Category Archives: Strategic Planning

How to Engage Diverse Stakeholders in your Planning

How to Engage Diverse Stakeholders BlogWhen creating a strategic plan or going through any organizational planning process, who do you engage in that process for feedback? In May, we discussed the 4 Steps of Strategic Planning. Step one is collaboration – Collaborate with key stakeholders to inform the strategic planning process and create buy-in and ownership in the plan.

Who to Engage

There are several different types of stakeholders to consider gathering feedback from during the strategic planning process. While it will vary depending on your organization and industry, there are some common stakeholders that we recommend including. They include the following key stakeholders:

  • Funders – current and past funders who know your organization as well as the industry to provide insight on what’s working well, what’s not working and possible changes to consider based on industry trends.
  • Staff – reach out to your staff at different levels of the organization and in different roles to gather their diverse feedback and perspective.
  • Board Members – some Board members will be engaged in the entire strategic process, while other Boards may only have a select committee or members engaged. Whatever the process, you will want to include all Board members in sharing the feedback in the strategic planning process.
  • Clients – past, current or potential clients who receive your services have a perspective that could be meaningful and inform in the strategic planning process.
  • Community Partners – reach out to other community agencies in your community who intersect with your work. Their perspective adds another layer of insight that could really help inform your planning process as you think about the future.

In the past 4 client strategic planning processes we implemented, we engaged the following different types of key stakeholders:

  • Client A – Government Agency: Direct Service Program Staff, Direct Service Program Managers, Local Community Partners, and Leadership and Advisory Committee.
  • Client B – Statewide Non-Profit: Staff, Funders, Key Community Partners.
  • Client C – Multi-Sector Community Group: Parents, Employers, and Key Community Partners.
  • Client D – Local Non-Profit: Public, Past and Current Client, School District and City, Staff, and Board Members.

Once the key stakeholders are identified, how do you gather their feedback? There are different tools and resources available to make the process efficient and effective. Of course, the use of the tools is dependent upon your budget, time and capacity. We offer a summary of our go-to stakeholder feedback tools and the advantages/ disadvantages of each one.

Stakeholder Feedback Tools

  • Focus Groups – Brings together a targeted group of people to gain insight on specific topics.

Pro: You can get more insightful information than from a survey, such as being able to ask follow-up questions.

Con: It can be more time consuming to hold focus groups from scheduling them, training the team to complete it, documenting the information during the focus group and transcribing/ synthesizing the information shared.

Tip: Find a targeted group that already meets to hold your focus group. For example, while creating a plan for the Wabash County Early Childhood Education Committee, we were seeking feedback from different parent groups. We were put on the agenda during a regular parent meeting at an early childhood education program, which allowed us to gather feedback to help inform the planning process. Similarly, we held focus groups of Healthy Families Indiana staff at the Institute for Strengthening Families where many were in attendance.

  • Surveys – Helps reach a wide audience using questions related to a specific topic to help gather feedback.

Pro: Surveys can be completed on the participant’s schedule, compared to a focus group or interview when everyone’s schedules need to align in order to get feedback.

Con: If the survey is anonymous, you cannot ask follow-up questions about a participant’s answer. It can also be a challenge to get people to participate in a survey. Offering an incentive will often help with this problem.

Tip: Find an organization who regularly seeks feedback from a target group. Ask to add your questions onto a survey they already send. When we were seeking feedback for the Wabash County Early Childhood Education Committee, we reached out to the local economic development group and chamber of commerce to assist us with getting employer feedback. We worked together to create an appropriate survey, and they sent it to their employer contact list. Also, take advantage of local social media and news outlets. It might be difficult to get personal contact information for some target stakeholders. Posting on social media with the survey criteria could help you reach a larger audience for feedback on your strategic plan.

  • Key Informant Interviews – Have a one-on-one interview with a specific person related to the planning process.

Pro: Allows you to have an in-depth conversation about a specific topic. It also engages someone who might not be apart of the regular planning process.

Con: It can be time consuming to schedule and hold these interviews, especially if you need to have more than one.

Tip: When you are deciding which key informants would be best to reach out to, consider people who have lived and learned from a similar cause to your own. You will be able to learn from their success and/or mistakes. It’s also helpful to reach out to key partners and decision makers who are not yet engaged. This will help you gain feedback while also informing them of the planning process.

