Evolving Plans

On December 16, 2013, I embarked on a planning exercise for Strong Roots Consulting, specifically in the areas of mission/vision/goals, business practices, and activities for the year ahead. Today marks the one-month point of that process, and with it an update.

If I had followed the traditional New Year’s approach, I should have spent the past couple of weeks thinking about what I want to accomplish with Strong Roots Consulting in 2014. Instead, my mind has been on the bigger picture: what is my vision of success, and what is the mission that Strong Roots is working to follow? The former is by its nature more blue-sky thinking – abstract and long term – while the latter starts bringing the ideals back to earth. I think I found a good balance:

Vision: Changemakers – including individuals, community groups, non-profit organizations, charities, social enterprises, and social-purpose businesses – have the resources, knowledge, skills, and courage to work together and better our world.

Mission: Build the capacity of the for-impact sector to create positive change in our communities through developmental, empowering, and participatory approaches to research, evaluation, and planning.

Now, these are draft statements, so if you have any feedback (positive or negative), I would love to hear them in the comments below, via social media, or more traditional channels. In particular, I would like to know whether “for-impact sector” is understandable. Unfortunately I can’t remember where I first heard this term (perhaps at the Social Enterprise World Forum?), but the idea behind it has been a powerful influence on me: rather than defining people and organizations by what they are not (not-for-profit or non-governmental), the focus is instead on what they are doing, namely making a difference in our world. The term is also more inclusive, as it can include social entrepreneurs and social-purpose businesses that blend for-profit methods with social and environmental aims.

Clear as mud? Too apt to cause confusion? Let me know!

Cue the “Under Construction” GIF

There are always lessons in the journey, and two in particular came up this past month:

  1. This kind of planning is not quick – or easy. I would like to say that I followed some clear-cut process for developing these statements, but the truth is that I spent a lot of time reflecting, writing, and whiteboard sketching to get to where I am now. For organizations with more than one person involved, additional time and resources would be needed to engage staff, leadership, and stakeholders in the process.
  2. Reflection – and adjusting in response – is key. These ideas didn’t spring out of nothing: going through notes and journals, I can trace a line of thought going back several months (if not longer). For example, this past fall I put in a number of hours drafting up a long-form blog post that ended up being consigned to a dusty corner of my laptop, but the essential ideas from that draft have been extremely helpful this past month in moving me forward. Even now I’m not 100% sure that the ideas presented above will be the final versions: I’ll be field-testing them in conversations, reflecting further, and likely changing in response.

The Next Month

I’m still working on coming up with goals that strike the right balance between immediate-future, concrete-abstract, and achievable-aspirational. In writing up this blog post, I came to realize that my vision sets out some of the longer-term ideas, while an annual review and planning process would help generate specific objectives within the timespan of a year or two. From that insight, my organizational goals would find a home between those two poles with outcomes that can demonstrate some progress over a 5-10 year framework.

Another consideration is whether to declare an explicit set of values for Strong Roots. Through my participation in the Leadership Saskatoon professional development program, I recently attended Robin Mueller‘s excellent session on personal and organization values – revisiting my notes from that event is definitely on my to-do list!

Examining business elements has been on the backburner so far, as this first half of January has kept me hopping. With the vision and mission in place to help guide my thoughts (and goals coming soon!), I’ll be reviewing and reflecting on aspects such as the role of this website, my use of social media, space arrangements, and my membership in various professional orgs.

All in all, I’m happy with my progress so far in this planning. Watch for my next update on or before February 16th!