Mindflower Studio facilitated a board and staff retreat for the Rosamond Gifford Zoo in Syracuse, New York, with the goal of uniting to become "one zoo." Members from the Board of Directors, nonprofit staff, and county staff met to connect and further cultivate the vision for the Zoo's future.

Prior to facilitating the board and staff retreat, Mindflower worked with Friends of The Rosamond Gifford Zoo Executive Director and County Zoo Director, Carrie Large and Ted Fox, to craft a unified Visual Vision. The Visual Vision showcases Carrie and Ted's vision for the Zoo and provided a foundation for board and staff members to provide feedback, new ideas, and fresh perspectives as they all work together to drive the organization forward.

Then, in June 2021 Mindflower traveled to the beautiful city of Syracuse, New York to spend the day facilitating the "One Zoo" board and staff retreat. Working with such a high-quality, accredited, and professional zoo was a blast. We wove an animal theme throughout the whole retreat from the gift bags to the warm ups, team breakouts, metaphors (we talked about "the elephant in the room"), and activities. Our lunch was even catered by the fabulous Zoo catering team and showcased the favorite food of some of the animals and people alike. Of course, we also had a few animals join the retreat at points.

More than just bringing in an animal theme for the activities of the day, we used the visual vision to truly draw out and refine the next steps for the organization. We talked about the challenges, discussed the inevitable effects of the pandemic, and made plans for  community engagement, diversity initiatives, and educational opportunities.

Click to learn more about the Friends of the Rosamond Gifford Zoo.

Heidi Holtz

Board Member
Friends of the Rosamond Gifford Zoo

This was not only our first board retreat in a very long time, it was the first time many of us were all together after COVID. As a board we'd endured a lot of change that started late in 2019: a longtime ED retired rather abruptly, staff morale was low, we brought in an interim - and then COVID. Our new executive director Carrie Large started in the fall of 2021, and almost immediately she and I began thinking about this retreat.

We found the perfect facilitator in Abby Wilkymacky. First and foremost was the time she put into everything even before the retreat itself: planning and guiding, listening to our concerns and expectations, and supporting Carrie and our Zoo director to find their combined voice and vision. We also knew that we didn't want just any old facilitated retreat - we needed to bump up our creativity, we needed to find the fun in our work and we needed to energize staff and board. Utilizing the visual facilitation that Abby does so well was key to all of this. I'm a facilitator, and pride myself on boosting creativity. I learned so much from Abby on this day - ideas I immediately started "borrowing." The images she drew of our new Zoo vision have stayed with all of us, and the connections we made between staff and board continue to grow. Abby's wisdom, charm and thoughtfulness took a regular old board retreat to a new level!

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