Braille Monitor                                                         July 2007

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The words "In the Spotlight" appear at the top of this article, and a spotlight is shining on the words "Affiliate Action."

Strategic Planning: A Structured Means of Affiliate and Chapter Building

From Dan Frye: The relatively restful summer seems as good a time as any to think about the future of our local NFB chapters and affiliates. The strategic planning process is a structured method for reflecting on our organizational direction and for reducing our plans to writing. This exercise requires us to consider and articulate clearly our organizational mission, goals, objectives, and action items. For many people strategic planning techniques facilitate informal discussion about organizational direction; our larger entities should use the concepts of strategic planning in a more formal way. The following information on the elements of a strategic plan is taken from the Training and Organizing People to Serve (TOPS) handbook prepared by the NFBís Department of Affiliate Action. Here is an amended and supplemented version of the information offered in the handbook:

Dan FryeStrategic planning is the process of identifying the direction of an organization firmly based on the mission, purpose, and values of that organization. This planning can be done either informally or through a formal process involving techniques such as brainstorming, consensus building, and establishing shared definitions. What follows is a brief outline of the building blocks for a well-designed strategic plan. Notice that the conventional structure of a strategic plan is that of an inverted pyramid with the broadest vision given first expression and each smaller element listed in order. The beginning of a strategic plan focuses on an abstract vision; the end features detailed steps to be achieved consistent with the overarching organizational mission.

The mission or purpose, the first element in a well-designed strategic plan, is a clearly articulated statement expressing the reason for the organizationís existence and what the organization intends to do. The mission statement of the NFB is a good example of such an overarching expression. The NFBís mission statement reads as follows:

The mission of the National Federation of the Blind is to achieve widespread emotional acceptance and intellectual understanding that the real problem of blindness is not the loss of eyesight but the misconceptions and lack of information that exist. We do this by bringing blind people together to share successes, to support each other in times of failure, and to create imaginative solutions.

Affiliates and chapters may wish to use some variation of our national mission statement to describe their work and purpose. Alternatively local leaders may wish to develop entirely new language to define their mission.

A section on organizational values should follow. These are statements of what the organization articulates as the ethical and moral framework for personal interactions, methods for accomplishing the mission, and the general culture of the organization. These values should be interwoven throughout the strategic plan. Examples of some of the NFBís organizational values include:

The third section of a strategic plan should focus on primary goals. This section should offer a list of major areas that will be priorities during the strategic plan. Broad goals at the national level might include realizing progress in the areas of employment, education, rehabilitation, civil rights, and access to all types of technology. Examples of appropriate primary goals for affiliates or local chapters might include passage of legislation, progress on public transportation issues, or provision of individual advocacy assistance to members or others in the blindness community.

A section on objectives is the fourth element in a properly structured strategic plan. Objectives are specific statements that clearly delineate what will be accomplished in order to achieve the planís stated goals. A clear correlation should exist between each broad goal and the objectives that will be undertaken to achieve that goal. Objectives must be specific and clear so that they are believable, measurable, and achievable. An appropriate objective in the example goal of realizing progress in employment for the blind in the previous paragraph might be to sponsor and organize a series of educational seminars for both employers and employees focusing on the Americans with Disabilities Act and section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act.

Once the overall direction of the organization has been stated, goals listed, and objectives established, the activities to be undertaken to accomplish the objectives must be listed. Finally each activity needs to be broken down into a series of specific action steps. These should be put on a timeline, and specific people should be assigned responsibility for all steps. It is also helpful to estimate the costs for activities and, where possible, for specific action steps. Some strategic plans include this degree of detail; others stop at the objective stage and leave the corresponding activities and action steps for a separate document called a business plan.

In conclusion, authors of strategic plans should be mindful of the following overarching guidelines that should characterize the entire written planning process:

Good luck developing a strategic plan for your chapter, affiliate, or division. It is demanding but rewarding work.

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