Nanaimo Ladysmith School District knew that for their stakeholders to believe in a strategic plan, they needed to be directly involved in creating it. They decided to use an inquiry model approach to get their community involved in meaningful ways.
Nanaimo Ladysmith had the ambitious and admirable vision of inviting staff, students, community members and parents from every school in the District to contribute to the plan. Trustees agreed to travel to each school but knew they needed a way to: engage people who were not attending meetings, gather all feedback into one location and prioritize data so leadership could take action.
Enter Thoughtstream. Nanaimo Ladysmith leadership worked with Thoughtstream staff to formulate questions regarding what parents, staff, students and community members thought should be celebrated and sustained in the current system. Using Thoughtstream meant that stakeholders who were unable to attend meetings or who preferred to contribute online were able to provide their thoughts on their own schedule. Also, everyone had the opportunity to review thoughts from other stakeholders and to assign Stars to the ideas they liked best. This process created a great deal of learning.
In total Nanaimo Ladysmith had 5,500 Thoughts entered into Thoughtstream and almost 40,000 Stars were assigned in the Choose process. The Stars represent 40,000 times a stakeholder valued the opinion of another stakeholder. The top themes were then brought together so the District Leadership Team could get a system perspective. The team then took the top 10 themes to public meetings and had participants rank them. The results of the process were the three strategic planning goals for the district. See how Nanaimo describes the “Success for All” strategic planning in their short video.
Red Deer Public School District was faced with the challenge of changing the boundaries for their elementary schools. The district is run by 7 locally elected trustees, has 10,000 students, and over 1,000 staff - consulting stakeholders
is no small task.
In order to feel they had heard all their stakeholders, the district felt they needed
to get as broad a spectrum of input as possible. They conducted face-to-face meetings as well, but needed a way to include more than just the people who showed up at those events. They also wanted any tools they had for stakeholder engagement to be able to be used by their principals for further engagement processes moving forward.
Thoughtstream helped the District formulate questions about challenges and benefits associated with a number of different scenarios - without directly asking which scenario was the “best”. These questions were sent to parents on a school level to ensure high participation and meaningful input. The Thoughtstream ‘coaching program’ was utilized to engage principals in the process and train
them to use the software strategically themselves down the road.
Red Deer received 2,496 unique Thoughts and 13,035 Stars were assigned by parents. These stars represent 13,000 times that a stakeholder assigned value to the thought of another stakeholder. After the decision was announced, the District received only 2 emails from parents unhappy with the choice. This was dramatically better than the public reaction after a previous process done with no online engagement system. Principals in the district have continued to use the software
for everything from strategic decisions on literacy issues to feedback on lunch choices and more.
“After the decision was announced, I received a grand total of two emails from people who had issues with the decision that was made ... I am very satisfied
with the results.” Piet Langstraat, Superintendent Red Deer Public School District
Elk Island Catholic School (EICS) district wanted to engage with their stakeholders to aid in planning the reconfiguration of schools and programs in the district to better allow for future growth, and to maximize opportunities for faith based quality education.
EICS saw that some of their schools were over utilized while some were under utilized. They faced fiscal challenges for operations, staffing and transportation. They wanted to create an opportunity for all stakeholders to learn about challenges, strengths and opportunities from each other so priorities could be aligned. In order to do this successfully EICS knew they would have to share data as broadly as possible, to consult as many people as possible and to find a way to understand the priorities of people with very different points of view. They had tried town hall meetings and surveys in the past and were looking for a better solution.
A multiplatform approach was utilized with face to face meetings with students, parents and staff. There was a website created that was dedicated to public engagement that provided information about the consultation process and how the community could engage in the process through Thoughtstream. EICS recognized immediately that an online engagement system with the ability to prioritize unique thoughts gathered from their stakeholders would create buy-in, build trust and better inform their decisions. EICS embarked on three separate Thoughtstream processes. They consulted on the process itself in the first, addressed challenges for students and facilities in the second and in the third presented three final scenarios informed by their engagement to date.
In addition to the face to face consulting done by the district, EICS received almost 11,000 unique Thoughts from participants and over 75,000 Stars were assigned. This engagement allowed the district to listen to all stakeholders and to make sound decisions resulting in an approximate savings of $300,000 per year through better utilization of resources while creating a preferred future for student learning through reconfiguration of programs. In the end, instead of protesting the decisions, many people thanked the leadership for creating such an obviously meaningful and thorough process.