thrilled to have clearer objectives of success--for us and for our students--and we owe it to Alex for helping us get here.
“We met 3-4 times and it’s made a huge impact,” said Alex. “It’s so great to see the work in action. Whether it’s sports, bikes, or art it’s so important for young people to have a place in the world where they can learn, thrive, and be recognized. For some kids it’s going to be bikes that help them change the world.”
Now that we’re working behind the scenes due to COVID-19, the approach to work that we learned with Alex is more important than ever for keeping our momentum going. We’re developing new ways to keep youth engaged during social distancing, from staying in touch on social media to organizing virtual rides and workshops, and we’re using the skills we learned with Alex to prioritize and keep projects on track.
We are so grateful to have had AIS Collaborations expertise as a catalyst for putting ideas into action at Phoenix Bikes. Through May 15, Alex is offering free assistance to small organizations to solve problems relating to the COVID-19 outbreak. Get in touch with Alex here.