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Field Notes

Root Cause’s Approach to Strategic Planning

Colette Stanzler
June 15, 2023

What is Strategic Planning?

Strategic planning is traditionally defined as a process in which an organization’s leaders articulate their vision for the future, agree upon their organization’s goals and objectives, and identify core strategies and related activities to achieve those goals. At Root Cause, we see strategic planning as a way to help partners, program participants, and community members develop roadmaps for the future, design and launch new initiatives, strengthen existing programs and processes, and implement strategies for greater impact. 

What is Root Cause’s approach to strategic planning work?

Root Cause recognizes that no two strategic planning projects are the same, just as no two organizations are the same. We deliberately use a customized approach to meet clients where they are and ensure they get what they need to accomplish their goals. Based on an organization’s needs, strategic planning can take many different forms, including:

    • Analyzing current programs to see whether they’re meeting participants’ needs and how they can be adjusted, (e.g., Boston Public Schools).
    • Exploring new revenue streams and adopting new strategies for financial diversification and sustainability.
    • Thinking through the best ways to serve new geographic areas or population groups and developing a scaling and implementation plan to do so (e.g., Girlstart, Latinos for Education, EC-LINC)

While each of our strategic planning projects are different, the hallmarks of our approach remain constant. We strive to facilitate strategic planning processes that are:

Flexible and Adaptive: 

    • We design tools, workplans, meeting formats, and deliverables based on what works best for the organization. 
    • We adapt the project’s scope and timeline as needed based on what we’re learning through research, interviews, and analysis. 
    • We take the time to build buy-in and ensure participation across multiple stakeholder groups because we know organizational change can be difficult.

Intentionally Inclusive: 

    • We center the lived experiences of community members/program participants and seek their active engagement throughout the project, with the understanding that to do so authentically may take more time.
    • We infuse racial and economic equity design principles into the strategic planning process.
    • We often begin strategic planning processes with a discussion about the organization’s mission, vision, and values, so that the organization’s North Star can guide the strategies being developed.


    • We use data to understand the systemic root causes of a local community’s inequalities.
    • We collect both qualitative and quantitative data to ground our recommendations.
    • We co-develop feasible and measurable metrics and milestones with our clients to measure progress for strategic plans.

Actionable & Sustainable

    • We care that the work we partner on with organizations has a lasting impact.
    • We take a hands-on approach throughout the project, providing effective project management and technical assistance in operations, HR, and other functions as needed.  
    • At the conclusion of each project, we co-develop implementation plans with our clients to ensure that the plan can be carried out successfully and with long-term financial sustainability.
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