Nonprofits, cities, and towns, brush off your strategic plan for a moment. It’s always a good time to do so or else they begin to whither on your website or in a file. Did you do an exercise, a SWOT, in which you identified you identified the strengths of your organization; weaknesses, often a limited budget or lack of extra dollars to pay for additional staff; opportunities, a new program to meet a new or existing need; threats, another nonprofit that has a similar mission? You might have used the word the softer word, constraints, rather than threats. A constraint for many nonprofits might be regionalization as fewer staff serve a larger catchment area or for your town it might be the cut back on a service to keep taxes down.
You probably didn’t have a section in your strategic plan called SWOT, but it might have guided a rewriting of your mission, a plan to reorganize staff or programs, or to do more fund raising. My questions is: did your SWOT really guide you to think about the future? Futurists think about what will occur all the time. Of course, we make fun of them when they are wrong, but it helps to think long term.
I’ve recently read the New Geography of Jobs (2012) by Enrico Moretti. It paints a picture of more and more of our tech jobs clustering with “innovation workers.” It doesn’t predict a very rosy picture for our small towns throughout the country. Our cities and towns, if they have a strategic plan, call for a vibrant and diverse economy. But what to do? Our nonprofit hospitals and clinics are constantly needing to reevaluate where funds are going to come from and the effect of the latest technology. But what to do about our small hospitals and clinics? Our historical societies are thinking about how to protect valuable items over the long term and at the same time provide access to the items. But what to do when you have no endowment to upgrade to the latest fire safe building. Our universities are scrambling to provide on-line education, but is this the answer to education of the future?
The country of Turkey moved from an Arabic related script to a Latinized European script. That now means that today’s Turkish youth can’t visit the cemeteries of their ancestors and read the grave stones, and they can’t read old historical documents. The seemingly harmless change of no longer teaching children cursive in this country means that historical societies of the future will need “translators” to provide access to documents.
Do you take any photos and print them out and put them in a photobook identifying the people and buildings in the pictures? Probably not. What happens to our understanding of history when we no longer have pictures? Sure, a lot are on the web, on Facebook, on Instagram, on your phone, in the cloud, but can we access them in a meaningful way to tell a story of the past?
What small, perhaps, incremental changes are going to have a big impact on your city, town or nonprofit? Was it discussed in your strategic plan? Please share with us.