The AESD Strategic Plan: Inventing Our Future

Benjamin Franklin noted, “If you fail to plan, you are planning to fail.” Brian Johnson reminds us the future is not fixed. It is not a set point over the horizon that we are all running toward, helpless to do anything about.

The future is built every day by the actions of people.

We build the future—the way to prepare for the future is to invent it. We invent it through strategic planning, strategic decisions, network collaboration, and accountability. If we do not take action, we cede control, turning the future over to others, those who will provide the leadership and service currently enjoyed through the AESD Network.

Under the leadership of AESD past-president, Rick Anthony, the AESD Executive Committee set about to invent the future by establishing a three-year, 2018-2021 strategic plan. The first step was research, pulling together a wide variety of disparate and multidisciplinary sources of data to inform the vision.

The next step was to ask, based on this research, what is the future we want and what’s the future we want to avoid? Both were important.

Next, the AESD strategic planning team sought a three-year vision, and addressed the questions: What are the steps we need to take today, tomorrow, and within the next three years to achieve our perceived future? As an organization, what needs to happen in three years? How will we build upon year-one and year-two to achieve our three-year goals?

The mission of the AESD Network Strategic Plan is “To ensure equity and excellence in education through effective services delivered statewide.” The vision is “To inspire and foster equity, opportunity, and results through meaningful support of all school districts.”

The three AESD Strategic Plan goals are:

  1. Develop strategic relationships
  2. Grow the Network and provide needed services
  3. “Tell our story”

These goals ensure the AESD Network is an integral and valuable component of the educational eco system in Washington and fulfill AESD’s future-casting process. The AESD Strategic Plan is continually updated and resides on the AESD website.

This future-casting process is not simply a method for inventing the future. It is a framework, a way for the AESD Network to envision multiple futures, to take action to shape them— while also providing time to process new information and respond to unexpected events.

This future-casting is not about prediction. Instead, it allows the Network to embrace the many uncertainties that lie between today and the futures we are exploring. These uncertainties are our potential for innovation and opportunity.

Without these possibilities, the future would be fixed and closed, stamped with an expiration date and unable to be changed. The final step is for the AESD Network to construct our stories of the future. This requires being able to tell people those stories in an understandable way. When we collaborate with partner organizations, these stories provide a shared language for success and accountability.

Ultimately, the way we invent the future is to change the story we tell ourselves about the future that we will live in. If we change the story, we see different possibilities, make different decisions, and take different actions. Human beings are storybelieving machines. AESD, through goal three, “Tell Our Story,” has the opportunity to tell our numerous stories of success and thus, increase our reputation for quality service and educational leadership.

Our very consciousness is based on our ability to tell and, just as importantly, understand other people’s stories, especially those we serve. A well-researched and informed strategic plan and vision can change lives, transform our service delivery models, and vastly improve AESD’s current and future effectiveness.

As we move into year-two of the AESD Strategic Plan, current AESD President Rainer Houser enthusiastically embraces the mission, vision and three strategic goals. He has assumed the mantel of leadership and championed the need for authentic accountability and active member participation. He continually reminds us: What is the future we want? What is the future we want to avoid? And finally, and most importantly, what are we going to do about it?

As Rainer notes, “We all must actively work to invent the future; it’s too important to be left to chance.”