Joanne Benard, Director of Sudbury Catholic District School Board, recently used four questions to paint a clear picture of both where the district is now, and a clear direction in which the district should be headed.
- What are some things we can do to improve our schools or School Board?
- What are some things you appreciate about our schools or School Board?
- What are some new opportunities you would like our students to be able to experience?
- Please share anything else you would like to add about our schools or School Board.
What business and/or personal value did it create?
Through this exchange we were able to generate input from a large number of our stakeholders. During the Star phase, participants were shown their own thoughts surrounded by the thoughts of other stakeholders, and were asked to assign stars to show which thoughts they valued, and how much value they placed on those thoughts. By considering the perspective of a diverse range of stakeholders, participants learned from each other, and potentially shifted their priorities. This process allowed the most valuable thoughts and not the most common thoughts to surface. We then followed up with a Community Consultation face to face process which brought together about 100 participants representing all of the stakeholder groups. Participants reviewed the data gathered through the online exchange and re-examined the board’s mission, vision and values and helped to develop the Board’s strategic pathways for the next five years. This exchange was the foundation for the completion of the Board’s multi-year plan and helped to inform our re-branding strategy. It resulted in a revised mission statement, new vision statement, value statements, as well as three strategic pathways.
Key progress achieved: All stakeholders including students, staff and community partners were invited to participate in the exchange. Inviting input from all stakeholders ensured that our mission, vision, values and strategic priorities reflected our population and created an ownership that would not otherwise have been achieved. It brought the process of multi-year strategic planning from the input of a select few which was a traditional approach to truly reflecting the whole organization. Our stakeholders see themselves in the vision, mission, values and priorities.
We have also been able to utilize the feedback to move the organization forward. By building on our strengths and addressing the needs as shared in the exchange we are much better able to plan effectively as we are directly addressing the needs of our stakeholders.
What advice do you have for other people asking this question?
I encourage those who are engaging in a multi-year planning session to consider a large scale exchange to gather greater input into the process such as Thoughtexchange. Thoughtexchange was easy to use and did provide us with the information we required for effective multi-year strategic planning.
It is important to communicate the process with stakeholders, including key partners such as Unions and employee groups, well in advance of the exchange and to seek input as to the best timing for the exchange. This will encourage greater response rates which is key to a successful exchange.
I also recommend that when sharing the results publicly that you emphasize stakeholder input into the process. Thank stakeholders for their participation and demonstrate how their responses directly impacted the strategic planning process thereby building for future exchanges. Our stakeholders need to see that their participation made a difference. Our stakeholders truly informed our work and it is important that they see that.