Tuesday, August 21, 2007

hiding on the staircase

last night, my good friend proffered the notion that blogs (and video games, and creating a persona, for that matter) offer a person a sense of achievement - even if nobody reads their blog (and they are well aware of this likelihood whilst typing away), or if they never win the video game, or if their persona is annoying/inconspicuous

[let us here put aside the brief follow up conversation we'd about subprime lending, hedge funds, tightening credit, The Rebel, Ghost Wars, the connections between jacobins-decembrists-other revolutionaries and osama bin laden, smart people, and BBQ]



Last week, at our Weekly Classroom Training, we began planning the next few month's training topics, because we'd pretty much come to the end of the February planning we'd done in-house, as well as with Technical Assistance for Community Services, Black United Fund, Mercy Corps, and the Rebuilding Center.

The Crew is particularly interested in our marketing; that is, how do we develop new customers. So, they've asked for trainings which describe our different customer bases, and from that discuss how we access and build relationships in those areas. Yesterday, the Board felt it was time to have this conversation again at the Board level, particularly as we add new Board members from the community and from private businesses. So, good news for you, a brief "who does Verde sell services to?" rundown, at least for the next couple of years:

  • Environmental Groups and Agencies. The Portland Region is home to many nonprofit groups and government agencies concerned with stormwater management, wetland restoration, invasives removal, and streamside revegetation. In the aggregate, these groups spend significant money annually. For environmental groups, our goal is to be their contractor of choice whenever they pay money for native plant installation or invasives removal. For government agencies, we want to be competitive (skill-wise, cost-wise) with other contractors active in government contracting opportunities.
  • Affordable Housing Providers. Similarly, many Portland area nonprofit groups plan and construct affordable housing. Some of these nonprofits are focused on specific demographic groups, like Hacienda CDC or Low Income Housing by Native Americans in Portland Oregon, and some are focused on specific geographic areas like Peninsula CDC or ROSE CDC. In the aggregate, their individual efforts result in new affordable housing construction, construction which requires landscape installation. We want to be their contractor of choice.

wasn't that fun?

bye bye bye bye

Tuesday, August 14, 2007


Happy tuesday...

(a scandalous lack of capitalization, certainly)

What now, just what are we doing here (where there's nothing to do)?

Another week, another thing we're trying to do, in our relentless and dreamlike quest to check as many boxes as we can. This week, civic engagement/community organizing/empowerment - nothing new there

well, maybe a little new, because this community, these mostly low-income, mostly latino are like their brothers and sisters in other Portland neighborhoods, and other neighborhoods in other USA cities; when we dole out the environmental goodies, they don't get 'em. they don't get the clean air, the clean water, the uncontaminated land, the environmental jobs.

many times and too often, environmental engagement happens because these communities want to stop the bad stuff - the landfill, the lead, the mold, the bus depot, the brownfield.

For us, it starts with bringing environmental assets (jobs, projects) to these communities. Last year, we built 3 stormwater management projects on Hacienda CDC properties, training opportunities for Nursery employees, and an outreach and education opportunity for residents, especially children.
now, we're returning, using the installations as the basis for an 8 hour watershed curriculum for participants in Hacienda CDC's Expresiones program, an after school program for middle school students. we'll also upgrade the installations themselves, and - like last time/above - Expresiones students will help with the installations.

So, on monday, we met with folks from Hacienda CDC, from the Columbia Slough Watershed Council, SOLV, and the City of Portland's Clean Rivers Education program to start designing the curriculum, the next step in our goal to bring culturally appropriate, accessible environmental education and other benefits to Hacienda CDC residents and other disadvantaged communities.

we're very excited...

Tuesday, August 7, 2007

go thank yourself for nothing


First, more fun with media, a nice story in El Hispanic News about the Nursery and our various goings on...

Second, last week saw us take a significant step toward one of the Nursery's key commitments, revenue sharing for Nursery Crew Members.

At our August 1, 2007 Weekly Classroom Training, funded by a grant from the City of Portland's Community Initiatives Program, Crew Members:

1. Discussed our earned income goals for FY 2007-08. The Nursery's budget anticipates we will sell 60% of our labor hours, resulting in $229,000 in fee revenue from a crew of 5 full time employees.

2. We then set a higher, internal goal: sell 75% of our labor hours. This would result in additional earned income. The questions then became how to track progress toward this goal, and what to do with this additional earned income.

3. Crew members will use our Job Site Visit Forms to track hours sold per day, turn in those forms every Thursday, and enter these numbers into a spreadsheet.

4. Each quarter, we will review these totals. If we have sold 75% or more of our available labor, we will have the opportunity to distribute this additional earned income (the difference btw 60% labor hours sold and 75% labor hours sold)

5. Crew members identified the following uses for additional earned income, allocating a percentage of additional earned income to each:
  • Bonuses (50%). These can be used for any purpose, with several crew members expressing an interest in using the money to provide health insurance for dependents, or for investment purposes. Future trainings will present more information on these options.
  • Operating Reserve (30%). This is especially exciting, because it demonstrates the crew's ongoing transition from thinking like a worker to thinking like an owner. Most of our folk have spent their lives working for someone else, in the worst cases being used up and spit out in an exploitative situation. Here, they have power, and they're starting to think about how to use it not just for themselves as individuals, but also for the good of the enterprise and the community.
  • Field Training (10%). Sometimes, Prolandscape (or some other landscape contractor partner) offers us a training opportunity, like the chance to work with them on an irrigation installation or a bioswale project. They're willing to supervise Nursery Crew Members, but need Verde to pay Crew Member salaries.
  • Donated Services (10%). Crew Members suggested we could use additional earned income as a way to donate Nursery services to an environmental project, like a restoration project prioritized by the Columbia Slough Watershed Council or some other organizational partner.
Exciting stuff 4-sho, 4-sho: