Our Approach to Strategic Planning: Using APPRECIATIVE INQUIRY
Appreciative Inquiry is an approach to positive change that has been used successfully in communities and organizations (including many colleges) all around the world. It is based on the simple idea that people and organizations move in the direction of what they ask questions about.
For example, when groups study human problems and conflicts, they often find that both the number and severity of these problems grow. In the same way, when groups study high human ideals, aspirations and achievements, such as peak experiences, best practices, successful collaborations, and noble accomplishments, these phenomena, too, tend to flourish.
Appreciative Inquiry distinguishes itself from other change efforts by deliberately asking positive questions to ignite constructive dialogue and inspired action within organizations and communities.
As the plan was created we ensured that it was considered through guiding principles that are integral to the mission of the college:
- Our students and their success are at the heart of the college’s efforts.
- Faculty and staff provide the essential education, training, and support services that fortify this success.
- Our campus is an inclusive environment that supports these initiatives and that must be well equipped and technologically up-to-date.
- And our role in building partnerships in the community strengthens our college and our region. These components drive everything we do and have helped shape the direction of our Strategic Goals.
Our Strategic Planning Process and Timeline
- April 2015: Initial planning began at a meeting of the All College Assembly Executive Committee.
- June 2015: The Board of Higher Education Strategic Plan Review Committee convened campuses undertaking Strategic Planning in 2015-2016; 12 members of the college community participated in Appreciative Inquiry Facilitator Training. They, along with others who previously participated in training, formed the NECC 2020 Strategic Planning Steering Committee.
- September 2015: The official kick-off occurred during Fall Convocation with the implementation of an Appreciative Inquiry exercise. For those individuals not able to attend Convocation, the Inquiry Guide was also posted as an interactive form on the college’s website.
- September/October 2015
A Data Synthesis Team developed six themes:
- Integrated Student Experience;
- Student Success;
- Career Exploration/Development;
- Professional Development;
- Curriculum Innovation; and
- External Partnerships.
- October/November 2015: The themes then served as the basis for more than 15 SOAR (Strengths, Opportunities, Aspirations, Results) Forums. For those unable to attend a Forum, a SOAR Questionnaire was available on the college’s website to enable the community to access and complete the Questionnaire online.
- December 2015: A core Writing Team reviewed the feedback and information and set about drafting broad Strategic Goals.
- January 2016: A draft of the new Strategic Plan was presented at Spring Convocation. The draft Plan was posted on the college’s website and the college community was encouraged to provide preliminary feedback through that vehicle.
- March 2016: A revised draft was presented at an All College Assembly Open Forum to gather additional feedback. It was also a call for volunteers to join Goal Teams and shape the direction and implementation of NECC 2020.
- April 2016: A collegial meeting with the Board of Higher Education’s Strategic Plan Review Committee occurred. This was at a point in the planning process in which the overall shape of the Plan had been given preliminary definition but early enough that changes could still be made.
- April and May 2016: Goal Teams continued work on developing the Plan and identifying metrics and strategies.
- June and July 2016: Affirmations and approvals were given from the Executive Committee of the All College Assembly, the college’s Board of Trustees, and the Board of Higher Education.
- September 2016: Goal Teams began strategy execution.