The Goal

To co-create a fresh three-year strategic plan that would proactively address the shifting realities for schools and students, and position Distinctive Schools to best serve the needs of their students and communities in a post-pandemic reality.  

The Situation

Distinctive Schools found itself at a crossroads when its current strategic plan was nearing its end. The organization’s leadership recognized that it was no longer aligned with the changing needs of its stakeholders. The global pandemic had significantly impacted the education sector, and Distinctive Schools wanted to ensure that its new strategic plan would position it to thrive in this new reality. 

The organization also sought to create a more inclusive and participatory planning process. Its previous strategic plan had been developed primarily by senior staff, and Distinctive Schools wanted to ensure that – in addition to the board – the voices of its teachers, staff, students, families and other educational institutions were heard in the development of the new plan. 

The Approach

In addition to working through the three-year strategic plan, the organization worked together to develop a new vision, mission, revised values and a strategic framework. From the beginning, Distinctive Schools saw that Alford Group was a uniquely good partner for them.  

“We appreciate the highly collaborative and stakeholder-centric approach to strategic planning that Alford Group took. That wasn’t the default approach of other organizations we talked to. We were impressed with the values alignment, Alford Group’s deep understanding of our work and culture, and their incredible flexibility while still delivering on milestones.” 

Alford Group emphasizes that a strategic plan should not be a document that sits on the shelf once the consultant’s work concludes, but rather it should be a roadmap and guide to future action. It is a tool toward an end goal. An essential piece of this philosophy is training for the core group or committee to ensure they continue to drive the strategic work after the engagement is over. 

Step 1 | Engage and Assess 

The team began by conducting a comprehensive needs assessment, which included a multi-pronged approach to reach as many constituents as possible. 

Step 2 | Draft and Refine 

Once the framework was complete, Alford Group worked with the Distinctive Schools leadership team and staff to develop a draft strategic plan. The draft plan was then shared with a broader group of stakeholders for feedback through one-on-one interviews, roundtables and an online survey. Alford Group facilitated a series of work groups to gather input on how the plan would be operationalized. This detail was used to create a roadmap to implement and assess progress toward strategic goals, ensuring that it was aligned with the needs and aspirations of the organization and its stakeholders. 

Step 3 | Educate and Implement

Alford Group also facilitated a workshop for Distinctive Schools staff on how to implement the strategic plan. The training was for everyone who would be involved in delivering the plan to achieve focused objectives and action steps for each of the plan’s strategic priorities. The implementation and outcomes matrix was created as a tool to hand off to the School and help move the work forward and measure progress. 

Partnership Highlights 

The strategic planning process resulted in a new three-year plan for Distinctive Schools. The plan outlines a clear vision for the organization’s future and provides a roadmap for achieving its goals. The plan is also highly aligned with the organization’s values, including equity, access and equality. 

The strategic planning process was a success on several levels. First, it resulted in a high-quality strategic plan that meets the needs of the organization and its stakeholders. Second, the process was highly collaborative and inclusive. Third, the process provided Distinctive Schools staff with the skills and knowledge they need to implement the plan. 

Some specific examples of the success of the strategic planning process: 

  • Distinctive Schools engaged over 700 stakeholders in the planning process. 
  • The organization developed a new vision, mission, revised values and a strategic framework
  • The strategic plan is focused on boosting constituency engagement and expanding equity and access to education. 
  • The planning process created a sense of energy and buy-in among internal and external stakeholders. 
  • Distinctive Schools is well-positioned to implement the strategic plan and achieve its goals. 

“We could not be more grateful to Alford Group for their deep understanding of our organization’s aspirations, work and culture. Our shared commitment to diversity, equity and inclusion shined through in our collaboration to create a new strategic plan.

The process not only enabled us to create and launch an aspirational and sustainable multi-year plan, it also created energy and buy-in that has centered our strategic direction in new ways. The guidance, support and flexibility their team provided throughout the process were paramount to our success.” 

Curious about the great unveiling of the plan? Hear directly from the Distinctive Schools team in this interview