Many organisations choose to hold an away-day to get the whole organisation involved in strategy development: building ownership and involvement. Here’s a guide to setting up an away day, adapted from our toolkit on strategy ‘Tools for Tomorrow’. Setting up an away day An away day is really just a specific kind of focus group or workshop, but they are often used in charities and other non profits to kickstart the strategic planning process. There are some steps to follow: 1. Set an objective for the day; the objective will depend on where you are in the planning cycle; it would be helpful to consult with key internal stakeholders (trustees, members of the management team) about the scope of the day. 2. Think about whether you need to use an external facilitator; if you do, now would be a good time to bring them in to help with thinking and process. 3. Given the objective, think about who needs to be there, and therefore the best time/place to hold the meeting and the optimum length of the meeting, to ensure maximum attendance. While an away day is very useful to generate ideas about the issues or the content of plans, it would be unusual for it to be a decision-making forum. The board would usually expect outputs from an away day to be worked on by the chief executive and management team after the away day, and recommendations brought back to a future board meeting for decision. 4. Check the timings with those who must attend; the range of tools you might use and how long you want/need to give to each; pull together the agenda and check it out with key internal stakeholders again: distribute the agenda so that people can start thinking about their contribution. 5. Think through how you will stimulate people to be creative and contribute; try to vary your techniques – for example, between small group work, large group work, and exercises where people can work on their own or in pairs. 6. On the day, get the room ready in advance and don’t forget ground rules. Remember too to think about follow-up and feedback.
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