ALPA (Academic Libraries of Pennsylvania) is a statewide coalition of libraries dedicated to enhancing textbook accessibility and affordability across Pennsylvania through digital and open education resources.

Over a few years, we’ve been hired to support their network through multiple efforts. When orchestrated together, investing in team building opportunities enables a group to engage more meaningfully in a strategic planning process.

  • Fellowship Team Retreat: Facilitated team building and action planning sessions for Open Education Resource specialists within the ALPA network.

  • Strategic Planning: Guided their leadership team through a strategic planning process to explore the future of their work as they entered the end of their current grant funding cycle.

Fellowship Team Retreat

Working over 3 years with a group of Open Education Resource specialists, we organized multiple virtual retreats for them as they embarked on their fellowship. Each retreat was tailored to the unique needs of that cohort and leveraged the Remo platform that we offer in our virtual Connection Cafes.

As a way to strengthen the connections in the group, we would mail goodie bags to each participant ahead of the retreat with instructions not to open it until the day of the retreat. Together, they opened up a package that included Field Guides, facilitator card decks, and connection toolkits that we used throughout the gatherings.

The purpose of the retreats are often to strengthen relationships between the cohort and map out clear priorities for what they want to collectively work on throughout their fellowship. Over the years, we’ve incorporated techniques such as:

  • Collective Story Harvest around what the team needs from one another
  • Moderated Hot Seat dialogues around challenges they may encounter
  • ‘What’s Worth Doing’ brainstorming sessions around project ideas
  • Open Space working sessions to map out action steps
  • Training on key topics such as ‘Community Organizing 101’

Strategic Planning

In addition to working with a specific program – the OER Specialists – within ALPA, we were also asked to guide the strategic planning process for their wider network. To do this, we led a series of visioning and planning sessions to collect feedback from their members and co-create a viable pathway forward.

We began by working with a core planning team to design a participatory stakeholder gathering process. Much of this time was spent establishing a baseline of what the network was currently doing, and what factors they should consider throughout the process. Key questions emerged around their value creation, organizational model, partnership potentials, and funding opportunities.

Once the task force had a clear direction for how we would engage stakeholders, we hosted a virtual World Cafe which involved three 20-minute conversation rounds with members of their network across the state. The World Cafe allowed participants to explore what was critical to include in the future of the network.

Throughout this process, we guided participants through a process to create Impact Grids around the tasks that they felt created the most significant impact with the least amount of effort. This helped the group prioritize between the multiple initiatives they were running at the time.

After the stakeholder event, we distilled the insights alongside the task force into suggested next steps and agreed upon priorities. These steps were informed by stakeholder feedback and resulted in an actionable plan for the network, which was later presented back to stakeholders at their annual summit.

Much of the plan focused on addressing the funding challenges for the network given that their primary grant was coming to a close. Our process helped the group identify ways in which they could sustain the key value propositions behind their work within the new budgetary constraints.

Building upon the recommendations the task force co-created, we hosted a Pro-Action Cafe which created an opportunity for the wider network to map out action steps around 8 high priority areas, including topics such as student success, data collection, training templates, and faculty engagement. This session relied upon the OER Specialists that we worked with in the Fellowship Retreats to lead each of the 8 topics. This created the perfect opportunity to showcase the importance of investing in team building simultaneously to strategic planning.

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