Watching the earth come to life again in the spring reminds us of the sense of renewal this season brings and emboldens us as we face the future. In the social sector, spring kicks off a new season as well – one of strategic planning. Like new growth, strategic plans require bold action. They are not intended to address our everyday challenges, but rather serve as a giant leap forward to solve our most complex issues.
This spring, we are taking to heart the words of Teddy Roosevelt about “daring greatly,” asking ourselves: are we daring greatly enough? Daring greatly is easier to do as an individual, because if he or she fails, that failure is owned by one person only. Daring greatly in the social sector is more difficult. If we fail, we are failing others and, in many cases, those most at risk. Are we taking the risks that will lead to the ideas and impact that will solve social problems? We’d love your opinion on this point, but in the meantime, we thought we’d suggest some bold goals to set us on the path of daring greatly. If some of these are already on your list, we have also included links to past blogs to help get you started.
- We will be a data-driven culture.
We will not only collect data, but we will use it to drive continuous improvement. We will inspire a culture that uses data as place to start and weighs it before making decisions.
- We will not chase money, but chase our mission.
We are the best at what we do and will strive to be the community expert by improving and sharing what we’ve learned. Instead of chasing money outside of what we do best, we will chase partners who can help us do more.
- We will co-design with the community and those we serve.
We must constantly seek feedback on the challenges facing those we serve and work together to overcome them. Asking for input on our design is not enough; we must co-design solutions that are strength-based and community-driven.
- We will stop being nice and start being real.
We must realize when our propensity to be nice is getting in the way of driving real, community change. We need to have honest conversations about what is needed to drive results.
- We will be advocates.
Many of our clients do not have a voice, so we need to engage in advocacy and lobbying to ensure that their voice is heard. If we want government to listen, we must speak loud, regularly, and consistently as a sector and have well formulated solutions ready.
- We will resist the temptation of reinventing the wheel and focus on scaling what works.
Is it better to struggle to develop one new program or magnify impact by scaling a research-based program to five different places? We must be disciplined as we evaluate which measures will generate the greatest impact.
- We will acknowledge and leverage coopetition.
We compete for money, resources, media attention and volunteers. Yet, we all share a vision for a better community. We need to have honest conversations about overlaps, gaps and areas of opportunity where we can all be successful.
- We will judge our meetings by their results.
We do not have infinite capacity, and meetings take time and energy. We need to ask whether the reason for meeting is still relevant or important enough to continue. In those meetings that are important, we must follow best practices.
- We will seek alignment on outcomes and expectations.
Before we start anything, we need to have the end in mind. We need to ask those involved and agree upon – what is success? What is expected? What does the final product look like?
- We will get comfortable with failure.
We need to fail early and often to find the best solutions. We will be honest with our failures and create a culture that values success as well as failure.
By evaluating all we do with fresh eyes, we can simplify and streamline our processes while making a greater impact on our communities. We hope these goals will give you some ideas about areas to focus on in your strategic planning sessions, and we look forward to hearing whether you feel we as a sector are daring greatly.