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Union of Concerned Scientists: Development of Strategic Plan

Case Overview

FSG developed a new five-year strategic plan for the Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS) that aligned each of the five programs around organization-wide goals.

The Challenge

UCS is a leading science-based advocacy organization that works on climate and energy, clean vehicles, food and agriculture, global security and scientific integrity issues. UCS began developing its five-year plan during a critical time, as external developments such as landmark climate legislation, "climate-gate," and the new Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty created historic opportunities and challenges. UCS faced strategic choices along a number of dimensions as it considered how to bring its unique expertise to bear on complex policy issues such as climate change, sustainable agriculture and nuclear weapons as well as how to improve its effectiveness and impact through more incisive communications.

Approach & Solutions

FSG conducted a multi-phase effort to facilitate the organization-wide strategic planning effort. An internal review included dozens of Board and senior-level interviews, staff focus groups and an organization-wide survey. At a two-day Board retreat, UCS refined its vision and identified key organization-wide priorities to include in the strategy. Then, through external research and dozens of working sessions with each of the program areas, departments and functional groups – as well as the Board and Leadership Team – FSG worked with UCS to identify and refine key goals and objectives for the next five years.

FSG collaborated with UCS to develop an overall strategic framework for the organization, aligning program objectives to overarching UCS-wide goals. This unified framework allowed for collaboration across issue areas and cross-program approaches to address critical social challenges like global warming, nuclear proliferation and the misuse of science.

The process resulted in a focused, concise strategic plan for UCS along with an implementation plan which details how each program and department will support the new strategy. The Board approved the new five-year strategic plan, which included new and exciting elements and approaches for the organization:

  • A plan structured around organizational goals instead of individual programs
  • A one-page strategic framework showing each goal, corresponding objectives and organizational priorities to achieve them
  • New areas of work (e.g., defending climate science, reducing inappropriate corporate influence on science used in federal decision making and the water-energy-climate nexus) and increased emphasis on other objectives
  • An increasing emphasis on improving how UCS will do its work (e.g., effective communications, increasing scientific and technical capacity)

About the Union of Concerned Scientists

The Union of Concerned Scientists is the leading science-based nonprofit working for a healthy environment and a safer world. UCS combines independent scientific research and citizen action to develop innovative, practical solutions and secure responsible changes in government policy, corporate practices and consumer choices.

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