Strategic Planning: Wrapping Up and Realizing Our Dreams

From last November through May, Be Strong Families completed the second phase of our strategic planning process based in appreciative inquiry, focused on the Dream. In this phase, we build on the Discovery phase, and use those strengths to form the positive core that launches us into our preferred future. Beginning on November 13, 2018, staff, board members, parent leaders, and partners convened in Pasadena to kick off the process. From December through April, our Be Strong Families staff teams met to Dream about the future of their work. Finally, on May 7, 2019, staff, board members, parent leaders, and partners met again in Philadelphia to bookend the process, ensuring that our Dreams stretched across the coasts.

As we move into the Design phase, which will be formally launched in Chicago on July 29, 2019, we are reflecting on the emerging themes from our Dreams:


Expand – How can we increase our impact and take our work to the next level?

1)      Empowered Engagement and Co-Creation: In our last strategic plan, Goal #2 was to “Ally with, support, and promote the leadership of parents and youth and young adults,” including by increasing visibility of parent voices, supporting parent-led programs, and building a coalition of parents to transform social services. In our Dreams, we saw themes related to strengthening our Regional Parent Engagement Advisory groups, convening opportunities for parent leaders across the country to connect with each other, and promoting the voices of parents and youth through a Speakers Bureau.

2)      Reach: With Cafés already in 33 states and 3 countries, we dream of a vibrant Café Community of Practice that includes Parent Café efforts all over the United States and the World and having dedicated Certified Training partners on Cafés in every state who are committed to a long-term relationship with BSF.

3)      Evidence: In July 2018, we created a new Outcomes & Impact staff position and team to recognize our commitment to tracking our impact and continuous learning. Dreams emerged around having systems and processes for data internally that make it easier than ever to learn and grow and share out our successes with the world. We want to be able to tell the full story of our impact. By earning the highest designation as an evidence-based practice and publishing research on Parent Cafés and other BSF offerings, we are positioning ourselves to grow.


Evolve – What new directions, ideas, or programs do we want to explore?

1)      Transformative Conversations for Personal and Social Evolution: We believe that we can change the world by creating transformative conversations that nurture the spirit of family, promote well-being and prevent violence. With our roots in Strengthening Families Illinois and our work with child welfare systems and family support / human services organizations nationally, we have begun to expand into new areas with our Journey to Vitality and A More Perfect Union programs. We are willing and ready to be a partner in any kind of transformative conversation that needs to be developed and sustained.

2)      Systems Change: We dream of consumer driven, responsive systems that disrupt the social service paradigm by advocating for the non-clinical, non-expert based, community driven potential for transformative change. BSF wants to partner with systems that want to prioritize meeting people’s needs first, before meeting the needs of the system.

3)      Online: With our new BSF website and Journey to Vitality website, we have begun to recognize how the internet can be used as a tool for connection and learning. We dream of vibrant social media communities for our programs, and of offering more online resources that are accessible to parents and youth and young adults whenever and wherever they are.

Sustain – What is the positive core that we want to build on for a sustainable future?

1)      Diversifying Revenue: We want to continue moving beyond Fee for Service revenue to create more ways we generate income to sustain our work. Building on the strengths of our product sales as a source of passive income, we dream of having place-based economic engines that similarly sustain us.

2)      Appreciative, Values-Based Leadership: Since 2014, BSF has embraced Appreciative Inquiry as our primary tool for organizational growth and strategic planning. We want to continue to be strengths-based and keep our values—family, authenticity, liberation, vitality, collaboration, excellence, love, and spirit—at the forefront of our work. Our values-based leadership is part of the parallel process of embodying the environments we want to see in the world.

3)      Allies and Partnership: We know that we are unique, and we also know that we can’t do it alone. We dream of finding more allies who understand and share our commitment to family strengthening and social justice.