In addition to research and evaluation, PPA provides strategic consulting. This is a core aspect of our services, where we work with clients and their partners to formulate a direction for organizations, develop and support initiatives, and help to inform other crucial decisions on programs, policies, and processes. In approaching this type of work, we see three core principles as key: hearing the voices of those affected; research-based decisions; and flexibility to respond to the context.

Listening—really listening—to those who are going to in some way be affected by your actions promotes buy-in among those individuals, but also improves the end product you are trying to create and supports greater equity. By hearing from people with different vantage points on a topic, the resulting program, policy, or other effort then more accurately reflects the needs it intends to address and improves its effectiveness to succeed in its goals.

Similarly, getting some additional perspective from the research literature or a scan of promising practices offers the opportunity to bring in new ideas for solutions to problems. This opens up possibilities for what might work in your context, but also identifies what approaches are not likely to be effective. This can preserve resources for the most encouraging approaches. If you do not find your idea is truly unique, but builds off of successes elsewhere, you might be the one testing an innovative idea for others to learn from and adopt.

Strategic efforts also benefit from a balance between structure and flexibility. As we all experienced with this pandemic, sometimes we are forced to adapt to changing circumstances. Sometimes we should do it just because it is the right next step. For instance, a realization that some aspect of an issue is missing or not well understood might require further exploration, or a new path must be forged to build collaboration. The willingness and ability to shift plans and reconceive notions are the valuable consequences of new perspectives and reflection.

When you are having your next conversation about strategy, test what you think you know against the research, look for ideas from outside your organization, build in time to hear from those your plans will affect (e.g., staff, program participants, grantees), and be ready to adapt your approach.

For more about PPA’s strategic planning services, please contact CEO Sam Singh at