Enable and Facilitate
Assuming you are a third party facilitator or consultant looking to help a school district conduct a strategic planning process, it is absolutely critical to ensure that the overall approach you take is collaborative, working with the district as an authentic partner, rather than presenting a packaged plan or taking a didactic approach.
In an effective community-engaged strategic planning process, the school district and the community as a whole are the creators and owners of the strategic plan. As a facilitator or consultant, you may bring strategies, tools, resources, expertise and important perspectives, but your role will truly be to enable district leadership and other stakeholders to develop a robust and effective strategic plan that they define as both ambitious and doable.
When we first met with the mayor and superintendent in Salem, we did not have a concrete agenda in mind. Instead, we explored potential areas of common interest and how New Profit might be helpful. The district shared its urgencies and we listened and considered the skills and capacities we might be able to offer to match their needs. This period of relationship building allowed us to learn more about the community and the district while also establishing a mutual sense of trust and comfort, which resulted in an invitation to facilitate the district's strategic planning process.
When the school committee approved our initial scope of work at a public meeting, we then began to meet with the superintendent and her Senior Management Team. Together, we revised and finalized the scope of work, ensuring that what we set out to do was realistic and well-aligned with district needs.
Make the time to develop a truly collaborative partnership between the facilitator and school district leaders.
Help district leaders understand that they are embarking on a change process, and describe some of the different phases so they know more about what to expect.
Secure the commitment of the superintendent and other district leaders to a thoughtful planning process.