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2nd Quarter, President's MessageJuly 2014

A Message from the President

Rob photo

The Public Policy Forum has had a longstanding commitment to regular strategic planning. Not only do we feel compelled to "practice what we preach" to local governments and school districts - whom we consistently prod to make annual budget and policy decisions that reflect long-term fiscal plans and realities - but we also recognize the importance of regularly refreshing our own strategic focus.       


This summer, Forum leaders will initiate a new round of strategic planning deliberations - our first since 2010. To kick off our process, we first sought to elicit feedback on the quality of our research from end users. Using an outside consultant (Colleen Fitzgerald), we held two focus groups: one with financial staff from local governments, school districts, and the private sector to provide input on our local government finance research and activities; and the other with a similar group of economic development practitioners to comment on our work in that area. Our consultant also conducted phone interviews with several education stakeholders to ascertain their views on our education research.


The following key themes emerged from our "market research":

  • The Forum is viewed as increasingly robust. Participants included strength of analysis, credible content, timeliness, quantity of reports, and nonpartisanship as aspects of quality. They also indicated a very high likelihood of reading and using reports in their area of interest.
  • How to stay neutral while becoming more of an influential voice? The Forum continues to be valued as an influential and neutral resource. Yet, many consumers of its reports also want the Forum to step up its presence as a catalyst and, in some cases, even an advocate on issues.
  • Invest in diversifying ways to "get the word out." Participants wanted reports shared as broadly as possible and accessible to more audiences. Many thought the presentation of research findings needs to be diversified. Increasing our social media presence, improving the visual impact of our reports, and "saying more with fewer words" are all important challenges for the Forum to take on.
  • The Forum as a strategic educator. Participants expressed a desire for more leadership outreach from the Forum; they want more of a regional presence and for the Forum to be more of a catalyst for community/regional dialogue.

This feedback obviously gives Forum leadership a lot to chew on. Our process will start with a small group of Executive Committee members convened by Chairman Andy Schiesl, which will grapple with some big picture strategic questions and forward recommendations to the full committee. Ultimately, a draft strategic planning product will be developed, which will be shared for input with the full Board of Trustees and members.


As this process unfolds, we obviously value the input of all Forum stakeholders. If you have any thoughts you would like to offer now or as our planning efforts take shape, please do not hesitate to contact me.