BOARD TALK: SDA Gets Strategic

SDA Board of Directors: (L-R, standing) Astrid Bennett, Melinda Lowy, Saaraliisa Ylitalo, Babette Grunwald, Della Reams, Regina Benson, Jane Dunnewold (L-R, seated) Bette Levy, Candace Edgerley, Kristin Lewis

The Executive Committee of the Surface Design Association Board of Directors recently voted to undertake a strategic plan. Ann Brockette, President and CEO of the Ward Center for Professional Development, facilitated a goals-based planning process that began with a focus on SDA’s mission (vision and values), then on goals to work toward that mission, on strategies to achieve those goals and, finally, on action planning (who will do what and by when).

Simply put, strategic planning determines where an organization is headed over the next year or more, how it’s going to get there, and how it’ll know if it got there–or not. The focus of a strategic plan is usually on the entire organization. There are a variety of perspectives, models and approaches used in strategic planning, depending on the nature of the organization’s leadership, the culture of the organization, the complexity of the organization’s environment, and various other factors.

SDA has achieved incredible things without an updated strategy–so why is strategic planning being undertaken now? As the board, community members, advisors and staff considered their vision, it was clear that a range of strategic opportunities and challenges needed to be confronted in advancing SDA’s vision. Strategic planning serves a variety of purposes in organizations, including to:

1. Clearly define the purpose of the organization and to establish realistic goals and objectives consistent with that mission.

2. Communicate those goals and objectives to the organization’s constituents.

3. Develop a sense of ownership of the plan and build consensus about where the organization is going.

4. Ensure the most effective use is made of the organization’s resources by focusing the resources on the key priorities.

Development of a strategic plan greatly helps to clarify the organization’s plans and ensure that key leaders are all “on the same script.” Far more important than the strategic plan document is the strategic planning process itself. I applaud the board and staff for their strong and effective team work as we re-envisioned the future of SDA.

Several SDA board members shared the following thoughts on how the process affected them:

Q: How did the strategic planning process help you to re-think or re-envision and energize your area of involvement?

A: Saaraliisa Ylitalo, Director of Membership:

“As a group of artists, I think the exercise was rather like walking uphill for most of us, but the outcome of having a mission statement and a vision and a plan for the future infuses new life into SDA. It helped us solidify as a board, and we all left with a new excitement about our jobs.”

A: Melinda Lowy, Treasurer:

“I was struck by all the board members having the same perspective on why SDA is such a meaningful organization and where we want to take it as an organization both in the short and long term.”

Q: How did you feel about the experience and what it means for the future of SDA?

A: Bette Levy, Vice-President, Development:

“We’ve made many, many changes over the years, and accomplished much, yet much still remains to be accomplished and many opportunities exist for our future. SDA is such a fabulous organization and the new energy on the board is thrilling. Over the next few months and years, there will be tremendous strides in the organization.”

Personally, I think the time spent re-evaluating SDA’s goals helped not only to recognize what is currently important to the growth of the organization, but also to strengthen the way the board communicates and works together with the staff.

As we all move forward into the future, we’ve identified the following member services as our key priorities:

  • a total website redesign
  • an online members’ exhibition
  • ongoing improvement of regional representation and opportunities

And we look forward to hearing from you–our members–with comments and suggestions as we roll out these updates and improvements.

SDA Staff Members: (L-R) Stacey Stern (resigned), Sue Foss, Dot Moye, Patricia Malarcher, Leesa Hubbell

SDA President Candace Edgerley is an artist and educator who lives in Alexandria, VA. She designs wall pieces, clothing and accessories under the label Ginkgo Designs by Candace and teaches surface design for textiles at the Corcoran College of Art + Design in Washington, DC.


  • Donna Sebastian says

    June 2, 2010 at 7:56 pm

    Living in rural New Mexico (that is a redundant statement) I really want to see more emphasis on regional participation and communication.

  • Gay Young Ousley says

    June 7, 2010 at 11:37 am

    Living in West Texas brings a sense of disconnect from other fiber artists. I look to SDA to help us stay informed and provide a link to opportunities. I would also like to see more regional shows. And thanks for asking!

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