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A defined set of values can serve as a compass for a strategy that evolves over time.

A defined set of values can serve as a compass for a strategy that evolves over time.

WellAhead intentionally set out to work in an emergent manner. Yet even emergence requires some level of grounding or focus to ensure that the strategy is moving forward in the right way, and course-correcting if need be. In the case of WellAhead, our values served as this anchor. Because the values were created based on our knowledge of the current barriers, challenges and opportunities in the system, we tended to rely on them as a reference point when making decisions. As our colleague John Cawley puts it, “complex strategies need a compass, not a roadmap.”

We found it worthwhile to use our values as a compass in two ways:

  • Adherence: Assessing whether or not we were, in fact, making decisions based on these values. For example, though we had set out to be very transparent, upon reflection we realized that we were not effectively communicating out about our process and learnings to our stakeholders and broader network. 
  • Relevance: Reflecting on whether these values were in fact critical to our success. For example, our value of mass participation prompted us to create a public input platform for people across BC to provide their input on the everyday practices suggested in each pilot district. This was a time-consuming endeavour, and participation on this online platform was not as high as we expected. Upon reflection, it may have been more worthwhile to focus on more targeted engagement of particular stakeholder groups. 

As part of our principle of collaboration, we sought to ensure that perspectives from all five stakeholder groups were included throughout the co-design phase: educators, administrators, students, parents, and community partners. This was a useful guiding principle that helped us think about diversity of representation. However, when we applied this value in a rigid way, we found less success. As a result of our specification that ideation sessions must involve all five stakeholder groups, we discouraged student-only sessions, an idea proposed by SD 43 Coquitlam. 
In mandating broad participation, we may have unintentionally posed barriers to some groups – in particular, students and parents – who may have contributed more effectively if they were surrounded by their peers. While we continue to value multiple perspectives, a more open focus on respectful engagement may be a better fit for our work.