Preparing for a New Era of Impact: A Message from Gil Preuss

Preparing for a New Era of Impact: A Message from Gil Preuss

Two weeks ago, our board approved a guiding strategic framework for 2019-2025. The plan stems directly from our 21st century mission to inspire, build, and sustain vibrant Jewish life in a changing world. We can and must create more meaningful and accessible ways for everyone to connect with each other and with Jewish wisdom, tradition, and values.

To achieve our goals, we focused on understanding the trends that are shaping our community, designing effective models of engagement that embrace these trends (what we call “intentional innovation”), and assessing our impact.

Indeed, innovation and impact are two sides of a strategic coin.

We want to think creatively to meet the evolving needs of our community, and look forward to developing, implementing, and taking to scale new approaches that address these needs. We have already begun this work by asking ourselves how we can best function as part of a larger ecosystem.

For so long, Jewish organizations have been eager to engage community members according to their own individual missions and organizational goals. Success was most readily defined by inputs—what programs were on offer within their four walls.

Today, we understand that we are better able to engage people in Jewish life when we ask how our work contributes to a larger ecosystem, one designed to support the Jewish journeys of all individuals. We also recognize that no single organization can serve the full needs of any individual or family.

Federation can be a leader in supporting this ecosystem. Whether it is engaging more  young Jews, expanding and deepening the opportunities to engage Jewishly in Northern Virginia, or offering accessible opportunities for adult Jewish learning, we are uniquely situated to support partnerships, spur innovation, and tackle shared goals in conjunction with all local Jewish organizations in pursuit of shared outcomes. We can help identify the gaps that exist and mobilize a wide range of partners in filling them.

Innovation, of course, is not the end goal. Rather, innovation should be in service of successful impact.

Earlier this week we announced that Shari Merrill is joining us as our first-ever Chief Impact Officer. Shari’s new role is a direct reflection of our commitment to keep evolving and holding ourselves accountable for real change. Shari will be applying her corporate and nonprofit experience as the leader of Federation’s programmatic strategy and, together with our partner organizations and communal leaders, will build the frameworks needed to guide our efforts and determine their effects towards our collective goals.

I know that Shari shares our sense of urgency and enthusiasm for making Federation’s vision for our community a reality.

At its best, Jewish life provides a vital sense of belonging (something currently slipping through society’s fingers), a purpose, a community of people, and a values-based perspective with which to view the world. It can be incredibly welcoming, empowering, and fulfilling. It can be modern, vibrant, and highly relevant.

The potential is there. Our task is to help make it so.

I hope you will engage with us as we collectively bring this strategic framework to life and achieve our greatest hopes and dreams for our community.

Shabbat Shalom,