Building a Framework for a Lasting Peace I

The Lighthouse team contributed to the vision, and provided technical and logistical leadership, and support for the Building the Framework for a Lasting Peace Project at the American Friends Service Committee.

We refer to this as a Cross Organization Conversation.

This project used the Star Cafe, AFSC’s intranet to publish the current draft of the Framework; a Star Cafe sign up list to help organize participants; a series of Small Group video conferences to discuss the Framework and to gain insight and buy-in from the staff; and extracting and summarizing key points and recommendations to capture the major ideas and themes that came forward.

Throughout the project we worked closely with Mary Zerkel, Director of Praxis/ Economic Justice and Leader of the AFSC’s Wage Peace Program, and Peter Lems, Program Officer for Integration and Impact, to first envision the dynamics and then address the logistics or designing a practical project yielding tangible results.

This included both designing and formalizing a set of steps for holding effective Cross Organizational Conversations, and developing a facilitator training protocol, which has proved effective for preparing excellent facilitators for a wide range of projects, such as Google Hangouts On Air.

“Framework” was a broad success; drew praise from Shan Cretin, the General Secretary at the AFSC; and culminated in a fishbowl small group session at a Board Program Committee Meeting (Mary & Peter facilitating from Chicago) that helped energize the AFSC Board around the project. “Framework” was a major building block for a new Strategic Plan.  LTA’s leadership and work played a central and pivotal part in this success.

For more background on this Project, see this in our eJournal.


LTA staff have been ‘under the hood’ with SharePoint since 2006, both at the AFSC and the National Aquarium. We have developed insight and skills relating to the issues around Audience and Permissions – one key to a well-ordered SP site. We have helped to design, develop and/or implement the navigational structures – Top Links, Room Guides, Quick Launch, Room Navigation, and Audience Banners –  that provide users with easy to understand cues to get to their destination.

We have built forms with InfoPath and linked them to Lists and Calendars.

We have worked extensively with the Workflow feature in SharePoint, building Program Lists, Compliance Lists and Complex Process Dashboards.

We use PowerPivot for Excel and SharePoint to dynamically retrieve up-to-date data from multiple sources and display that data in both reports and graphical displays.

We also use Visio to provide easy to follow flowcharts for complex processes.

The National Aquarium in Baltimore

In the spring of 2013, Steve Rockwell, the CIO at the National Aquarium in Baltimore, signed on LTA for a SharePoint project.

The project was to create a Vendor Space, where vendors could enter daily gross receipts; and SharePoint could retrieve actual and projected/budgeted Attendance and Revenue numbers – and put it all into a single space where analysis can take place and trends can be tracked.

Our team worked closely with the management team at the Aquarium and deployed SharePoint Lists, an InfoPath Form, and PowerPivot to create a space where all of the relevant data comes together and a flexible set of graphs and reports can be generated and viewed.

Was fun to work with another world-class organization.

If you have never been, you really should! If you are passing by Baltimore, make it a point.

Be sure to check out the live cam of the Black Tip Reef Shark exhibit:

Fun, right?

The Meeting Support Calendar at the AFSC

The LTA Team designed and developed the Meeting Support Calendar at the AFSC. This brought all of the details related to each significant meeting into a single calendar and provides a Calendar View and an InfoPath Form that allows our team and AFSC staff to enter and track their meetings.

The MS Calendar has brought clarity to a process that had been difficult to manage. Meeting details tend to come in via email, Skype IMs, in the elevator and over the cubical wall …. Having a central place to record and track that stream has been helped to tame this process.

This platform has laid the foundation for other projects.

Building the Star Cafe – A SharePoint Project

Building the Star Cafe – A SharePoint Project

Star Cafe is the intranet for the American Friends Service Committee. Since 2007, members of the LTA team have worked side by side with the AFSC’s in-house team and have played key roles in design, implementation, roll out and support for the Star Cafe.

Follow this link for more about this project.

The Star Cafe is a SharePoint implementation.


Building a Framework for a Lasting Peace II

Building a Framework for a Lasting Peace

The idea of outlining the conditions necessary for Building a Framework for Lasting Peace and Justice had taken root at the AFSC and a group of staff came together in Chicago around the project. (We at Lighthouse still love good old-fashioned in- person meetings by the way. We just think that we have reached an era where they can used strategically,  judiciously, sparingly.)

That group generated the first draft of the Framework. The next step they envisioned was to solicit broad input from the AFSC community and to use that input to forge a final Framework that had buy-in across the organization and could be used to guide program work and the direction of new initiatives.

Mary Zerkel, Director of Praxis/ Economic Justice and Leader of the AFSC’s Wage Peace Program, and Peter Lems, Program Officer for Integration and Impact were charged with carrying the project forward. They knew they wanted to use some kind of small group video conferences and the Star Cafe, and they approached our team to hammer out the details.

