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Impact Planning Project

[2009]
An organizational planning project with a natural history museum
Burke Museum of Natural History and Culture, Seattle, WA

The Burke Museum of Natural History and Culture asked RK&A to lead an impact planning project among the Museum’s staff of seventy-five and the Museum’s advisory board of directors.  The Burke, located on the campus of the University of Washington, desired a unifying planning initiative in advance of the Museum’s planned expansion.

How did we approach this project?

One of the planning project goals was to reinvigorate how staff worked together, responding to natural tensions related to the Museum’s focus and structure.  The Museum is defined by its collections in two distinct areas—natural history specimens and cultural artifacts from indigenous and ethnic communities.  The Burke’s affiliation with the University of Washington and role as the Washington State Museum resulted in a wide spectrum of audiences served.  The dual collections focus and institutional roles amplified inherent challenges for staff to work collaboratively. 

The RK&A planning process and customized approach addressed the Burke’s goal to unify the Museum and reinvigorate how staff work together.  The planning process was structured using a series of one-day workshops and two-hour working sessions over a six-month period, in which all Burke staff and board members worked collectively and collaboratively.  Weekly planning calls between RK&A and the Burke’s planning team, as well as ongoing work by museum leadership and staff to develop and refine the Burke’s planning framework, created consistency and cohesion for the planning project while modeling a new holistic way of working.

What did we learn?

The Burke learned a new way of working together through the structure and rhythm of the impact planning process and the creation of the planning documents and organizational statements.  The unifying project document, entitled, “The Burke’s Impact Planning Framework,” was developed collaboratively among the Museum’s staff and board members.  The framework documents key elements of the planning project by defining whom the Burke serves, clarifying the impact the Burke intends to achieve, and crafting a new vision statement. 

Staff and board members chose to craft a vision statement that clarifies the impact the Burke intends to achieve on the community it serves.  The result was a unifying statement that represents the Museum’s dual collections of natural history and culture and embraces all groups that the Burke serves.  As a result, the process of developing the framework affected organizational change and unified staff, while the resulting impact planning document empowered all staff and board to sustain a new way of working to guide the Museum’s planned expansion.

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