Stakeholder feedback is useful when completing any planning process. By engaging your key stakeholders at the beginning of the planning process, you will not only have a more comprehensive plan in the end but will also create buy-in from the stakeholders when the new plan is unveiled. If you need assistance with your planning process, we would be happy to help! Contact Transform Consulting Group today!

Share this article:Share on FacebookShare on Google+Tweet about this on TwitterEmail this to someoneShare on LinkedIn

4 Steps to Form an Early Childhood Coalition

You may have heard the term “coalition” and wondered what does that mean.  A coalition is simply when a group of people gather to address an issue that is bigger than what one person or organization can solve on their own. In Indiana, about thirty communities (cities, counties and regions) have formed a coalition that is focused on early childhood education.  Two years ago, it was probably about 15-20 Indiana communities with an early childhood coalition.  What is happening in Indiana and other states that is causing communities to come together around early childhood education and why should your community consider forming an early childhood coalition if you haven’t yet?

Coalition Trend

The idea of forming a coalition to address an issue is not new or specific to the early childhood field.  Coalitions are well used in other sectors, such as economic development, workforce development, and education.  What is somewhat new is the idea that organizations need to work with otherorganizations and stakeholders, often some unusual partners, to make 18403781_704582429702521_8230617511511406933_oprogress and realize their outcomes.  We talked about this in a past blog article here.

Early childhood education is complex and multifaceted.  It affects so many other sector’s goals: health, education, workforce, economics, and criminal justice.  As communities have started to organize around one of these other issues, such as a desire to increase their talent pipeline they realize that early childhood education can be a solution to address their goal.

Other states who have expanded public investments in early childhood education have expanded through local community coalitions, such as Michigan’s Great Start Communities.  The local community coalitions know the needs and assets in the community as well as the community’s culture to develop a vision and plan for action that makes the most sense.

Indiana has a strong value of local decision-making, and most of the state’s work is implemented regionally or locally.  There are also some natural partners and resources available in most communities – Community Foundation, United Way agency, and/or Economic Development group) – who are already aligned to supporting this work.  These organizations can make great conveners in communities to get a coalition started.

As Indiana has worked to expand state funded pre-k through On My Way Pre-K, it has done so through county-wide expansion efforts and not just grants to individual early childhood education programs.  In 2015, five counties (Allen, Jackson, Lake, Marion and Vanderburgh) were designated On My Way Pre-K counties to receive state dollars to enroll low-income children in high quality pre-k.  In the most recent legislative session, an additional 15 counties (Bartholomew, DeKalb, Delaware, Elkhart, Floyd, Grant, Harrison, Howard, Kosciusko, Madison, Marshall, Monroe, St. Joseph, Tippecanoe and Vigo) were selected to be a part of the On My Way pre-k expansion effort.

A common thread in all of these selected On My Way Pre-K counties is that they have a coalition in place that is focused on early childhood education.  If your county has not been selected yet to participate in On My Way Pre-K, it might be time for your community to get ready for the next expansion opportunity.  

While we are working with state partners to build local capacity through the ELAC County Profiles, the Indiana Summit (discussed in this blog post) and a new ELAC Coalition Building Toolkit that will be released later this year, we also work locally with communities.  We recommend these steps for any community looking at forming a coalition, regardless of if the topic is early childhood education, workforce development or another issue area!
NEW TCG ABOUT US (with audio)_Page_06

  1. Collaborate

The first task is to identify the right people to address this compelling community issue and form your coalition.  In Wabash County, we formed an early childhood coalition that includes representatives from business, K12, health/mental health, criminal justice, philanthropy, higher education, local government, and early childhood
education.

  1. Assess

The second task is to make sure everyone is on the same page with their understanding of the community and issue area.  During this phase, your coalition should gather relevant key indicators from current community needs 18358873_704583986369032_6243592827544465858_oassessments and public data.  In addition, this is also the opportunity to gather feedback from a variety of key stakeholders relevant to the topic at hand through interviews, surveys, and focus groups.  During this step you will not only gather invaluable feedback but also start to build community will and buy in.  For the Wabash Early Childhood Coalition, we used the ELAC County Profiles and IYI Kids Count County Profile.  We also held focus groups with all types of parents, surveyed businesses and parents, and met individually with key stakeholders to collect their input on the current needs and strengths in the community.

