Learning patterns/Developing a mission statement with your community
What problem does this solve?
A mission statement can serve as a valuable resource to local groups or organizations that influences their organizational culture and strategy process. Ideally, the creation of a mission statement does not mainly serve marketing or PR purposes (to have some nice text with the right buzz words on your website or annual report) but stimulates the discourse among your stakeholders on what the purpose of the organization is, on how you want to achieve it and on how you envision your future. You create a common understanding on cruical questions that can help to prevent conflicts, recurring fundamental debates and misunderstandings in future. It also serves as an essential guideline for the people (e.g. Executive DIrectors) and bodies (E.g. Boards) involved in strategic decision making and day to day operations.
What is the solution?
Communication: From day one the process should be accompanied by communication to relevant stakeholders on what you do, why you do it, who is involved and a rough outline on what will happen when. At WMAT we announced the process on our mailing list and personal e-mails to our members and created a project page with all relevant on our members wiki. Later in the process we also had in person meetings to discuss the issue.
Establishing a working group: In order to create a draft statment WMAT established a working group with representatives of the major stakeholders of the chapter: Members, Board, staff. It was discussed whether external partner organizations should be represented as well but the board decided against and that they should rather be included in the discussions with the wider stakeholder group later. Board and staff appointed two members each and the members were asked via a personal e-mail whether they wanted to participate in the working group. Three members volunteered and all three became part of the working group. It can be helpful to appoint a spokesman for the group who communicates and presents the (interim) results.
Creating a draft: In the next step the working group sets up a draft document for the mission statement as a basis for the discussion with the wider circle of stakeholders. This can happen online on a wiki or a cloud based text editing program and via calls or telephone conferences. It is highly recommendable though to have at least one in person meeting / workshop, ideally with professional facilitation. WMAT conducted a one day workshop in the Vienna office with the help of a pro bono consultant. In the context of the workshop we tried to approach the task of developing a mission statement in more creative ways (e.g. painting future images of our organizations) which helped to uncover new and different views, details and perspectives.
Involving stakeholders: Once the draft is complete it should be discussed with the wider circle of stakeholders (members, wider community, external partners). It is advisable to choose a combination of online (e.g. members wiki and discussion pages, mailing list) and offline (e.g. meetings or workshops) communication. In WMAT's case most of the discussion happened in person in the context of two meetings: one evening workshop in our office (for members, the wider community and interested external stakeholders) and one during the general assembly (mostly members) were the final mission statement was created and finally passed (by votes of our members).
Things to consider
- Communication is key - show people why this is important and that their contribution is valuable
- Create an inclusive process - make sure all your key stakeholders can have a say
- Don't avoid the painful topics - Some of the discussions will be painful. That's not bad, it's a sign that you identified a cruical point that needs discourse and clarification.
- Determine who will make the final decision - at some point there needs to be an agreed upon decision making process on controversial issues and the document as a whole (e.g. votes in the context of your general assembly).
When to use
WMAT started the process before we revised our mid-term (3 year) strategy, in order to have the mission statement a basis for the strategic work.
- Grants:Learning patterns/Involving the community in developing a chapter workplan
- Grants:Learning patterns/Let the community know