After reading this week’s case study, “Oxfam in America” I was particular drawn to the overarching thematic practice toward defined simplicity in the mission and function of the organization. The OA board’s Strategic Planning Committee and the organization’s President, Raymond Offenheiser, approached their mission to improve Oxfam in a number of areas by zeroing in on the most basic components of both operations and the guiding principles that are fundamental to steer and define nonprofits.
Catalyzed by key reforms in board governance as recommended by third party evaluators, the board addressed internal issues by simplifying and removing the layers of decision making at the board level. With clearer and less complex routes available to the board to discuss, adopt, implement, and evaluate key areas of the organization, Oxfam’s board adopted a precedent for further strategic adjustments rooted in explicit clarity and a pronounced commitment to specificity and strategic focus. This theme occurs throughout the case and is utilized to develop solutions to issues of internal communications, organizational areas of focus, with a reach in application extending so far as to ground revisions to Oxfam’s core mission and underlying philosophical values.
In my own work, I have found this technique to be particularly helpful. In serving on the board of the Union Project in Highland Park, we have been engaged in a strategic planning process that has helped us zero in on our mission and work to allow for clarity and simplicity to drive our work and increase our effectiveness.