  1. Facilitate Consensus

Too often community coalitions jump right into planning a project or initiative without thoughtfully completing the first steps above and having an intentional plan in place.  This step is critical to bring the coalition together in agreement about the focus of the coalition and its goals to accomplish. We suggest keeping the goals between 3-5, and they should be a combination of short-term “easy wins” that can be accomplished within the first year with minimal costs as well as some long-term goals that are broken out into specific action steps over time.  It is critical to have the short-term easy wins, so that the coalition builds credibility in the community that it is results focused and creates momentum.  It is also important to break down the steps needed to accomplish those big goals that will take more time and effort, so that they don’t get lost in being “too hard” or “not having enough money”.

  1. Create

Once your coalition has consensus on what it wants to do and an intentional plan in place, now it is time to put it in action.  Your coalition will need to determine who and how this plan will be implemented, which will include identifying a “backbone support” organization.  This might be one of the coalition members taking on the work and/or applying for funding to hire a staff person to implement.  During this phase, your coalition will want to build in some key outcomes that it is focused on tracking to be accountable for making progress on the issue on the identified.

When diverse stakeholders come together in agreement to address a common issue, transformational change can occur.  This is what gets us excited at Transform Consulting Group.  If your community would like assistance with a coalition, give us a call or send us a note.  We would love to learn more about what you are wanting to accomplish and how we might help!

Share this article:Share on FacebookShare on Google+Tweet about this on TwitterEmail this to someoneShare on LinkedIn

4 Steps of Strategic Planning

We have the privilege of working with a few organizations every year to help them create their “road map” or strategic plan for the next 3-5 years.  In the course of completing these strategic plans, we have developed a formula that guides the process following four key steps.

Our process graphic1. Collaborate

Good strategic plans are not created in isolation in a board room.  We work with you to identify all of the key stakeholders that we need to engage to inform the strategic planning process.  This will vary depending on your organization, but typically involves some of the following key stakeholders:

  • Staff at different levels of the organization
  • Board of Directors
  • Volunteers
  • Current and past funders and donors
  • Key community partners/ stakeholders in the community
  • Clients
  • Public

When we worked with HSE S.P.O.R.T.S. on their strategic plan, we wanted to get feedback from a broad group of stakeholders.  We surveyed the public to gauge their understanding and perception of the organization and received a large response rate.  We also met with some of their key community partners for strategic feedback and met with their staff.  Through these efforts, we received rich feedback to inform the strategic planning team and started to create some buy-in and ownership from the community.

2. Assess

This step of the strategic planning process is so important as it provides the necessary context of understanding your organization and environment.  During this phase, it is important to complete an internal and an external assessment.  The internal assessment includes an analysis of the organization by looking at financial statements, programming, and organizational structure.  You will want to look for trends, gaps and opportunities.  The external assessment may include collecting information about the industry and/or completing a needs assessment of your community or targeted audience.

When we worked with Early Learning Indiana on completing their strategic plan, they wanted their strategic planning team to have a good understanding of the environment in which they operate.  There was a significant amount of change in policies, programming and priorities in the early learning industry that had implications for their work in the future.  Therefore, it was important to understand that context in planning for the future.

When people think of strategic planning, they most often think of having a retreat to develop a strategic plan.  While a retreat can be a good time to complete a strategic plan, it is not necessary.  The main purpose of this step is for the strategic planning team to start to reach consensus about the future direction.  In order to support this next step, we often prepare a pre-read packet that summarizes all of the information collected in the first two steps.  Then the strategic planning team is equipped with the rich feedback from the stakeholders (Step 1) and understanding the context (Step 2).  

There are a variety of group activities that can be used to help the team process the information and begin to identify “what” we want to accomplish. Once the goals (or “what”) have been identified, then we begin to talk about the “how” we will accomplish the work or the strategies.  There are different tools and activities we use to help move through this work.  The main thing to remember is to prioritize and focus.

3. Facilitate

When people think of strategic planning, they most often think of having a retreat to develop a strategic plan.  While a retreat can be a good time to complete a strategic plan, it is not necessary.  The main purpose of this step is for the strategic planning team to start to reach consensus about the future direction.  In order to support this next step, we often prepare a pre-read packet that summarizes all of the information collected in the first two steps.  Then the strategic planning team is equipped with the rich feedback from the stakeholders (Step 1) and understanding the context (Step 2).

