The Jewish Federation of Ottawa has invited all Jewish community organizations and members of the community to participate in consultations
For Jewish Federation of Ottawa president and CEO Andrea Freedman, “words matter.”
She’s excited about the process of creating the words for a new Federation strategic plan, which will include a vision statement of “what we hope to become” and a values statement of “what we feel is important.”
She enjoys the debate on the language “because I think it’s valuable. I care about mission statements. They should be a communication to the community of what we do, what we care about.”
Freedman wants the community to know “this is your opportunity to impact the strategic direction of the Jewish Federation of Ottawa. We are working very hard to maximize the number of people who will take advantage of this opportunity, which is also an important responsibility.”
It has been 10 years since the last Federation strategic plan, and seven years since a community planning symposium. In between the symposium and now, seven strategic objectives had been developed and worked on, in particular the openOttawa process, which led to the creation of the Emerging Generation initiative.
Now, it’s again a crucial time for renewal and for reaching out to the community.
It’s an opportunity for the Federation to listen to the community’s ideas of what the Federation should be. They hope to hear from not just the official voices, but the diverse voices, including the unaffiliated.
“The Federation needs to make sure our process is highly consultative, with a broad range of viewpoints and perspectives,” said Freedman. “You have to have a process where everybody feels heard from, and then you have to get back to them about how the final components of the strategic plan were chosen.”
Overseeing the process is the Board’s Strategic Planning Committee, chaired by Federation Vice-Chair Linda Kerzner. Committee members include Federation Chair Steven Kimmel, Debbie Halton-Weiss, the immediate past-chair, and Board members Lauren Bronstein, Mike Shahin and Jason Shinder. Freedman and Bram Bregman, Federation vice-president of community building, staff the committee.
“We intend to hold the majority of our consultations in January and February, with separate sessions for different groups and two general community consultations for anyone else interested,” Freedman said. “We are hoping to present a Board-approved, finalized strategic plan at our AGM on June 18.”
Business transformation consultant Michael Walsh of Totem Hill will facilitate the consultations.
Ron Prehogan headed up the last Federation strategic plan process.
“The strategic planning process from 10-plus years ago was an important part of the new governance structure when the Vaad became the Federation,” he said. “We were transitioning from a 40-plus board of trustees to a 10-plus board of directors with committees reporting up to the Board, and so it was a big change. I’m not sure what the current strategic planning process is all about, but I suspect that it will be less governance- and process-oriented and more focused on vision and mission.”
Prehogan said he would urge the Federation “to strike a better balance between the needs of the donors and beneficiary agencies than has been the case over the past 10 years where we have over-focused on the donors and under-focused on the agencies. Donors will be happier if our agencies do better, so let’s put more of a focus on our agencies than we have in the past. That would be my view.”
Why is a strategic plan so important to a non-profit organization?
“In its simplest form, a strategy is a means of getting something done,” said Gregory Richards, professor of performance management at the University of Ottawa’s Telfer School of Management.
“Most non-profits deal with limited resources and expanding demands; therefore, a strategic plan is useful because it defines what needs to be done, how to do it and the resources required. Accordingly, the outcome of a good strategic plan is a clear definition of what the agency will do with its resources, but also, and perhaps more importantly, the plan defines – usually by exception – what the agency is not capable of doing, given its resource base. A good plan is also dynamic in that it includes success measures useful in ensuring that operational activities directly support the strategy.”
“Strategic planning is about figuring out how to match resources and capacity, especially in a time when resources are often limited,” said Fran Klodawsky of Carleton University.
“If an organization can be clear about what it wants to try to achieve re vision and mission and objectives, it can be more realistic about the required time frame and resource needs and then try to develop a plan on how to achieve,” she said. “Having a plan makes the process much clearer and also allows an organization to help clarify to members what it is and is not about.”
The committee has scheduled several consultation sessions and hopes that all of Ottawa’s Jewish organizations, as well as all interested members of the Jewish community will participate.
“We would love it if we had to put on extra sessions to accommodate the demand,” said Freedman. “We’d rather have multiple sessions of 30 people than one session of 100, because not everyone is comfortable speaking in a crowd.”
Small pockets of consensus will be built around the tables in each of the sessions, which will build to a larger consensus as the process evolves.
“At the end of the day, you want to create a document that is living and breathing,” she said. “Everything is aligned and flows from there. My personal belief is that strategic plans are not only helpful for direction, but as well to help us decide what not to do at this time.”
The first consultation for Jewish organizations was scheduled to take place on January 14 with a second one on Thursday, January 23 from 7 to 9 pm.
A session for the emerging generation is set for Wednesday, January 29 from 5:30 to 7:30 pm.
The community consultations will take place on Monday, February 3 and Wednesday, February 5 from 7 to 9 pm.
All of the consultations take place at the Soloway Jewish Community Centre.
For discussion purposes, a draft mission statement, vision statement and list of core values is available at
“The value of a strategic plan is assessing where we are as a community today and where we would like to be in five years,” said Freedman. “It is about setting concrete, measurable objectives so that we know what success looks like.”
To attend one of the consultation sessions, contact Rachel Abenhaim at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The Bulletin will continue to follow this story during the strategic planning process.