Set the Stage for Planning with Compelling Questions

ConversationWhen preparing to plan, what are the most important questions to answer, to set the stage for successful and impactful planning? The experts in Creating the Future’s Facebook group for consultants to community benefit organizations have a wealth of experience in this type of work, so we asked for them to share their wisdom on this topic.

The conversation among the consultants was robust and thought-provoking. Their ideas fell into three key areas:

Foundational – The vision, mission, and values that shape the organization’s work

  • Do we understand our Mission? Are we 100% committed to it (i.e., are the board and staff giving)?
  • What principles do we hold so sacred that no incentive would cause us to plan in a way that would contravene those ideals? And, how can we hold fast to those principles when it might seem expeditious to turn the other way?
  • Why are we doing this? Why now?
  • What are the assets (e.g., team members, building, people we serve, neighborhood) we can engage to achieve our mission?
  • What infrastructure will be needed to implement whatever comes out of the plan? What internal conditions must we have in place, to be able to guarantee we can accomplish whatever comes out of this plan?
  • Have we clearly articulated the ethical values that underpin our work? Are they consistent with the values we want to see in the amazing community we are trying to create, and with how we operate internally? How do we express these values to our key stakeholders?
  • Who else needs to be involved in making the vision come true? Have we involved them sufficiently in developing the vision?

Aspirational – The dreams and big ideas that will create the highest potential for the organization and community

  • What will having a plan make possible for the organization, for us – as leaders, and for the community?
  • How is planning a community engagement opportunity for us?
  • What do we hope to learn as result of the planning process?
  • Are we willing to really evaluate existing programs and processes and let go of them if they don’t support our mission/vision?

Procedural – The “nuts and bolts” of organizing and facilitating the planning process

  • What conditions need to be in place – participants, timeframe, meeting times and locations, facilitator(s) – in order for the planning process to achieve its highest potential?
  • How could we make it an ongoing part of our organization, rather than something that is episodic? What would be different about an organization that never needed to stop and plan? What would we do differently? How would that feel? If we would like that, how could this planning process position us to be in that place?

Using these suggestions as a guide, your organization can develop a list of questions you believe will be most important for your own planning preparation. Through such questioning, the stage can be set for developing a plan that will truly move both your organization and your community forward in exciting and innovative ways!

Creating the Future would like to thank the following individuals for being a part of the conversation and contributing to this blog: Susan Detwiler, Dan Duncan, Jane Garthson, Hildy Gottlieb, Pauline Urbano Hechler, Patrick Jinks, Andrea John-Smith, Rhonda Lorch, Alison Rapping, and Justin Pollock.

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