There are a variety of group activities used to help the team process the information and begin to identify “what” we want to accomplish. Once the goals (or “what”) have been identified, then we begin to talk about the “how” we will accomplish the work or the strategies.  There are different tools and activities we use to help move through this work.  The main thing to remember is to prioritize and focus.

4. Create

Now that a clear plan for the future has been reached, it is our job to make sense of all of the information and to package it in a meaningful way for the organization to implement.  We don’t believe in creating long strategic plan reports that sit on shelves.  We want our clients to use and review their strategic plan on a regular basis.  We recommend creating three strategic plan tools:

  1. “Pretty version” strategic plan – this is a one-page overview of your goals and top strategies.  This is a tool that can be shared externally with partners, funders and other key stakeholders as well as internally with staff.  It can live on your website and be part of your communication tools.
  2. Strategic plan report – this explains the full process of how the strategic plan was completed, the information collected (pre-read packet) and more detailed strategic plan report.  This is an internal document for staff use to reflect on the process and have access to all of the comprehensive information collected.
  3. Implementation plan – this tool helps unpack the strategic plan into actionable steps for staff, committees and the board.  It can sometimes be difficult for organizations to take what is written in the strategic plan and put it into action, often resulting in no action or change.  By creating this more detailed implementation plan there is a road map for how the organization will accomplish the goals identified over the next 3-5 years.

From the wise words in the childhood book and movie of Alice in Wonderland, we learned that if we don’t Alice & Wonderland Quote
know where we are going, any road could take us there.  However, it may not be the most effective or efficient path and the outcome could be different than we hoped.  Developing a strategic plan provides that road map for all organizations – nonprofits, businesses, schools and government agencies – to have clear focus of our goals and strategies to accomplish those goals. 

Completing a strategic plan can be a daunting or exhilarating process for some organizations.  We love to partner with organizations to help you think about the future and create a plan that will get you there.  You can find out more about our strategic planning services here.

Share this article:Share on FacebookShare on Google+Tweet about this on TwitterEmail this to someoneShare on LinkedIn

NAEYC’s New Strategic Direction

 

NAEYCEvery year, businesses make the dash to evaluate their strategic plans and refine goals. Nonprofits are no exception. The National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC) is leading the charge in creating a completely new and innovative Strategic Direction. These new changes were formed through utilizing the opinions of NAEYC members, leaders, staff and volunteers that were asked about NAEYC’s previous mission, vision, and goals.

The new Strategic Direction includes a new mission statement, a new vision statement, and a commitment to the core values. With five strategic priorities set (or strategic goals) the NAEYC is hoping to accomplish the following in 2015:

  • Children ages birth through eight have access to high-quality learning.
  • Early childhood education profession demonstrates excellence.
  • NAEYC is recognized as a highly credible, visible and valuable organization.
  • NAEYC is excellent in organizational health and vitality.
  • NAEYC cultivates leadership and demonstrates innovative strategies.

The new Strategic Direction will reinforce NAEYC’s commitment to their core beliefs and core values. By reinforcing commitment to their core beliefs and values, the NAEYC will reaffirm their vision that “all young children thrive and learn in a society dedicated to ensuring they reach their full potential.” A more in-detail look can be found by reading the Strategic Direction document and taking a look at the organization’s website.

Transform Consulting Group has helped many organizations refocus their strategic direction. As NAYEC is developing a new strategic plan, we can your organization do the same.


 

 

Share this article:Share on FacebookShare on Google+Tweet about this on TwitterEmail this to someoneShare on LinkedIn

Reconnecting Youth To Education And Employment Through Collective Impact

 

Aspen InstituteAccording to the Aspen Forum of Community Solutions, there are 6.7 million youth between the ages of 16 and 24 who are neither enrolled in school nor participating in the labor market. These “opportunity youth” have enormous potential to contribute to the national economy. However, the Forum acknowledges lack of youth engagement is complex social challenge that requires community collaboration to address.

In July of 2012, the Aspen Institute launched the Aspen Forum of Community Solutions which recently held its second annual meeting for the Opportunity Youth Incentive Fund. Grantees, strategic partners, funders, and guests gathered to share lessons and strategies on how to reconnect opportunity youth to education and employment through collective impact. Steve Patrick, The Forum’s Executive Director, spoke. “We are learning about the emerging strategies that work in reconnecting opportunity youth, and we are also working in partnership with many others across the field to create an adaptable playbook for other communities to look to for planning and inspiration.”

