At the 2012 Independent Sector Annual Conference earlier this week I moderated a panel on “game-changing strategies” with Ben Jealous, President and CEO of the NAACP, Rip Rapson, President and CEO of The Kresge Foundation, and Lester Strong, Vice President for Experience Corps at AARP. The panelists described strategies that were transformative of their organizations’ work rather than merely incremental steps forward.
While most strategic plans include goals like growing the organization by 5% more money or 10% more clients, when the opportunity is there and leaders have the insight and tenacity to seize it, much greater magnitude change is a real possibility. The NAACP set a vision to complete the civil rights journey begun in its first century, Kresge Foundation completely revamped its grant-making from capital projects only to a mix of more powerful strategies to impact poverty, and Experience Corps merged with AARP on the road to a goal of helping one million at-risk children to read at grade level by third grade.
The message seemed to resonate with the audience; we even needed to bring in additional chairs to accommodate an over-capacity crowd. Participants in small groups explored the difficulties of making big changes, with the panelists as mentors to those discussions. I came away from the discussion convinced there is a great appetite among the sector’s leaders for “Big Strategy.”