How might we...
reflect on the work we’ve done and keep the voices of those we serve at the center of our work, services, and programs as we continue to grow and drive impact over the next five years?

A San Francisco-based child advocacy organization had recently completed a merger and was in the process of designing a new 3-5 year strategic plan for the combined organization. The organization knew it wanted to prioritize pathways toward healing and equity as they transformed their operations. Their goal was to reflect that prioritization in the strategic planning process and engage folks from the organization and the community.

The organization wanted the process and aims of the strategic plan to focus on advancing state, local, and national policy, and to center families, community, data, and research in that work. Perhaps more importantly, they wanted to clearly identify issues that they were best positioned to impact, creating a “north star” via the strategic plan that would guide them to prioritize the work they needed to do to create the change they hoped to see.

How we did it 

Like many strategic planning engagements, this work started with a qualitative research phase. We understood that the complex nature of the organization’s work would require paying particular attention to whom we engaged in this process.

We conducted a stakeholder analysis, which helped us identify key team members, community members, caregivers, and families, ensuring that we kept representation and inclusion in mind. By including their voices, the final result would more accurately reflect their needs.

From there, we wanted to continue to engage the community and create internal alignment within the organization as they navigated the merger. We hosted three town hall sessions that gave employees an opportunity to share their updates and challenges in real-time, using the information from those meetings as a research input and to inform the direction of the strategic plan. Participants throughout the process had a unique mix of lived and professional experiences, expertise, and backgrounds, ensuring that a variety of perspectives would be involved in molding the future vision of the organization.

To continue to center equity and inclusion in this work, we facilitated equity checks at major milestones in the process. We learned that some of the programs less effectively aligned with the organization’s values regarding race and equity than others. This inspired conversations around how to build better strategies to engender equity using the organization’s values as a guide post. Team members aligned on racial equity themes that included “co-design with communities” and “trailblazing” as clear opportunity areas where they hoped to grow.

The results
Using empathy and data to drive decision making

Together with the core strategic planning team we developed a strategy and measurements framework, including writing a new mission, vision, and tagline and co-designing a set of key performance indicators (KPIs) against which the team could hold itself accountable. This data would also be used to inform future decision making and communicate impact. We involved the board of directors throughout the process, which gave them more visibility into the ways that staff were creating real, transformational change.

Working in this way wasn’t just lip service — it was also a key step in facilitating alignment across the merged organization. This shared language created a shared understanding of the organization’s services and goals that was felt at every level of the organization.

The plan also helped team members define the path forward for the organization: evidence to redefine funding, marketing, and comms were all explicitly built into the plan.

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