Youth Advocate Programs, Inc (YAP) provide alternatives to out of home placement (such as detention, incarceration, group homes, residential facilities) and to community violence. The dual challenge of the pandemic and a changing workforce made it difficult for YAP to keep up with their current model. As a pay-for- service organization, they wanted to ensure they could remain financially stable for the years to come.
YAP sought a partner to help them engage their stakeholder community in strategic planning and development. The organization had its sights on a 3-5 year strategic plan to set them up for the future, but wanted help to create a neutral space for ideas to be heard — and challenged — while also grounding the work in metrics and data. We brought our human-centered design skills and eye to the future to align on YAP’s mission and strategy and co-design priorities and goals in the form of KPIs.
How We Did It
We tackled this effort in three phases. In the first, we combined qualitative interviews with a landscape analysis to give us a holistic understanding of the organization. Then we dove into what we do best — designing and facilitating workshops. We drew on our findings to complete a business model canvas from the perspective of YAP stakeholders ahead of the first workshop.
Then we gave the participants space to respond and react. This unlocked new perspectives, allowing them to see that YAP could change if they wanted it to. During the workshop, it became clear that the existing vision didn’t align with how YAP employees saw themselves. The term ‘mentoring,’ for example, appeared hundreds of times on YAP materials — but employees felt it didn’t accurately reflect the work they were doing.
After uncovering insights like that one, we brought together a diverse group of employees from the CEO down to direct service staff to share their perspectives and align on how YAP employees talk about themselves and their work. This helped senior leadership see that other stakeholders did not share their views for the organization and created space for them to collaboratively redefine YAP’s value proposition. These conversations guided how all of the participants engaged with the process moving forward.
Ensuring that everyone was on the same page regarding the mission and vision of YAP was the crux of this work. By using some of the workshop time focusing on norming and alignment, we could use subsequent workshops to actually co-design the strategic plan.
We didn’t just leave YAP with a strategic plan (although they got that too!). We also made sure to include a measurability component to ensure the sustainability of the strategic plan. Together, we developed KPIs that aligned with the strategies to assess its progress against its ambitions over time.
Through the process of creating the document, the participants also aligned and reached a consensus on their views for the future of the organization. By bringing together multiple stakeholders with diverse perspectives and creating space for them to share, they now feel empowered to have the conversations they need to over the coming years. They have shared, defined priorities and goals, and have a stronger internal culture to make them a reality.