A UU liFE interview with UUFE Board President, Emily Cranwell
Our March 2015 UUFE IdeaFest generated lots of great ideas for UUFE’s future which were eventually written into our Strategic Plan. Now we read in the UU CERG (UU region) blog that church strategic plans are dead ends that will only lead us to “close our doors for good”. The UU CERG blogger urges local UU leaders to reframe strategic planning and shift from:
- Slow and deliberative to nimble and experimental
- Comprehensive and unanimous to targeted and personal
- Knowing the “right” path to learning from success and failure
We asked our UUFE Board President, Emily Cranwell to explore this “shift” and share her vision of the way forward for UUFE.
UU liFE: Do you agree with this basic idea — that nimbleness and risk-taking should replace formal long-range planning for UUFE?
Emily: Yes. I believe that in our ever-changing world, we have no other choice than to remain nimble and open-minded. As our global and local communities change more quickly than we ever imagined, we have to try to be flexible in our thinking in order to keep pace and remain responsive. That doesn’t mean we should be any less deliberate or thoughtful, just that we more frequently need to take the time to reflect and envision our path forward.
UU liFE: Did our March 2015 Ideafest produce a “massive, linear, comprehensive plan” or “agile, bold actions”? Or both?
What Ideafest attempted to do was focus our thinking and harness our imaginations as we looked forward, and I believe we accomplished that. The “Big Ideas” that rose to the top reflect our current values and thinking related to our vision and mission. For example, we heard ideas about better communication, branding, and use of social media. Our Media Ministry has taken that ball and run with it. The new face of the website and our movement towards more online communication, including social media, is a great way that our work is more targeted and personal.
UU liFE: We like to talk about our UUFE successes. But what recent failures can we also learn from?
I wouldn’t describe it as a failure, but there is a realization that we are grappling with how to harness the energies of our volunteers more efficiently. We are in a place familiar to many organizations, where our long-standing volunteers are no longer able to do what they used to. Our newer members need to connect to opportunities that they will find spiritually fulfilling. Today, when families are more scheduled than ever, this is a challenge. As we look at the strategic plans developed in Ideafest, the reality is that we need excited volunteers to carry them out. Even more important are the volunteer efforts that create our Beloved Community and keep it welcoming to all.
UU liFE: How should we start or continue this shift from slow and deliberate to agile, edgy, and risky?
I think the first step is to change our thinking that this needs to happen every five years, and that the strategic plan should be all encompassing. If we can think through strategic next steps at a more frequent interval, then we will be more responsive without being less deliberate. We need collaborative, creative problem solvers to take on this work as we move forward. We need people willing to trust and support one another as we try out new ways of doing things. As the article states, we need “members to become instruments of strategic thinking and exploration as they minister out in the community. Shifts [in strategic thinking] are not just top-down to bottom-up but also inward focused to outward engaged.” We are all a part of the process now, and it’s happening all the time.