An organization’s future is brightest when planned strategically and with collective wisdom. To that end, Higher Ed Insight (HEI) recently facilitated a highly successful year-end virtual planning retreat for the youth-focused organization American Youth Policy Forum (AYPF). The goal: bring together an ensemble of thought leaders and impassioned change makers for an afternoon of collaborative discussion to inform future initiatives and planning action steps for the AYPF as its board leadership looks ahead to the next five years.
Zoom Planning Retreat
On a Friday afternoon in mid-December, the Board of Directors of AYPF gathered around the “table,” which took the form of a six-by-six grid of faces via Zoom, in true 2020 fashion. Joining the Board of Directors at the digital table were members of the AYPF staff, facilitators from HEI, and more than a dozen invited guests, each of whom brought their unique perspective on policies and practices to create opportunity for America’s underserved and underrepresented young people.
Participants in the visioning exercise included public policy leaders with expertise ranging from early childhood development to adult career technical education, child welfare to corrections reform, learning to legislation, and socioeconomics to science. Each attendee was invested in the growth, opportunity, and success of young people, making them ideal influencers for an organization whose very essence is grounded in work that builds success for youth, particularly those in the margins.
Mission and Vision at the Core
Taking inspiration from AYPF’s vision and mission, HEI facilitators crafted questions designed to allow a broad and open exploration of the myriad of ways AYPF could advocate and influence opportunities for young people across the nation. Additionally, the facilitators intentionally configured breakout sessions to provide both structure to the work and to deliberately tailor smaller group conversations to ensure that every voice in the digital room had a chance to be heard during the discussion.
Conversation and Collaboration
The Higher Ed Insight team moderated the synergistic discussion. In the breakout sessions, the participants considered questions relating to the creative engagement of stakeholders, cross-sector collaboration, the surfacing and amplification of youth voices, and the facilitation of equitable opportunities. As each question was explored, ideas were expanded, stretched, and optimized. The unique perspectives of the panelists combined to enhance each suggestion, ultimately making the ideas stronger and more viable.
The breakout sessions provided AYPF staff with collaborative input resulting in a solid list of promising ideas to inform the future direction of AYPF initiatives and projects.
Next Step: Strategic Plan
HEI’s facilitation of AYPF’s end-of-year planning retreat has equipped AYPF with stakeholder ideas and renewed energy for their work as they move forward, impacting policies, practices, and opportunities for youth for years to come. These suggestions build upon a clear sense of AYPF’s mission and vision and provide an expansive view of what is possible in the next five years.