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Planning for the future is never easy but planning for the future in the midst of a global pandemic can be far more daunting.

That was the challenge the Board of Directors for Epic Opportunities recently faced with when it came to developing a new three-year strategic plan for the organization.

Strategic Plan 2022-2025 chronicles the key issues facing Epic Opportunities, sets out what its priorities will be during the next three years, and provides direction on how the agency will achieve its goals and objectives during that timeline.

The plan was facilitated and documented by Health in Common, a Winnipeg-based non-profit. It followed a strategic planning process that included a survey of Epic Opportunities frontline staff, its leadership team and a number of external stakeholders. A strategic planning session was subsequently held to discuss the data that was gathered as part of the survey.

Epic Opportunities Board Chair Christina Reinke says one of the biggest challenges with developing the plan during the pandemic was the fact that in-person meetings were limited due to public health restrictions and most meetings had to be conducted virtually. Still, Reinke says everyone involved in the Strategic Planning Committee was pleased with the end result.

“It’s really an exciting time for Epic Opportunities,” she says. “We’re really excited about this new strategic plan that will help guide us and shape us going forward.”

Based on survey responses, the Strategic Planning Committee considered three key issues when it came to developing the agency’s goals and priorities for the next three years. They included:

  • ensuring operational capacity to sustain and innovate service delivery
  • the recruitment and retention of qualified staff
  • and the enhancement of organizational effectiveness

One of the strategic priorities the plan identifies is the development and implementation of a COVID-19 recovery strategy. That strategy will include a renewed emphasis on role-based training, identifying ways of addressing mental health challenges faced by people served by the agency, their families and employees, and the use of virtual tools to build and improve team culture.

Another key goal identified in the plan is strengthening organizational health, capacity and effectiveness to support the recruitment and retention of qualified staff. This will include developing an anti-oppression and inclusion framework, a staff wellbeing and organizational effectiveness assessment process, and a consistent orientation process.

Reinke says that while attracting and retaining staff has always been a priority for Epic Opportunities, the events of the pandemic have really brought its importance into focus.

“I think what COVID has highlighted is the real importance of having that sustained workforce and really addressing adequate staffing levels and making sure that staff feel they are appreciated,” she explains.

Enhancing service excellence is another objective identified in the plan including accreditation with the Canadian Council for Quality and Leadership (CQL). The plan also notes that strategies will be identified for board development and government to support the agency’s strategic priorities and the Epic Opportunities Foundation will ensure its work effectively supports the organization’s mission and long-term priorities.

The next step in the planning process, Reinke says, will be finalizing an operational plan to more precisely determine how all of the goals in the organizational blueprint will be achieved.

Vice-president Greg Bryant says one of the key considerations during the strategic planning process was ensuring that any goals that were set were realistic and achievable.

“Everything in this plan is realistic and actionable. It wasn’t about setting ridiculously lofty goals. That’s never a recipe for success,” he says.

One major difference between this strategic plan and previous ones is that it’s for a three-year term instead of five. Reinke says the board determined a three-year plan was more realistic at this stage considering many things are still in a state of flux as life gradually begins to return to normal.

“COVID really highlighted that you can have the best laid plan, but things can crop up operationally and there needs to be some pivoting,” she explains.

Reinke praised all of the frontline staff who participated in the planning process and says their input was critical in shaping the three-year strategic plan.

“I think we would have done that regardless of COVID, but the pandemic really highlighted the importance of frontline staff and having them guide our strategy. We felt they could make a lot of valuable contributions in terms of what do we need to be looking at…and some of the pressures, challenges and opportunities facing the sector in general,” she says.

While acknowledging that the strategic plan is a living document and may be subject to change, Reinke emphasizes it’s ultimate goal will remain the same: ensuring positive, long-term impacts for the people Epic Opportunities serves. That includes ensuring people have natural supports, are valued in their roles, feel in control of their life and communities embrace diversity.

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