By Laura Thompson Osuri
From the start Street Sense has been a very grassroots organization, getting input from the homeless people we serve, making decisions on a consensus basis, and taking our successes and challenges one at a time. Consequently, besides a very rough business plan at the start and annual budgets in subsequent years, Street Sense has done very little long–term planning in its four–year existence.
But on Monday, Oct. 24, Street Sense entered the strange new world of strategic planning. For five hours in a very warm conference room, the board and staff of Street Sense tossed around their ideas for the future of our newspaper.
With the help of giant Post–Its, Sharpie markers, a flip chart, and several large and small group discussions, we determined our top goals for the organization.
The goals for 2008 and early 2009 include:
• Hiring an advertising sales manager and formalizing the ad sales program for vendors
• Forming partnerships with other providers to assist vendors in finding jobs, housing, treatment and other help
• Expanding the marketing of Street Sense through public service announcements and other advertising
• Developing the board of directors, including creating committees, adding members and improving transparency
• Expanding content to include suburban news and expanding the vendor network into the suburbs through partnerships with service providers in outlying areas
• Improving internal technology and developing the Web site to make it more interactive for readers and more beneficial to vendors
• Hiring a community development director and editorial assistant
While this planning process made me quite excited about the future, it also showed me there is a lot of work to be done to build a strong foundation for the organization. In the past four years, we have come a long way toward developing a structure for this foundation.
With a strong foundation hopefully in place by 2010, Street Sense will be prepared to creatively expand its outreach by providing vendors with micro–financing options and scholarships, encouraging local teachers to integrate our articles and poetry into their classrooms and holding regular community forums on issues related to poverty.
I am very much looking forward to the next few years of developing Street Sense and building it into an innovative organization that will go even further in accomplishing our mission of empowering the homeless and educating the public. And I definitely think we have the momentum and the commitment from the board, staff, vendors and volunteers to make all of our goals a reality.
So plan to be wowed by Street Sense in the next few years. If you have some ideas of your own for the organization, please share them. Though we might have crossed into the flip chart–world of corporate planning, we have definitely not forgotten our (grass)roots. As always, we seek –– and appreciate — input and feedback from all who are affected by Street Sense.
E–mail any ideas or comments you have on the Street Sense strategic plan to firstname.lastname@example.org.