Co-creating Your Future WITH Your Community

October 11, 2023 | 
4 minute read

When you think of the process of coming up with a strategic plan, what comes to mind?  If you lean towards the traditional methods, it means hiring a consultant who takes the upper leadership into a room for a handful of sessions and comes out with a strategic plan for the organization to implement. 

You might send a survey to the staff for their “input”. You might send a survey to your community for their ideas and opinions. 

But it is often a process that is created by those highest up in an organization and brought to the rest of the staff AND the community at large to create buy-in after the fact.

Obviously, that is an oversimplified explanation, though it’s not far off from what typically goes down in a traditional strategic planning process. 

What if you could do strategic planning *differently* where you created buy-in through the process not after the process? 

People have energy towards what they get to create. And we believe that those who are most proximate to the work that you are doing need to have a direct voice in the process and they FEEL like they are part. 

That is why an approach that creates spaces for the “voices to hear the voices” across your organization AND across your community is so vital to the success of your strategic plan. 

Engaging your community

It can be incredible to dream up your new vision, mission, and values. But what about those that your work serves? What about their voices? How do you balance your vision with empathy towards those you partner with and serve in your community? 

In our co-creative strategic planning approach, one key ingredient we include is hosting a Community Workshop (sometimes two of them) where supporters, donors, beneficiaries, partners, volunteers, even sometimes your competitors, and any other key stakeholders that you feel might add a valuable voice to the future of your organization, come together.  

We walk them through a carefully curated and thoughtfully timed 90-minute workshop to gather their voices of what they LOVE about you, would LOVE TO SEE you possibly embark on in the future and any other valuable encouragement or insights that they think would edify you as an organization. 

This data is used to help guide towards a co-created, all-in-by-everyone strategic plan that you can grow with and learn into. Plus, you’ll feel a sense of peace & empowerment that you have asked and listened to the voices of your staff & community when building the path you will head down for the next many years as an organization. 

Having worked with dozens of organizations and their communities, the feedback those organizations get from their stakeholders for including them in the process of their organization’s strategic journey is inspiring! 

Here are some of the words community members have directly copy-and-paste shared in a survey about their experience with this co-creative approach to your future. 

As you’ll see, much of the feedback is about loving the space to hear the voices and wanting more time for that. 

  • List three words to describe your experience today: 
    • peaceful, informative, engaging
    • community, transparency, acceptance
    • community, engagement, inspiring
    • engaging, heartwarming, thought-provoking
    • efficient, inclusive, well-reasoned
    • informative, community supportive, inspiring
    • interactive, inclusive of the community
  • What did you LOVE about today’s workshop?
    • meeting and hearing from new voices
    • conversations and collaboration with other attendees
    • seeing and sharing ideas from participants’ work and experiences
    • the range of participants who reflect our  community
    • sharing ideas and opening up possibilities
  • What would you have LOVED TO SEE in today’s workshop? 
    • More time for these types of meetings.
    • I can’t think of anything. It was all wonderful, including the host who taught us that using music and other non-traditional meeting tools was very nice.
    • little more time, explore commonality of ideas, suggestions
    • More folks involved, deeper dive, maybe next time in person
    • More time in breakout rooms (there is never enough), more group sharing
  • Quotes from Participants:
    • “Beyond grateful to be part of this and hopeful for [the organizations] meaningfulness to the community.” 
    • “I loved the entire approach and experience.”
    • “This was such a great way to keep the community engaged!”
    • “Thanks for this chance to be with others who are passionate about supporting [this organization & the work they do].”
    • “Grateful I was able to be a part of this.”
    • “This was a great way to engage the community in a shared space.”

Also, take a look at this LinkedIn Post from one Community workshop we did with the United Way of Buffalo and Erie County.

That is just *some* of the positive feedback that organizations get from their community after our Community Workshops. They are a fantastic way to include all voices, build community, and better improve the connection between the organization & the community. Plus it offers invaluable insights for the organization on how to be the best resource to their community, which is a huge advantage for them moving into their new strategic future.  

Thank you to everyone who has donated to support THRIVERS – our community of small, community-based nonprofits. Your donations are having an impact. 

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