Story of Impact: Reinforcing Culture While Scaling Rapidly with Thread
August 1, 2018
In 2004, Sarah and Ryan Hemminger founded Thread, a Baltimore nonprofit that works with underperforming high school students who face significant barriers outside of the classroom. Each participating student is provided access to community resources and connected to a group of committed volunteers. From packing lunches to giving rides to school, volunteers help improve the odds for students by interrupting the cycle of poverty, crime, and lack of education.
Sarah came to the Future Cities Accelerator with a four-year strategic plan for rapid growth. Now, they needed to build out the operational plan that simultaneously reinforced their culture. As Sarah says, “Our culture is the thing that is hardest to actually scale — and the thing that is most critical to scale.”
They didn’t have anyone on staff who had taken a nonprofit on the journey that they had ahead of them, and they quickly realized their greatest challenge was blind spots.
“At that time, I had a lot of inclinations that there were a couple of things that weren’t quite right, and if we pressed go on the strategic plan without fixing them, then it could be catastrophic. I couldn’t articulate what the problems were. All I could articulate was what some of the symptoms were.”
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