Illinois Stewardship Alliance: Strategic Plan 2016

In early 2016, Illinois Stewardship Alliance (Stewardship Alliance) board members and staff embarked on a planning process for their organization. The process was kicked off with a half day board retreat held on January 9, 2016 in Springfield, the home community for the organization. The retreat began with board and staff reflecting the organization’s history and hearing staff updates from the past year. Participants then had a facilitated discussion where they described the organization’s strengths and challenges and their hopes for the future. Following the retreat Stewardship Alliance staff disseminated a membership survey to gain more insight on the issues that matter the most to them. The main thematic areas from the survey and the first retreat informed the second board and staff retreat held on April 14, 2016. The results from the survey and the two retreats guide the strategic planning process that is detailed below.

Mission

An organization’s mission clearly and succinctly states what it sets out to do and cuts to the core of why it exists. Mission statements help guide the organization’s planning efforts, and ultimately, the priorities and activities of the organization. Members of the Illinois Stewardship Alliance felt the existing mission statement could stand to be updated to streamline the language. Though it accurately represented the work being done by the organization, board members had a number of suggestions for improvements. Using the existing language and new ideas generated at the retreat, the following mission statement was crafted.

llinois Stewardship Alliance cultivates a local food and farm system that is economically viable, socially just and environmentally sustainable.

Vision

An organization’s vision is the desired outcome of the work that they do. Participants felt that the existing mission statement still rang true and determined that it should remain unchanged.

We envision a system where soils are treated as a precious resource, local food producers earn a fair, living wage, local food education is integrated into all levels of education, infrastructure is rebuilt to accommodate local food systems and good food is available for all.

Goals, Strategies, and Objectives

The remainder of the strategic plan provides the map that Illinois Stewardship Alliance will use to address the strategic issues identified by the board and staff. Each strategic issue has a set of goals, strategies and objectives that will provide guidance to staff as they implement the plan and serve as a measurement instrument to assess progress towards achieving their goals. Goals and strategies are similar in that they describe the expected results the implementation of the strategic plan. Goals are broad, long‐term statements about the general purposes of Illinois Stewardship Alliance. Goals are distinguished from strategies, though, by their level of specificity. Objectives are brief, clear statements that describe the measurable outcomes achieved through implementation of the plan. Action items are the specific steps that must be taken to achieve objectives and are developed and implemented by staff. Action items are left to staff to define based on feasibility, staff availability, and funding.  Once actions have been outlined, staff will identify who is responsible for overseeing the implementation of the strategies and determine the timeline for completion.

The following goals were identified:

  • Goal 1. Support the development of local food systems in Illinois.
  • Goal 2. Through the Grassroots Policy Advisory Committee, serve as an advocate for policies that support local food and sustainable agriculture.
  • Goal 3. Increase adoption of conservation practices on farmland in Illinois.
  • Goal 4. Strengthen Illinois Stewardship Alliance operations.

The following document details the outline for achieving the goals through objectives and strategies and makes up the strategic plan for Illinois Stewardship Alliance.

GOAL 1. SUPPORT THE DEVELOPMENT OF LOCAL FOOD SYSTEMS IN ILLINOIS

Strategy 1: Develop, formalize, and support the local food and sustainable agriculture network in Illinois.

Objective: Partner with organizations around the state to host events and outreach activities and expand Central Illinois programs to other parts of the state.

Objective: Establish regular communication with other organizations throughout the state to share information and support one another.

Strategy 2: Connect farmers to new and existing markets

Objective: Grow new markets through local food programs and partnership with restaurants, retailers, and distributors

Objective: Support the development of regional large scale markets and food hubs.

Objective: Support the Band of Farmers Chicagoland CSA Coalition to expand CSA customer base in Chicago.

Objective: Manage the Old Capitol Farmers Market

Strategy 3: Connect consumers to farmers.

Objective: Create a statewide interactive map of local food producers.

Objective: Examine programming to assess the feasibility of growing programming in breadth and location.

Strategy 4: Increase education about the issues surrounding local food and sustainable agriculture.

