Bike SD – The Board Retreat

Reposted from the S&G Endeavors Blog.

If you missed it earlier this week, you may want to go back to revisit the first post in this blog series. You may recall the story of Bike SD, a bicycle advocacy organization in San Diego. Last week, we learned about how they launched about three years ago, grew quickly, defined their brand, and how they desired to transform into a strategically-effective and more professional powerhouse to serve all people who bike in San Diego. BikeSD: Working to be World Class

Building on the willingness of the board of directors to use their gumption and passion to help take BikeSD forward, they embarked, in February 2015, on a process to craft a concrete strategic plan with clear actions and initiatives to take Bike SD to the next level as an organization. The group was ready to really dive in and to have a dialogue centered around what was next.

The excitement from Sam Ollinger, who was responsible for leading the organization, was also compelling. She knew that this process would leave them with a clear shared strategic plan to move forward. The process for bringing organizations together to create a shared strategic plan is unique to each organization. Let’s examine some of the events that occurred for BikeSD as part of the process of planning and hosting their retreat.

Designing the Retreat
Over the course of three virtual conversations, the design team, comprised of 5-7 board members representing the whole system, met to design the conversation and identify the overall purpose & outcomes that they wanted for the retreat.   r1

The most important part of creating any type of event like this is to be clear with the purpose and outcomes for bringing people together. A clear purpose and outcomes ensures that you are clear with your reason for meeting and what you want to achieve, together as participants, during the meeting. The following are the purpose and outcomes, as crafted by the design team:

The purpose of our retreat is to come together as a committed board and key stakeholders to both grow bicycling in San Diego and to ensure that we have a strong, dedicated, leadership that buy-in to and will support our determined course for BikeSD.
We will create a common understanding of the opportunities and challenges facing BikeSD with respect to advocacy, political engagement, membership engagement, funding, working with other organizations, and other issues.
We will foster a sense of unity among the board and other stakeholders of BikeSD, creating an environment of cooperation with a common purpose around a new strategic framework.
We will leave with a viable strategy for the success of a strong BikeSD, which creates organizational sustainability; transforms cycling in our city; and, has prioritized, measurable, and concrete action plans to ensure that we are true to the vision.
We will leave with the knowledge that we have all been part of the decision-making process, are focused, and know what we have to do to succeed.

In addition to identifying the overall direction for the retreat, the design team members worked, with the help of S & G, to:

  • Ensure the retreat was designed to make the best use of their time;
  • Identify strategies to ensure enough people would come and share their wisdom; and,
  • Design the right conversations and retreat experience that resulted in achieving their aims of the retreat.

Holding the Retreat
r2On April 17 and 18, the board members of BikeSD met for their retreat and had great success with their work together. Friday night kicked off with a collaborative activity, where participants introduced themselves and the group was able to bond over a more cohesive visioning exercise for the organization. On Saturday, the board and some key additional stakeholders continued to build on their visioning from the night before, by brainstorming around specific areas of potential action, confirming a strategic framework to guide the organization, and creating specific action plans to achieve their goals.

Through evaluations, participants reported that the energy in the room was great. The dialogue they had on the projects that they felt mattered most was so moving, it was difficult to get through the scheduled discussions. Other successes with the retreat, reflected in evaluations and follow-up interviews, included:

  • Focusing on our priorities
  • Becoming aware of new ideas, strategies
  • Realization of what it will take to move Bike SD to the next level
  • The future structure of BikeSD as an organization

Following the retreat, the executive director also met with some key additional stakeholders, allies, and funders to report back on the retreat and incorporate any further feedback into the final strategic framework and action plans. Over the next years, Bike SD will be working on just some of the following action, including:

  • Increasing and targeting Advocacy Campaigns to increase cycling in the city of San Diego;
  • Encouraging frequent riding through events, organized rides and outreach efforts;
  • Integrating biking into the San Diego identity and everyday activities of people who bike in the city; and,
  • Increasing public & political support for bicycling.

r3Through all of the collaborative planning work described above, Bike SD had its key stakeholders had charted an actionable course for success, and through our follow-up discussions, we’re already hearing about great success relating back to the retreat and its design.

Stay tuned to the third blog, next week, when we hear directly from their Executive Director about their recent successes.

And be sure to contact Jeremy for an initial conversation soon, so that S & G can help your organization or company achieve actionable change in 2016 and beyond.