Grand St. Settlement

Grand St. Settlement (Grand St.) partners with community leaders and residents of Manhattan’s Lower East Side and Brooklyn to provide a continuum of human services and programs for all ages. In 2016, the organization marked its centennial year. This milestone, together with the onboarding of a new executive director and significant opportunities for growth, combined to motivate Grand St. to engage in a process to review and update its organizational strategy.

Using La Piana Consulting’s Real-Time Strategic Planning framework, adapted to reflect its specific needs and culture, Grand St. developed two major strategic priorities, identified the characteristics of organizational culture that would be needed to support these strategies, and created an implementation plan for their successful execution.

The settlement house movement began in the early 1900s in response to the needs of immigrant populations seeking a new life in America’s largest cities, and Grand St. was founded to focus these efforts in Manhattan’s Lower East Side. Over the years, Grand St. has become deeply embedded in the communities it serves, while continuing to evolve to reflect their changing strengths and challenges. Today, Grand St. provides services in 13 sites on the Lower East Side and 21 sites in Brooklyn. Its employs nearly 350 full- and part-time staff, and its budget has grown 25 percent in the last five years.

Grand St.’s geographic expansion into Brooklyn and opportunities for continued growth have challenged the organization to examine its traditionally neighborhood-based scope and identity and consider a more city-wide sphere of influence. The 2015 hiring of a new executive director, Robert Cordero, created a timely opportunity to engage with this, and other, strategic questions about the organization’s future.

This need dovetailed with La Piana Consulting’s approach to strategy development. Having been selected through a competitive process, we engaged staff and board members in a comprehensive process to articulate Grand St.’s organizational identity, confirm its vision for the future, understand the market in which it operates, and create a set of clear decision-making criteria to determine how to best focus its unique strengths.

Grand St. also participated in an assessment of the organization’s culture, using the Organizational Culture Assessment Instrument (OCAI), an online tool that elicits respondents’ perspectives on the current culture, and on the type of culture they would prefer to see in the organization. For Grand St., this assessment revealed a current culture that fosters teamwork, which has been and will continue to be critical to its success. But it also surfaced a need and desire to be more innovative and responsive to a changing external environment, which it will take steps to prioritize moving forward. The organization sees both cultural characteristics as essential in advancing its chosen strategies and achieving success.

Grand St. identified two strategic priorities, in addition to continuing its core work and fulfilling existing commitments to capital projects, choosing to: 1) strengthen its impact in specific underserved communities in Brooklyn, and 2) enhance its advocacy work through community outreach and engagement. With these strategies selected, Grand St. shifted its focus to implementation planning.

Grand St.’s leadership sought to use this process as an opportunity to identify and build the skills of staff leaders throughout the organization. Staff were not only involved in the strategy development process, but played a critical role in implementation planning. This was effected through the use of staff teams. Two teams were formed to develop plans to implement each of the two new strategic priorities, and additional teams worked on plans related to three major pre-existing capital projects as well as major administrative and operational systems. These individual plans were then integrated into a comprehensive three-year implementation plan for 2017-20. This plan was, in turn, used to create the organization’s FY 2017 budget, ensuring that implementation would be properly resourced.

Early implementation has ranged from launching neighborhood assessments and building partnerships in different Brooklyn communities, to launching a service hub and five new sites. The Grand St. board and staff understand that implementation of its full portfolio of strategic priorities will take time, but they also understand the critical need for these services and the value they bring to the lives of community residents, so there is a sense of calm urgency underlying this work.


[For more about how Grand St. is moving from strategy to success, look for our full-length case study, here.]