Insight Solutions recently partnered with a local nonprofit school to design and deliver a strength-based strategic planning event, using the SOAR approach.

The SOAR approach, created by Jackie Stavros, is a strategic planning framework which focuses on strengths and engages the whole system. SOAR drives innovation and creativity with its ability to uncover what an organization is doing right, when it is operating at its best, what skills could be enhanced and what is driving an organization’s success. An alternative to the traditional “SWOT” analysis, this approach focuses on: Strengths, Opportunities, Aspirations and Results.

Learn more about our application of the SOAR approach here.

Pre-event Planning

This event, entitled “Schoolhouse Voices: Strengths-Based Planning for Our Community”, was open to current, future / prospective and alumni families, founders, board members, teachers, friends and anyone with a connection to the school. As they approach their 50-year anniversary, engaging community support in the creation of a plan and shared vision of the future, was even more important.

A planning committee was formed and two pre-event meetings were held, which accomplished the following:  

  • Overall planning and logistics for the event
  • How to market the event and recruit attendees
  • Identify the goals and aspirations to achieve as output of the strategic planning effort
  • Reflect on strengths and moments of excellence
  • Identify strategic opportunity areas for community members to brainstorm ideas and design plans around

Because every client’s needs are unique, Insight Solutions places great value in having client participation in the pre-event planning. Whether this is called a planning committee, steering committee, core team or something else entirely, we have found it critical to the overall success of an engagement, for several important reasons:

First, it builds familiarity with our process and approach among a core group of leaders within the community. This helps them to build interest and engagement from their community members or organization before and during the event. Second, it offers the client an opportunity for direct participation in the design of the event agenda and activities, ultimately delivering an experience that was truly co-created.

Participants in this event had the opportunity to:

  • Reflect on and share stories about what makes their school unique and different and what they had experienced as its greatest strengths
  • Collaborate with other members of the community to identify opportunities and brainstorm creative ideas
  • Help transform these creative ideas and opportunities into potential strategic initiatives and action items to be implemented over the coming years

Half-day Strategic Planning Event

This strength-based, collaborative planning event kicked off with a Connection to Purpose exercise. This activity is designed to allow the participants the time and space to reflect on and connect with their own purpose for “showing up” at the event.

What brought them into the room today… what do they hope to accomplish through their presence… how will they support themselves and others…?

Participants are then invited to share with each other through conversation and then bring those reasons for being present into the room with their own voices for all to hear.

Next, we heard from several community members who were invited to stand in front of the group and share a brief story of their experience at the schoolhouse, which highlighted its strengths or described a moment of excellence.

Our participants were then invited to reflect on what they heard, connect with someone else and share their biggest “takeaways” from the stories shared.

These first two activities help to establish the collaborative energy and environment necessary for the following phases of the strategic planning event. It also builds connection among the participants through meaningful dialogue and helps to activate a creative mindset.

Insight Solutions collaborated with the planning committee to identify four strategic opportunity areas during the pre-event work. The leadership team then created four “How Might We….” questions prior to the event. These questions were designed to ignite creative thinking on how to deliver solutions for the main opportunity areas and aspirations identified during the pre-event planning sessions. Participants formed a large semi-circle around four large idea boards and participated in a “one conversation” rapid brainstorm. This approach is designed to build momentum around idea creation and rapidly source a large number of ideas, leveraging the collective wisdom of those in the room. The four opportunity areas were: 

  1. Telling our Story
  2. Community
  3. Lasting Legacy
  4. Special Projects

The next step in our process is to sub-divide into smaller groups and focus in on one idea that has the most energy, highest impact potential and/or is most practically implementable.

Teams are formed by allowing people to choose what opportunity area they are most drawn to or they feel the most energy towards. This ensures that people are aligned with causes, projects or opportunities that align with their talents, energy, values and interests. Once ideas were selected, the teams moved through a design sprint to bring the idea to life.

During the design sprint, teams work together to create a high level action plan or creative representation of their idea and then present this to the whole group. Presentations typically include a general summary of the idea, intended outcome, key stakeholders, resources required, major milestones, critical actions, volunteers and co-champions.

Post-Event Support

Following our strategic planning events, or other client engagements, Insight Solutions provides a comprehensive Output Report which details the event experience, captures raw data for the client and helps to organize resources around the strategic opportunity areas and ideas created.

Depending on scope of the engagement, Insight Solutions can provide post-event and ongoing support to help clients create implementation plans, strategy deployment matrix, goal or milestone setting and results tracking.

Click here to learn more about our approach to strategic planning or schedule a strategy call today.

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