What we learned in Schuyler

Project complete. From SWOT to final document, Sessions 1–6 went off without a hitch. Looking back, it was so awesome to get to collaborate with Katie on something like this. Aside from the workshops, there was lots of drive time, lots of planning time, and lots of extra computer time in an already packed work schedule. But it all was worth it. We just published a story on Medium about what we learned. Take a look, let me know what you think. And be sure to tell your friends about the good things happening in Schuyler, Nebraska!

Read on Medium »

Session 6: The Strategic Plan

Two and a half months ago we set out to inform the public and promote the town through the formation of a new entity: the Schuyler Media Network. Katie and I have facilitated five sessions to this point and are now ready to turn over the strategic plan. Empowering our community with reliable, relevant and accessible information is the vision. From the beginning, the SWOT analysis set us up well and we feel the long- and short-term goals will get the town of Schuyler, Nebraska to that vision in five years.

Today is our last trip to Schuyler for our 2:30–4:00 session. It’s bittersweet for sure. Been a ton of pro-bono time and we’ve had to navigate the challenges of facilitating a group of volunteers already over-committed in their day-to-day responsibilities. But we know good things will come from their hard work. And it’s been a great pleasure to work on something like this with my extremely talented wife and her father, who is quite a force for good in the community.

I also have to say, dinner afterwards with Katie’s folks at one of Schuyler’s authentic Mexican food restaurants has been awesome. Many options, all great. Best burrito in Nebraska: the Burrito House. It’s the real deal.

Platform, Network, Users, Revenue

The momentum is picking up. Today the 5th session for the Schuyler Media Network is going to finalize the concrete steps needed to get things done. Last time we put additional definition around our vision statement and began to define short-term goals as they relate to the long-term. Katie and I kept the format loose and feel we had productive discussion all around. 

We know a web-based, multimedia platform is needed and progress was made there in session four on how to make that a reality. Now we need to know what’s needed to build a partnership network, attract users, and generate revenue. We’re really proud of all the hard work the participants have put into this and we know their efforts are going to pay off.  

Reliable, Relevant, Accessible

Katie and I think we’ve arrived at our vision statement. In our last session for the Schuyler Media Network, there was a lot of conversation on how we were defining a few key terms. This afternoon we’re going to break things down a little more and look at what the words reliable, relevant, and accessible are and are not. When that’s complete, we feel like we’ll be able to write out that vision statement in ink for everyone to get behind.

From there we’re going to look to further solidify long-term goals with short-term priorities. Ultimately, we want to firmly establish four long-term goals. We are looking for consensus. The group today will then talk about the tactics and critical steps needed in the first year in order to achieve the long-term goals in five years. We probably won’t complete everything when it comes to the short-term, but as we cross the halfway point of our facilitating, we want to keep the momentum going today that will carry us through our last two sessions. 

Looking Ahead 5 Years From Now

The work continues. In our 3rd session this afternoon we’re going to discuss the progress made by the group last week on a vision statement for the Schuyler Media Network. Katie and I feel we have a couple very strong directions on the overall vision. Connected, empowered, responsive, reliable. All excellent word choices in the mix for what this network could be. To get there, in the 2nd session we divided the group into two teams. In them, with folks feeling a little more comfortable expressing themselves, we heard great discussion and debate. And now, time to get some consensus. 

From there, we’ll look more at the goals needed for getting to the vision. To help focus that part of the session, we’ve established a few goal types including revenue goals, community adoption and usage goals, and website traffic goals. We want to keep looking long-term but also start to consider short-term goals. After today, we have a big break in the action where Katie and I will pull everything together to start to solidify some elements of the strategic plan. And then we’ll pick it up again in three weeks in the 4th session where we’ll firm up the group’s collective thinking.

Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, Threats

We’re getting ready for our 2nd session this afternoon with the community leaders of Schuyler. In our first session, Katie and I got the lay of the land. Through a SWOT analysis we established a solid foundation and got everything out on the table as we begin to work together toward a Schuyler Media Network. We met some great people who hold a variety of positions with the city, the school system, the community college, the bank, and the cable television distributor. Overall, we learned a lot about what makes this small, rural community great and what challenges it faces. Of all the post-its, the strengths were by far the most numerous, with population diversity seen as a great asset to be embraced.

From SWOT, we’re now moving into visioning. Katie and I will be facilitating this next session in hopes of establishing a clear vision statement as well as the long-term goals for the project. We’re in the thick of the strategic plan development now, where the real work begins, and I’m excited to see what the group comes up with. I’m also extremely excited about burritos with her folks afterward. Because seriously, best burritos in the state. 

Off to Schuyler

How do we inform the public about our community happenings and promote Schulyer as a great place to live, work, and raise families?

This afternoon I’m heading up to Schuyler, Nebraska with my wife Katie for a situation assessment to begin to answer that question. We’re kicking off a multi-session visioning facilitation for a group of community leaders brought together by a very rambunctious economic development coordinator who also happens to be my wife’s father. I’m really excited because A) I’m teaming up with Katie and B) as a former smalltown lad, I really want to find the answer.

The goal is to create a strategic plan for a media network for the community. I’m not sure how we’ll get there, but I’m looking forward to listening, learning, and seeing what we can all come up with together. I’ll post updates here over the next few weeks. Successes, failures, and the funniest post-its.