I am, by nature, not a planner. I like to let life unfold, see what appears, and work with whatever shows up to move me to the next phase. This makes me particularly well suited to experiential education: it’s not that I never plan, it’s more that I do something first and then, upon reflection, create the structure to understand and support the next action. Nevertheless, the importance of strategic planning cannot be underestimated. Organizations that have a clear vision and mission and then take the time to create concrete structures and plans to support their big picture vision are those most likely to get where they want to go. While few would dispute the value of this type of planning, I love the fact that there is no one way to do it. The methods an organization can employ vary by the kind of organization, number of people involved, desired outcomes, and time allotted. Going in with a commitment to mission-driven practices and producing actual measurable results appear to be common denominators to success.
I recently rejoined the board of the Independent Schools Experiential Education Network (ISEEN). I am thrilled to be back as a member of the group guiding this important and wonderful organization. When I attended my first ISEEN institute eight years ago, the group was called ISAN (Independent Schools Adventure Network) and existed to support outdoor and adventure education practitioners. Over the ten years since, the organization has grown to encompass other forms of experiential education programming (global, service learning, sustainability, student leadership), and added an institute for classroom teachers who wish to have more experiential pedagogy and practice in their classrooms. We have achieved our initial goals and met last weekend on a retreat with the purpose of creating new ones.The process included a review of current programs, including the winter institute for practitioners (this year held in Hawaii, hosted by Punahou and Iolani Schools — and focusing on place-based education), the summer institute for teachers (held in Santa Fe for math, science, and arts educators), and our relatively new membership platform. After reviewing them as a group, we spent time individually and then in triads, outlining new goals, finding commonalities and differences, and finally, coming together to set benchmarks and timeline for the work. It was gratifying, inspiring, and energizing as we move forward into the next five years of growth in the organization.
Another group on whose board I serve, the Global Education Benchmark Group (GEBG), is going through a similar process but in a slightly different way. We formed a strategic planning committee at a meeting last spring. This group met three times, once in person and twice virtually, to identify five priorities for the organization. Each committee member signed on to develop a couple of goals and create benchmarks and a timeline for reaching those goals. The material was sent to the Executive Director for review, and will appear on the agenda of our November board meeting to be discussed and voted on by the full board. We will outline our strategic plan to the wider membership at our annual conference in April (this year hosted by Isidore Newman School in New Orleans).
Finally, I have been contracted by an independent school to help develop a strategic plan specifically for global education at their school. During a strategic planning process for the whole school, they identified global education as a big part of that plan and they desire a more specific framework for global initiatives. I will spend a day on campus meeting with relevant stakeholders, review their current programs, and facilitate a conversation about the steps they might take to set new goals and the process to achieve those goals.
As I work with organization boards and schools, I realize I would like to undertake a similar process for my business. Where do I want Global Weeks to be in five years? I know my mission has expanded since I started the company 4 years ago: what are my new goals? What partnerships do I want to cultivate to help me create a process, outline strategies and reach new heights? I look forward to exploring this topic further and I invite you to do the same: what does your strategic planning process look like?
If you’re moved to share your strategic planning process with the Global Weeks community, I invite you to comment below.