Seth Davis, Programme Advisor, Community Systems Foundation
Aditya Shankar, Programme Associate, Community Systems Foundation
The final story in the DFA Monitoring series highlights how the tool has been adapted to support organizations in monitoring their strategic plans. The first organization is Out4Undergrad, a US-based non-profit working to assist LGBTQ+ students as they move through university to next steps in their academic or professional career. The second is Alma College, a small liberal arts college in Michigan, USA. Alma College is the first higher education institution that has applied and benefited from DFA Monitoring.
Out 4 Undergrad
Healthy organizations - large and small - routinely operate under medium term strategic plans. In only some cases, these organisations follow with regular monitoring of progress. Out 4 Undergrad did both. However, the organisation leadership recognized the value of a system to help improve efficiency and effectiveness around planning and reporting on their strategic plan.
DFA Monitoring is assisting the O4U in communicating the ongoing progress towards organisational goals, communicating directly with their board members in a measure to ensure accountability. .
Through the project, CSF staff worked with focal points from the Out4Undergrad team to build and improve on measures for monitoring, while suggesting options to communicate results. Together, the team worked to co-create a sustainable solution to monitor their strategic objectives.
One goal important for the O4U team is to increase the diversity of their conference attendees. The above visualization, created using data derived from DFA Monitoring, assists O4U in understanding their student base. Organizational focal points can use this information to focus outreach programs and to overall improve their conferences. The ability to visualize data from multiple years, allows the organization to best understand if their strategies are working or where they need to improve.
Given CSF’s experience in implementing DFA Monitoring across the world, we recognized the impact that the application can have on organizations of all shapes and sizes. CSF began discussions with experts and institutions to better understand needs - including those responsible for strategic planning in higher education.
In 2021, CSF partnered with Alma College in Michigan, USA to pilot a first-of-its-kind data monitoring system using DFA Monitoring to help the College monitor progress towards achievement of goals outlined in the Evergreen Strategic Plan. DFA Monitoring was used to establish a common platform where the leadership council and key actors across the college could review the progress and agree on actions that need to be taken to fulfill the institution’s objectives in the achievement of the evergreen plan. This platform allows the entire community - students, staff, administration, community members and alumni - to be a part of the planning process, leading to more transparency and accountability on the actions being taken to improve students’ quality of education.
An important aspect of the project was to celebrate positive contributions across campus towards the achievement of the Evergreen Strategic Plan. The map above displays the information from the Alma College’s Operational Plan. Using a multi-plan approach, administration can highlight granular activities that are not specifically a part of the campus wide strategic plan, but that are moving the college closer to achievement of the overall goals and objectives. Trustees and donors appreciate seeing who is doing what and where with their contributions.
CSF recognizes the central, critical process of strategic planning for organizations of all sizes and the importance of careful evidence-based planning, especially when resources are limited. Based on experience around the world, CSF has grown to believe that DFA Monitoring can indeed serve to strengthen systems and reinforce processes - supporting the planning and tracking of specific goals and targets and to understand where investments can be made to achieve objectives large and small. We have seen firsthand how DFA Monitoring is supporting the achievement of organizational, national, regional and international objectives, including in the pursuit of achieving the Sustainable Development Goal (SDGs).
Thank you for reading this four part series on the implementations of DFA Monitoring! We hope you have enjoyed learning more about the tool and are now able to better understand how DFA Monitoring can be implemented across levels, with organizations broad and narrow in scope, and with partners both familiar and not as familiar with formal planning, monitoring and reporting processes.
If you or your organization may be interested in learning more about DFA Monitoring and how it can support in achieving your planning, monitoring and reporting goals, please don’t hesitate to reach out to Jon Kapp, Community Systems Foundation’s Executive Director:
CSF looks forward to continued engagement with those individuals and organizations working smarter, more efficiently and effectively in an effort to improve the lives of the communities they serve.