We worked with them first to envision the dynamics and then the logistics. We addressed a wide range of issues that included:

  • Who should participate? All staff? Programs staff? (in the first phase, the focus was on the staff.)
  • How can we keep track of the sign-up process? of attendance?

Our team offered test-connects, so staff who were unfamiliar could experience the video technology prior to their meeting

How best to develop the content and flow of these sessions?

We opted to use the IT department for the first meeting and  a “family and friends” group for the second.

These sessions let Mary & Peter sharpen their skills as facilitators for this series of Framework sessions

How to capture “what we heard”?

Without this, the results could lack credibility and these sessions could come to be viewed as “feel good” work. We took notes during and recorded each session and LTA combed through these materials to extract the key themes that had emerged.

Out of these discussions came a design and an implementation plan.

Here is the Front Page of the intranet room developed for this project

Framework Page in the Star Cafe


Note the access to the current version of the Framework, the Background on the Project, the List of Staff who had attended the original meeting in Chicago (who could be resources for the rest of the staff who might have questions about the process, and the sign-up list.

Early on, it proved hard to schedule and bring together the sessions. We would offer Doodle Polls with available time slots, but the sign up proved sparse. We were working with busy people, busy calendars, and with lots of moving-target events in their work life.

We had a breakthrough when we switched to fixing two or three times a week for meetings and then committing to filling them. We would ask a friend who would ask a friend – and soon we had a string of well attended meetings. And people loved them.

Fitz from LTA shepherded and managed each of these small group video conference sessions.

Word spread and soon Mary & Peter were asked to bring the Board Programs Committee up to speed on the Framework project. Two hours were allotted for the session and  LTA suggested “Lets get them involved. Lets offer them a ‘fishbowl’ session right in the room in Philadelphia.” And we did. They loved it too. Members of the Committee shifted in and out of the fishbowl and had their say. Mary and Peter facilitated via video conference from Chicago.

Later Mary and Peter briefed the full Board, who reviewed and commented on the Framework draft too.

Kate from LTA took up the What We Heard task. She attended some meetings, listened to the recording of every one, and consolidated Mary’s and Peter’s in-session notes into her final executive summary and report.

Today the AFSC is indeed working to Build a Framework for a Lasting Peace and Justice.

Building a Compliance List in SharePoint

This is a project in continuous development and will carry on well into 2014. We are working closely with the International Programs (IP) leadership team at the AFSC to create the IP Compliance List in the Star Cafe.

This will allow involved staff to track, be alerted to, and manage compliance issues related to the AFSC’s work around the world. Compliance issues are numerous and include Country Registration and keeping staff visas up to date.

LTA has worked with that team to develop the details of the full set of compliance issues and Peter is working to develop the business processes and workflows that will record and track the steps, and send alerts to the appropriate staff when any compliance issue hits the radar.

IP views this as a pilot project that will be expanded to cover compliance issues across the AFSC.

Technologies – summary

The Lighthouse Team has expertise in a wide range of applications that foster collaboration, including:


The Wikipedia SharePoint article leads with this: “Microsoft SharePoint is a Web application platform developed by Microsoft. First launched in 2001,[3] SharePoint has historically been associated with intranetcontent management and document management, but recent versions have significantly broader capabilities.[4] It is the dominant software for creating organizational intranets with a recent survey indicating that around 50% of all intranets are developed using SharePoint.

You can read more here:

LTA supplements SharePoint with InfoPath, Workflows, PowerPivot, and a thorough understanding of the issues in audience and permissions to create innovative SharePoint solutions.


The WebEx tagline is: Connect with anyone, anywhere, any time

One of the beauties of WebEx is that you can join by PC, Mac, the WebEx Mobile App on your pad or smartphone, or by phone only. The LTA Meeting Support Services team works closely with our clients to determine where opportunities for deploying web conferencing lie; and in developing the skills that Presenters, Hosts and Attendees need to make those meetings effective.

We work with our clients to build a culture where virtual meeting complements face-to-face meeting in ways that enhance effectiveness and cohesion while reducing costs.

Google Hangouts On Air

When Google first released their Hangouts I looked askance at the name. But now I think they got it right, let the kids play and the grownups learn.

Now NASA uses the Hangout technology to connect us with space, how cool is that?

With up to 10 people in the conversation, the capacity for thousands of viewers, and the ability to archive the meeting on your YouTube channel – all that free of charge, Hangouts definitely have their sweet spot.

Also, definitely fits into the “looks easy” category.

Fitz worked closely with the American Friends Service Committee to create this:


Skype turned the world upside down back in 2003 with its free calls, instant messaging and web cam connections. At first it was the techies, then service men and women overseas, kids studying abroad, and now millions and millions of users worldwide.

