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Creating a Strategic Plan

Creating a strategic plan for your co-op

This tool is intended to guide co-op boards or members through the process of creating a strategic plan. Co-operatives that want a more thorough, professionally prepared strategy plan could consult experts in the field or give Co-operatives First a call to determine how we could support your plan. Our suggested model for a strategic plan may not be a good fit for your co-operative and you should consider alternative structures and sections that best reflect your organization’s plan and intentions.

Elements of a strategic plan:

  • Mission, Vision, Values
  • Current State
  • SWOT Analysis
  • Action Plan

Mission, Vision, and Values

The Mission, Vision, and Values statements of a co-operative outline what the organization will do and how it intends to do this, generally.

The mission statement simply explains what your co-operative does. This statement should be concise and serve as a one- or two-sentence overview of why the organization exists. It should convey a clear purpose and direction for the organization, offering something to work towards. Everything the organization does should be in service of this mission.

When creating a strategic plan, it may be useful to think of your mission statement as a recipe:

  • Who will use the organization?
  • What will it do?
  • Why is it important?
  • How will this take place?

The vision statement is less direct than the mission statement and is usually more aspirational and inspirational. For many organizations, a vision statement captures an ideal outcome or a societal goal that we need to work towards together. A food security organization in Vancouver might simple envision: “end hunger in Vancouver.”

A values statement may contain multiple values that demonstrate the priorities for the co-operative and identify how it will conduct business. The vision statement speaks to the nature of the co-operative and should be reflected in the work that it does. This could be a statement or in point-form to reflect the various important values underlying the business.

Current State

Taking an assessment of the organization’s current state or situational analysis is an integral part of a strategic plan that ensures these various components are at the front of peoples’ minds. In the early days of the organization, this will help chart the assets that will support development. For organizations that complete annual or bi-annual strategic plans, updating this information will be important to determine the ongoing performance of the organization. Consider using these factors:

  • Stakeholders: An outline of the stakeholders and important actors involved in the co-operative. Describe the board, membership, staff, and (if applicable) market.
  • Financial: A brief, general overview of the organization’s financial position and if there are any concerns that could impact the plan.
  • Governance: Outline the governance of the organization: board, committees, election cycles, and any relevant policies that might impact the plan.
  • Key Accomplishments: Review the accomplishments that were made since the last strategic plan or to date. This will give a sense of what has been done, what still needs to be done, and what can be built upon.

SWOT Analysis

The SWOT analysis is a commonly-used tool that helps illustrate the context for an organization’s strategic plan. It is useful to think of the four categories in two sections: strengths and weaknesses are internal to the organization and may be controlled; opportunities and threats are external and could be acted upon.

Strengths Weaknesses
May include:

·         Finances

·         Staff experience

·         Affordable facility

May include:

·         Board experience

·         Member engagement

·         Lack of branding

Opportunities Threats
May include:

·         New grant opportunity

·         Growing population

·         Local media coverage

May include:

·         New competitor

·         Online markets; relevance

·         Board vacancies


Action Plan

With the organization’s current state at the forefront of the group’s mind and an overview of what works, what doesn’t, and what could identified, it’s time to create some action items. These can be high-level, focusing on strategy, or task-specific. It’s useful to base the action plan on the findings of the SWOT analysis. Framing questions might be helpful:

  • How can we use our strengths to…
    • Overcome our weaknesses;
    • Capitalize on opportunities; and
    • Minimize threats

Some examples of action items (based on the sample SWOT analysis above) may include:

  • Task-focused: Engage a professional design consultant to create a logo and brand for the organization that can be used to shape external communications.
  • High Level: Engage the membership in the governance of the organization to enhance governance capacity.

If the SWOT analysis identified broader themes that require multiple actions, consider identifying focus areas with specific tasks. This might be useful when allocating resources and people’s time to addressing each area.

  • Co-op Governance
    • Create a Membership chair on the board that will head a membership committee with the responsibilities of creating opportunities to engage and educate the membership.
    • Identify and work with a service provider that can provide board governance training.
    • Create a ‘terms of reference’ for the board.
  • Strategic Communications
    • Engage a professional design consultant to create a logo and brand for the organization that can be used to shape external communications.
    • Create a social media policy.
    • Work with the Manager to draft a ‘communications plan’ that outlines key targets.

Enjoy this tool on creating a strategic plan? Then you’ll enjoy our tool on creating a Human Resources policy or our blog on making a business model canvas.

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