In this series, guest columnists reflect on one of three prompts provided by ELGL Co-Founder Kent Wyatt. This week, Erin L. Hudson, MPA, NCCMC, Strategic Performance Manager for the Town of Morrisville, writes about the accomplishments she is most proud of. Connect with Erin on Twitter or LinkedIn.
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The Strategic Performance Manager in Morrisville performs myriad tasks and is primarily responsible for managing the Town’s organizational strategic plan, providing oversight to each department and their individual plans, managing our performance tracking software, and a smattering of other things. This was a new position for Morrisville starting in 2019 and I have served as the only staff member for the last two years. Our strategic plan, Connect Morrisville, is BIG… comprised of six goals, 27 objectives, 32 initiatives, and 29 outcome measures. Like I said, BIG plan. We then have 12 individual department plans with specific initiatives and measures to be monitored as well. All department plans, all action items submitted to Town Council, and all annual budget priorities have alignment to our organizational plan.
Connect Morrisville is three years old and was the Town’s first-ever full strategic plan. It was ambitious and reaching and we are proud of the accomplishments in this plan. But in local government, our environments can change, sometimes quickly. To that end, we determined that due to some outdated information and some critical elements missing from our guiding document, we needed to revise our plan. So, we started to do just that in Spring 2020, but I think we all know what happened in Spring 2020 (insert eye roll, facepalm, or other choice reaction here).
When our plan was initially being constructed in 2017/2018, we performed a ton of in-person outreach and engagement and were able to build a lot of excitement around the development of our plan. We knew quickly that revising our plan was going to require us to think out of the box more than ever before. The ever-present digital divide did not need to be a hindrance in preventing us from reaching all our community. But how would we tell people what we were doing and ask for their feedback if we couldn’t speak with them in person? How would we build some of that support and excitement for the community to tell us how the plan had been performing over the last few years? The answer? We had to develop and implement different tools to help us reach the desired outcome, to ultimately hear from as many members of our community as possible. We needed to reach internal, external, old, young, and everyone in between.
We fully utilized an interactive approach, where possible. We started with some teasers placed ahead of the official kickoff to our revision process in our quarterly Connection newsletter, developed separate surveys for the public and staff and offered reward opportunities, utilized our Next Week in Morrisville weekly email newsletter, enlisted the help of our community partners (i.e. local Chamber of Commerce) to help us reach local businesses and promote our public survey, utilized digital message boards at our community center and aquatics and fitness center, encouraged word of mouth sharing through our advisory committees, and established a unique email address dedicated to this effort, and incorporated it in our communication to direct input to that medium. We used social media to our advantage with highlighted “DYK” features most days of our three-week engagement period, linking to our online plan, designed to entice the community to want to learn more. Staff at our largest community center offered to collect input from our seniors using the activity space, as well as individuals participating in our English as Second Language classes, both under-represented populations.
The component I am most proud of is a take-home craft kit, offered to youth aged 14 and under (aimed to the middle school group and below). The kits contained a ton of craft supplies, a sheet with inspirational ideas, a copy of our Connect Morrisville strategic plan, and a submission sheet. We wanted to know how our plan resonated with community youth, in whatever form they were most comfortable sharing – drawing a picture, telling a story, painting, collage, etc. The kits were available for contactless pickup and drop-off at our Town Hall. We received responses from residents as young as three, up to age 13.
We knew that response to this outreach initiative might be low due to extenuating factors (recall that Spring 2020 eye roll from earlier) and we didn’t make any assumptions on response until the engagement period was complete. It is somewhat difficult to know what our full reach was but of an estimated population at 28,500, we received 218 recorded surveys, had 29 in-person responses from our seniors and ESL classes, and 15 requested youth take-home kits. In total, that’s just shy of 10% (desired rate for public surveys), so we are pleased with the overall public response. We recorded 65 staff surveys from a population of 200, so hitting above the 30% response mark was a success for us as well.
Overall, I couldn’t be prouder of this initiative, the efforts of our staff, and our community, to support the continued growth and success of Connect Morrisville. This process has shown me, more than ever, that this role, much like our strategic plan, will grow and change. It has taught me to consider not only what we have learned from the past, but to anticipate and plan for what the future may bring. Considering all these things, I’m thankful every day for being able to Connect Morrisville.