Skype might not be central to your communication strategy, but you can’t live without it. We’re old hands and can help you find the fit.

Ready Talk

Audio conferencing is still foundational to meeting. We like the people at Ready Talk who provide a rock solid platform, attentive support, and a focus on the non-profit marketplace.

Also, we have worked with numerous audio conferencing platforms and know the in and outs. If you are already using a conference call vendor, we can work with yours


Reach out to LTA if you’d like to know more.

Building the Star Cafe II

 The Star Café – A Growing Success Story

Star Cafe is the intranet for the American Friends Service Committee.

Since 2007, members of the LTA team have worked side by side with the AFSC’s in-house team and have played key roles in design, implementation, roll out and support for the Star Cafe.

Year by year acceptance of the Star Cafe has been steadily rising among members of the AFSC community.  In 2012 the Star Cafe reached a tipping point and has become an integral part of the fabric of work life at the AFSC.

Mailing paper documents out to the Board has stopped. Instead, relevant documents are posted to the Star Cafe and Board Members have learned to access them and use them to prepare for and participate in meetings.

A central list of current Program Plans is now available in the Star Cafe. These link to supporting documents and can be linked to from other resources on the site.

A Compliance List, backed by well-defined business processes and work flows in under construction. This list will allow the management team to be alerted to compliance issues on the horizon and track the steps that need to be taken to fulfill the requirements. An example: country registration renewals for offices and programs around the world.

The Star Cafe has been central to the current Strategic Planning Process at the AFSC. The site has allowed both Staff and Board members to follow the process and comment at each stage. That Process is now quickly coming to a close and we have received extensive feedback from both groups that they both enjoyed the process and found it useful.

In short, the Star Cafe has revolutionized the way the AFSC carries out its work. And LTA has impacted the emergence of the Star Cafe. In many ways this project epitomizes the kinds of transformative partnerships we aim to build with our clients.


Staff members’ willingness to work within your Intranet and embrace the tools it can offer can promote cooperation and collaboration within your organization – and radically streamline the way you do business.

A critical aspect of your intranet in this respect is a user-friendly design tailored to the specific needs of your organization. Key design elements that  have emerged in the Star Cafe are:


Suites in the Star Cafe are dedicated to each of the major organizational units in the AFSC, including Governance. All of the rooms within a suite share the same Quick Launch (see below) and thus the same set of links to the major room and resources within that suite. This provides a consistent experience, for those working anywhere within the suite, and over time, a sense of familiarity.

Top Links

The top links provide easy access to the set of suites from each room in the Star Cafe:

Top Links - Star Cafe


Note: The Support link includes a drop down to each of the eight support units at the AFSC.

The top links are consistent across the Star Cafe.

Quick Launch

The Quick Launch in the Star Cafe is a band of links on the left-hand side of each page in the Star Cafe.

The Quick Launch in the Programs Suite is divided into Resources, Priority Activities, and Related Rooms. Related Rooms include the major departments or teams that make up Programs, e.g. the Africa Region, the Integration and Impact department, the Quaker United Nations Office.

Local or Room Navigation

As mentioned above, each room in the Star Cafe displays both the Top Links for the entire Star Cafe, and the Quick Launch for the particular Suite of which it is a part. For each individual room, an additional set of links provide clear navigation for the sub rooms, the resources within this room, and resources stored across the Star Cafe that are important to the team associated with the room.

We consistently include these as links in a band on the right hand side of each room.

The room navigation in the Program Planning Center currently looks like this:

Room Navigation - Program Planning Center






Statement of Work

For each room we ask the owner to provide a brief statement of their work. This allows the visitor to get a quick take on the room and to see if it matches their interests.

Team Members 

In each room we provide a list a link to a list of the primary team members who work in this room.

Audience Banner

At the top of the page in a given room we provide an Audience Banner that looks like this:

Audience Banner - Program Planning Cneter



This quickly orients visitors to the intended audience for this room, and lets them know who they can reach out to for more information.

Issues of Audience and Permissions

Permissions in your Intranet can be assigned to individuals, and to Permission Groups.

Individuals in your Intranet can be assigned to Permission Groups, which we work with you to create. For example, you can assign all members of your HR team to a group with specific permission levels, allowing them to view, access and share content relevant to their work, while also ensuring that potentially sensitive content is restricted from other audiences. Good examples are salary and healthcare records.

When an individual provides their credentials and signs in to your intranet, the system recognizes them and “knows” the full set of work groups to which this user belongs.

Permission Groups can then be assigned an appropriate level of access to every room and resource in your intranet.

