Nonprofit Network Blog

Power of the Paraphrase

Tuesday, June 18, 2019 2:53 PM | Tracey Wilson (Administrator)

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While recently attending Adaptive Schools Foundation training whose goal is to “develop the collective identity and capacity of organization members as collaborators and inquirers and leaders,” I experienced déjà vu.

Our facilitator, Carolyn McKanders, was excellent; thoughtful, interesting and chock full of facilitation strategies.  The audience was mainly teachers and school administrators and then there was me, a part-time capacity building consultant whose role is to help nonprofit Executive Directors and Board Members be more effective.

Navigating four days of training, what came to my mind was that this was a variation, aimed at groups instead of individuals, of the empathy skills training I learned and later taught oh so many years ago (dare I say 40…) at Gryphon Place, a fabulous crisis intervention center in Kalamazoo Michigan.  I say fabulous because I believe it saved my life and provided tools and skills which my husband and I called upon frequently while raising two beautiful children.  But that’s another story…Suffice it to say that Gryphon Place will always have a special place in my heart.

The Adaptive Schools “Seven Norms of Collaborative Work” banner hangs in the Nonprofit Network conference room and lays out the steps to successful collaborative work:  Pausing; Paraphrasing; Posing Questions; Putting Ideas on the Table; Providing Data; Paying Attention to Self and Others; Presuming Positive Intentions.  

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Our Executive Director, Regina Pinney, lauds McKanders and Adaptive Schools as being “life changing.”  Travel back 40 years and Gryphon Place was my life changer…So, what powerful life changing skills training do the Adaptive Schools and Gryphon Place models have in common?  Drum roll please…PARAPHRASING!  McKanders’ explanation is that a significant role of the brain’s function is to keep us safe and a major part of safety is assuring our brain that we are being heard, validated and understood (my contribution).  Pretty basic stuff but, WOW, life changing indeed.

In addition to a myriad of resources we, at Nonprofit Network, utilize these and other Adaptive Schools strategies when facilitating, coaching and teaching to assist our clients become better Executive Directors and Board Members.

So, what’s your takeaway and how can Gryphon Place and Adaptive Schools models help you in your professional and personal life?  The answer is simple.  Whether interacting with colleagues, volunteers, board members or your spouse or children, use this pattern:  Listen, Paraphrase, Ask Questions, Discuss Ideas, Provide Information, Pay Attention to yourself and Others, and Assume Positive Intentions.

For more information check out volunteer opportunities, crisis intervention and other services at or to learn more about Adaptive Schools training opportunities and other resources visit

Sharon Castle Bio picture

Sharon Castle

Capacity Builder

Nonprofit Network

2800 Springport Rd.
Jackson, MI 49202
Phone: (517) 796-4750

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