Over the course of a year, we partnered with PA Digital, a statewide coalition of libraries dedicated to enhancing digital textbook accessibility and affordability across Pennsylvania, to develop a stakeholder-informed strategic plan for their network. Our mission was to facilitate a series of virtual strategic planning sessions and guide a task force to better understand the current value of PA Digital, identify shared goals, determine community needs, and build greater support for a sustainable approach to cultural heritage access and discovery in our region.

Our approach to strategic planning through participatory methods provided PA Digital with several key benefits:

  • Engagement: By involving over 100 stakeholders in the discovery phase, we ensured diverse perspectives were included, making the plan robust and comprehensive.

  • Co-Creation: Collaborative facilitated sessions enabled stakeholders to co-create their shared future, fostering a sense of ownership and commitment to the outcomes.

  • Strategic Alignment: The iterative process of feedback and reflection ensured that the final plans were not only strategic but also practical and aligned with stakeholder needs.

“We are so appreciative of Spud’s help in guiding our conversations and keeping us focused throughout the process – especially since this work involves so many disparate institutions.”

Jill Morris
Executive Director of PALCI + PA Digital Task Force Member

The ultimate goal of our engagement was to support the PA Digital Task Force in creating a Futures Report highlighting an action plan for implementing the new vision for their network.

This plan, informed by the insights and feedback from multiple stakeholder gatherings, aimed to ensure the sustainability and ongoing impact of PA Digital given various funding changes on their horizon. Together, we developed a change management plan that laid out the new vision for the network, along with a timeline for implementation of the proposed strategies. This plan provided a clear roadmap for navigating the transition and embedding the new priorities within PA Digital’s operations.

We structured our strategic planning process into four segments with the client:

1. Initial Task Force Planning

Our journey began with a core planning team of ~10 people to lay the groundwork for what they wanted to accomplish. Over the course of a few meetings, we mapped out what work had been previously agreed upon, what questions were left unknown that the group wanted to explore, and how we might design a meaningful Stakeholder Gathering.

2. Stakeholder Discovery Gathering

We hosted a 2.5-hour Stakeholder Discovery Gathering using a virtual platform that allowed for high engagement and participation. This event was a cornerstone in reimagining PA Digital’s next steps. We brought together over 100 stakeholders from across the state.

The gathering started with lightning talks to set the stage and then transitioned into a World Cafe facilitation process, which was the heart of our gathering. World Cafe is a structured conversational process that connects participants through guided small group discussions. Specifically, we guided the group through these three questions:

  • “What’s important to you about the future of PA Digital and why do you care?”
  • “What value is most important for you to see PA Digital offer in the future? And what role should DPLA play?”
  • Who is PA Digital primarily for? And to what degree are partners able to financially support?”

Using our virtual platform, participants could move freely between breakout discussions, fostering dynamic interactions that ensured we heard from all voices. For those who couldn’t attend, we designed a survey that mirrored the World Cafe questions.

3. Distilling Insights with the Task Force

For the following few months, we reconvened with the core planning team to distill the insights from the Stakeholder Discovery Gathering. Through two focused calls, we synthesized these insights into actionable next steps for PA Digital.

4. Stakeholder Reflection Gathering

Once the work was synthesized into key themes, we were ready to share our progress. We hosted a 2-hour Stakeholder Reflection Gathering to present the suggested next steps for PA Digital. This session was crucial for collecting feedback and making any necessary adjustments to our plans. It was an opportunity to ensure that our path forward resonated with all stakeholders and aligned with their collective vision.

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