Objective: Develop educational materials about sustainable agriculture targeted to a broad audience

Objective: Partner with other organizations to reach larger audiences to combat unhealthy eating habits and educate on the cost of health related issues to our society.

Objective: Advocate for healthier food choices in schools.

Objective: Educate on the economic impact of buying locally. Widely distribute a case for the economic vitality of a local-focused food system.

Objective: Coordinate the Illinois Organic Growers Association

GOAL 2. SERVE AS AN ADVOCATE FOR POLICIES THAT SUPPORT LOCAL FOOD AND SUSTAINABLE AGRICULTURE

Strategy 1: Engage more people and organizations in advocacy through the Grassroots Policy Advisory Committee.

Objective: Coordinate with national sustainable agriculture organizations on policy and action items, and communicate that locally.

Objective: Through the grassroots policy advisory committee, organize policy advocacy, educational, and listening meetings throughout the state.

Objective: Increase outreach to, and participation of, farmers and other stakeholders who are diverse.

Objective: Create more opportunities for individuals and groups to advocate at the Illinois State Capitol.

Strategy 2: Advance legislative priorities that support local food systems and sustainable agriculture at all levels.

Objective: Educate legislators and connect with on-the-ground projects to help them better understand the issues facing local food and sustainable ag

Objective: Improve relationships with legislators to cultivate champions for local food and sustainable ag

Objective: Collaborate with state and federal agencies, advocacy coalitions, work groups, and other traditional and non-traditional partners to develop and advance policy priorities.

Strategy 3: Develop and distribute plain-language educational materials to assist in implementation of the laws and regulations.

Objective:  Publish resources explaining new policies on Stewardship Alliance’s webpage and distribute through email and social media networks.

Objective: Facilitate connections to governmental and community resources that administer programs or provide other services.

GOAL 3. INCREASE ADOPTION OF CONSERVATION PRACTICES ON ILLINOIS FARMLAND TO IMPROVE SOIL HEALTH

Strategy 1: Partner with agricultural stakeholders to educate farmers on the adoption of Conservation Cropping Systems (CCS)

Objective: Farmers to increase understanding about the value of CCS and how to monitor soil health

Objective: Farmers to implement new practices that improve soil health, nutrient loss and water quality

Objective: Foster partnerships and maintain relationships with key agricultural, environmental and conservation organizations to expand reach

Strategy 2: Develop new tools and educational resources for farmers to learn about conservation practices

Objective: Develop educational resources that are convenient and readily available to farmers that highlight various conservation practices and federal conservation programs

Objective: Provide technical assistance directly to farmers and connect farmers to other existing resources

Strategy 3: Highlight diversified CCS practices that farmers are using in Illinois

Objective: Identify champion farmers in Illinois who are good stewards

Objective: Showcase the farms that successfully balance economics and environmental stewardship

GOAL 4.STRENGTHEN ILLINOIS STEWARDSHIP ALLIANCE OPERATIONS

Strategy 1: Improve financial health and safety net of the organization.

Objective: Implement the key performance indicator model of financial forecasting.

Objective: Simplify membership program and grow it.

Strategy 2: Encourage a healthy work environment for all Stewardship Alliance Staff.

Objective: Implement a wellness policy for staff/organization to support healthy employees.

Strategy 3: Operate efficiently and meet the programmatic and support needs of the organization.

Objective: Identify the gaps in the organization and ways to fill the gaps.

Objective: Coordinate staff efforts to have more cross-programmatic synergy.

Strategy 4: Strengthen existing programming and explore new program opportunities.

Objective: Audit programs for impact and return.

Objective: Explore new program opportunities and implement if determined feasible

Strategy 5: Support clear and concise communication and increase Illinois Stewardship Alliance’s visibility

Objective: Create a 2016 communication strategy.

Objective: Create brand cohesion and update website, print, and other marketing material to reflect updates.

Objective: Create new educational material and to tell story of ISA work.

Objective: Develop an expert list and market it to media sources so ISA becomes go-to organization for alternative agriculture/conservational local food