Since 2012, the Opportunity Youth Incentive Fund has provided awards to 21 communities in support of reconnecting opportunity youth through community collaboration. Collaborators include K-12 systems, community colleges and other postsecondary providers, municipal and state governments, national and local philanthropic organizations, nonprofits, and private sector leaders. Over the five-year course of the Fund, $13 million in grants will be awarded. The goal of the fund is two-fold:

  • To build strong evidence of success for utilizing a collective impact community collaboration strategy to achieve better outcomes in education and employment for opportunity youth.
  • To advocate for a collective impact and community collaboration strategy as an effective model for community change.

By investing in opportunity youth, the Aspen Forum of Community Solutions recognizes the ripple effect it will have on future generations. Through community collaboration, the Forum hopes to effectively remove any barriers and build education and employment pathways. The Opportunity Youth Incentive Fund is the first funding collaborative being developed and led by The Aspen Forum for Community Solutions.

Considering the development of a strategic plan for your organization? Transform Consulting Group can work with you to identify organizational goals and specific strategies to support the accomplishment of your mission. Contact us today for a free consultation!

 

 

Share this article:Share on FacebookShare on Google+Tweet about this on TwitterEmail this to someoneShare on LinkedIn

Strategic Planning Tips from Alice in Wonderland

alice in wonderlandIf you don’t know where you are going, how will you know when you get there? Do you remember the conversation that Alice in Wonderland had with the Cheshire Cat? Alice didn’t have a clear idea of where she was going or wanted to do. Alice asked the cat, “Would you tell me, please, which way I ought to walk from here?” The cat responded, “You’re sure to get somewhere if you walk long enough.” In an odd way the cat was giving wise counsel not only for Alice but for organizations and businesses. To have an impact and make a difference, you have to know where you are going. Then you have to follow a path that will take you where you want to go.

Here are three tips that Transform Consulting Group has to help you find your path and reach your destination:

1. Understand the Need – what is the need in your community that your organization is working to address? Is there a specific health problem or education issue?

2. Identify Your Commitment – what is the impact (or change) that your organization plans to make to address this need? Make sure to include a timeline with an end date (1 year, 3 years or 5 years).

3. Develop Your Path – what strategies or services will your organization implement to address the need and accomplish your goals?

4. Reevaluate – check in on your progress. Are you still on the path? Have you gotten closer to accomplishing your goals? Do you need to make any changes? Have the needs in your community changed?

Transform Consulting Group can help your organization identify trends and make recommendations to maximize the impact of your work. Contact us today and we’ll help you get there.

Share this article:Share on FacebookShare on Google+Tweet about this on TwitterEmail this to someoneShare on LinkedIn

Client Spotlight: United Way of Grant County Receives Strategic Planning Grant

 

United Way Grant County Logo

The United Way of Grant County in Marion, Indiana has been chosen to receive an Organizational Effectiveness Grant from the Indiana Youth Institute (IYI) and the Ball Brothers Foundation. The grant includes free strategic planning guidance, consulting, training and professional development services. The IYI Logo Consulting Partner 2011United Way impacts and improves lives through partnerships with 14 funded agencies that serve children, family and community in Grant County. The partnerships support 33 programs and initiatives to provide services across the county focused on health, education and financial stability. “I am honored that the United Way of Grant County has been chosen for this grant,” said Alicia Hazelwood, executive director of the agency. “It will help our local board move forward on implementation of our recent strategic plan. We hope that not only will this work make the United Way of Grant County stronger, but it will also help the efficiency and effectiveness of all our partners.”

The Indiana Youth Institute (IYI) promotes the healthy development of Indiana children and youth by serving the people, institutions and communities that impact their well-being. As part of the award, Transform Consulting Group was chosen by IYI to provide professional consulting on leadership, program and fund development to increase the effectiveness of the Grant County United Way’s programming. Transform Consulting Group will help United Way of Grant County develop metrics to evaluate its impact in the community, build the capacity of its board and create a resource development plan that focuses on diversification and increased revenue.

Transform Consulting Group can provide similar “one stop shop” services to other organizations looking to improve their effectiveness. Contact us today for a free consultation!

 

 

Share this article:Share on FacebookShare on Google+Tweet about this on TwitterEmail this to someoneShare on LinkedIn