Some rooms in your intranet may include sensitive information – or work in progress that is simply not intended for a general audience. But this will typically apply to only a small fraction of the rooms and resources in your intranet, some of which are  posted with the intention of sharing them with a broad audience.

One guideline that we have found extremely helpful is to think first, what harm will be done if someone enters this room or views this document. We can work with you to think through these decisions and create and maintain appropriate permission levels.

In general, we recommend a bias towards openness, matched with a keen vigilance where security is required.  To accommodate this openness in the Star Cafe we have created a broad permissions group titled the AFSC Family that allows us to open a room or resource to the staff, the Board, the committees and a handful of others. Members of this group can automatically access the bulk of the resources in the Star Cafe.

Permission levels for a room or resource can be very specific – for example a document library within a room that is only visible to a certain working group. We can work with you to adjust permission levels over time as your needs evolve.


The implementation of your intranet is a continuous process and entails an ongoing partnership between your work groups and the intranet development team.

At the AFSC the LTA Team has worked closely with both Programs Staff and the IT team to designed rooms and resources tailored to their needs and have worked to design and build many of these solutions.

We continuously work to make sure that Star Cafe follows and reflects the thinking of each work group about their work, their goals, and how they can best organize to accomplish those goals.

Here is a brief description of just of a few projects that should give you the flavor of the Implementation Process.

The Programs Suite

The AFSC has programs in eight regions around the US and the world plus the Quaker United Nations Office (QUNO) in Manhattan. In addition,  the Planning and Evaluation, Integration and Impact, and Public Policy and Advocacy teams support staff in the field in approaching their work in a thoughtful, effective and coordinated way.

This structure has developed over time and will undoubtedly continue to evolve. We  designed and built the Programs Quick Launch to match that structure and have maintained it over time to reflect and quickly orient the visitor to the way the Programs Department approaches its work.

The GPPG Room

A key work group within the Programs Department is the Global Programs Planning Group. Members of this group meet weekly and communicate continuously about the diverse work being done in programs work, new opportunities that are available, and threats that face that work.

The LTA Team worked with the GPPG Team through its formative stage, and continue to work with them to keep their Star Cafe Room streamlined, functional, and easy to use.

For example, the room includes a  Meetings Document Library dedicated to upcoming meetings, in which all of the resources that will be shared at that meeting are posted in advance and made available to the team. Many of these are working documents.

There is also a separate GPPG Document Library where the resources that emerge from meetings as final documents for circulation are posted and stored. These are grouped by major categories to make them easily accessible.

The Meeting Support Calendar

As the AFSC has matured into the opportunities offered by emerging technologies, the number of meetings held by the organization has multiplied – especially those including participants attending remotely from locations around the world. As this process unfolded requests and details about meetings were coming to the IT department through a variety of channels – over the cubicle wall, via colleagues passing in the hall, and increasingly, in Skype chats and over email. As the logistics of meetings themselves became more complex, details could be spread over a string of ten email messages. To streamline the process we worked with the Star Cafe Team to build a Meeting Support Calendar.

The Meeting Support Calendar provides a single place to store all of the details for each meeting, including not only time, date and physical location, but also what technologies and applications will be deployed – and is paired with an interactive Calendar View. We also designed and built an InfoPath form providing an easy way for staff to enter their meetings themselves and to keep attendees up to date on the details of the meeting as they emerge and any changes they should know about.

Building this resource and consolidating these details in a central place has made scheduling and tracking meetings straightforward.

Developing and Tracking Meeting Ready Offices | Meeting Ready Staff

As the AFSC continues to grow and expand, the organization is currently involved in a major initiative to get offices and staff Meeting Ready.

As part of this process the MSS Team has developed a strategy to make sure that offices and staff worldwide have the skills and resources they need to be meeting ready, and developed innovative ways to track the process.

We reached out to staff throughout the organization and have begun to receive a steady stream of updated information regarding the meeting ready status of offices and staff. Using SharePoint Lists and linking to the wealth of information on staff members and offices already available in the Star Café, we have created a central way to capture and collaborate around this information.

As a result we are well on the way towards moving beyond reacting to meeting ready barriers and problems as they arise, and instead addressing them proactively in a systemic way.

These initiatives are already taming the data around our meeting ready initiatives much like the Meeting Support Calendar tamed meetings and we are confident that they will play a similar substantial role in transforming possibilities for communication and collaboration both within the AFSC and with outside partners.

Orientation, Training & Support

We work continuously to improve Star Cafe skills across the organization. We develop and circulate documentation appropriate for various audiences, ranging from simple quick reference guides and tips for first time users to detailed user guides, using both traditional documents and video clips. We also offer small group and individual training sessions on how to improve Star Cafe skills, both on an as-needed basis and to keep users up to date on new features and resources as the Star Cafe develops.