New Identity Statement & Strategic Plan

Greetings, AORE Community,

It’s been a busy eight months for the Association. Our members have already had some tremendous achievements related to Global University, the SOAR Act, and gearing up for the 2019 AORE-AEE Joint Conference this November 13-15 in Spokane, Washington. Speaking of which, have you registered yet? Find out more about this year's incredible offerings, book your hotel, register before regular pricing ends, and more via our conference hub!

Your AORE Board has also been working hard to serve the association, which is the focus of this update. Our long-time members may be aware that as we wrap up our most recent Strategic Plan (2014-2019), the time has come for us to not only develop a new strategic plan, but also reaffirm our identity---asking the question: Who we are as an association?

While I can’t speak for everyone, I would imagine that a common occurrence among our members is that when we tell someone we’re involved in AORE, we immediately get asked “What is AORE?” and for many years, I’ve struggled to articulate our Association's identity and purpose in a way that is clear (and succinct!). AORE *does* a lot of things. We serve a lot of people. I *thought* I knew what AORE was, but my elevator speech was pretty convoluted and rambling as I kept adding on “well, we do this, and this, and also this…”.

In November 2017, the Board identified a need to help the Association clarify its identity and also figure out our role within the larger outdoor recreation and education industry. There are a lot of other associations that serve similar populations and do similar work, but what makes AORE unique? What opportunities do we have? We also felt strongly that we as an Association could benefit from having an experienced, objective, outside entity help us navigate the strategic planning process. 

In April 2018, AORE identified La Piana Consulting as a firm that could help move our strategic planning process forward. La Piana joined us at our 2018 mid-year meeting to facilitate conversations around our organizational identity (mission, vision, desired future impact, business model, competitive advantage), market trends, organizational strategy (strategic filters for decision making, strategic questions to ask), and board development and governance. 

As a result of the conversations and La Piana’s guidance at the mid-year meeting, the Board drafted an identity statement and strategic direction; over the next several months (June - September 2018), we tested our proposed identity statement and strategy among various stakeholder groups, including former board members, board presidents, committee chairs, committee members, general members, vendor members, and individuals within the greater outdoor industry. 

The feedback that we got from our stakeholders affirmed the direction that we wanted to head, so in the remaining months of 2018, we revised and clarified our final identity statement and voted to approve the identity statement and strategic anchors in February 2019. At the mid-year meeting of the Board this year (June 2019), we clarified our strategic anchors and approved our Strategic Framework for 2020-2025.

We are really excited to share this strategic framework with you, our members. My fellow Board Member and leader of AORE's Strategic Planning Task Force (SPTF), Bryan Karban, published a report this week that provides a deep dive into the major components of this new document, outlining everything you need to know about the process---from our decision to contract with La Piana and how the Board participated to what the impact will be for members and more! I encourage you to read Bryan's report on the strategic framework to understand the full scope of this effort. But, I also personally wanted to highlight a few key aspects as well.

Proposed Mission: Empowering leaders to connect people to the outdoors through recreation and education experiences.

This is what we are already doing and do well, but compared to our current mission statement, our proposed update paints a more clear, streamlined picture of what AORE wants to do. This new mission statement does not change the core of who we are and what we do well---rather, it clarifies it so that we can connect with more people in deeper ways. Note: Officially changing AORE’s mission statement requires a majority affirmative vote from our membership. Information on how to participate in this process is included at the end of my update below. 

Who We Serve: Current and aspiring outdoor recreation, education, and industry professionals and organizations​.

AORE has a lot of touchpoints with all types of people and organizations within the outdoor industry. While we will continue to maintain and strengthen relationships with a variety of stakeholders, we felt that it was important to explicitly name who it is that AORE directly serves. We want to honor our roots as an Association that was founded by college and university outdoor programs, but as the industry continues to evolve, we want to evolve with it to teach and learn from industry professionals with unique lenses and approaches to doing the work that supports our mission.

Strategic Anchors: Advocacy, Career Advancement, Networking, Professional Development

The Board spent a considerable amount of time refining and defining the things that we (the Association) currently do well and the things that we want to do well in the future. Rather than listing how we define these anchors here, I’ve included our specific definitions of each one at the end of my Board Chair Update. With that being said, I wanted to draw attention to our strategic anchors because they will be the driving force of how future strategic decisions are made by Association Leadership. That’s right, everything we do should be in service of one (or more) of these four anchors---from the work we do and the projects we take on to the conversations that we have related to operations and governance. 

Wow, that’s a lot to unpack, isn’t it?

Organizational change is complex, nuanced, and often frustrating and scary, but I can say with a lot of confidence that Association Leadership was deeply involved in developing this new Strategic Framework and we are all extremely excited about the results that came out of the process, including:

What does this mean for you, as members?

That’s a good question. This isn’t just “Board work” or “National Office work.” It is the work of our Association, and we want everyone to feel the same amount of excitement and investment in the new Strategic Framework as we do. First and foremost, we want to hear from you. If you have questions, reach out to a Board member or the national office. We also want to make sure that our members understand our strategic planning process and our direction moving forward. We’ll be promoting the new strategic framework a lot in the months and weeks leading up to the conference. Participate in webinars and read about AORE updates in the newsroom, weekly digest, and other email communications. Let us know your thoughts! Additionally, we encourage you to vote on AORE’s new mission. Voting members can do so at the annual business meeting during the AORE-AEE Joint Conference in Spokane or can submit their vote in absentia (this process will be communicated to members prior to the conference)

We are excited to see how this strategic framework can help AORE grow, and we want you to be a part of that process. Thanks for taking the time to read my update and I hope to hear from you soon.

Stay tuned for another update in a few weeks where I’ll dive into association governance!

Yours in Adventure,

Kellie Gerbers
AORE Board Chair