Launching the Process with Children Incorporated

It was a quiet but exciting moment for me. On a cold morning in February, I sat with the employees of Richmond-based Children Incorporated as its small leadership officially launched its year-long strategic planning process. There was no drama, and no lofty speeches. Powerpoint was not part of the conversation.

Instead, there were 30 of us sitting in chairs in Children Incorporated's conference room in a semi-circle. The preside nt of the nonprofit's board, the executive director and other leaders and managers sat, mingled together in no particular order with the rest of the employees. When we spoke, we spoke from our chairs.

I'm not sure if the employees of Children Incorporated (CI) recognized the subtle nod toward inclusion and engagement, but I certainly did.

This first "Town Hall" gathering is anticipated to be the first of several that will happen as Floricane works with the CI team to map out its long-term strategy. And inclusion and engagement are two words on the table that it seems everyone wants to put into practice at every opportunity.

Our first significant piece of work is an online assessment of the organization. We've invited hundred's of CI's employees, board, sponsors and donors, beneficiaries and program managers around the world to give us candid feedback on ways the nonprofit can more seriously and effectively deliver on its vision of helping children around the globe. To make the process even more accessible, we've provided paper surveys (to be mailed to Floricane or faxed to a secure line) and Spanish-language surveys to many individuals – especially those overseas.

Next week, I sit down for extensive one-on-one conversations with almost one-third of CI's employees. It's one of the more time-consuming but critical pieces of work we'll do during the front-end of this work, and I know from past experiences that these discussions – as well as the individual discussions I have scheduled with board members – will provide more insight, ideas and critical observations than any research or assessment could possibly provide.

As we move through March, gathering perspectives and ideas and identifying best practices in child sponsorship and global development, I'm also looking forward to the spring. That's when CI's project team and I will gather with a small group of key stakeholders, including several employees, to revisit and possibly revise the organization's vision, mission and guiding principles. And we'll nail down the final set of strategic objectives/outcomes for the real work of the project – crafting an ambitious, comprehensive strategic plan that will help Children Incorporated step into its 47th year with an eye toward transformation.