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Gathering Constituent Input for a Successful Master Plan

By Net Assets posted 20 days ago

Learning Spaces


Collaborative processes can help ensure new campus facilities align with a school’s mission.

Whether your school has acquired a new property, wants to replace aging facilities or build spaces for new programs, it’s best to have a strategic plan that aligns your school’s program needs with whatever new learning spaces you’ll be creating. Mark Vosskamp, chief financial officer at Girls Preparatory School in Chattanooga, Tennessee, and architect Peter Winebrenner, principal at Hord Coplan Macht, discussed this issue at the 2019 NBOA Annual Meeting and offered best practices for other independent schools embarking on similar initiatives.

One of the first things a school needs to do is gather constituent input. The architects offered the following suggestions for doing so:

  • Create focus groups: Gather groups of local community members, parents, students and alumni. Ask open-ended questions and gather information. As ideas develop, have facilitators guide group discussions. At GPS, community members discussed their biggest concerns about the campus; parents explained why they chose the school; alumnae talked about hopes and dreams for the school’s future.
  • Ask the “Big 5” questions: What do stakeholders like best, like least, must keep, must toss and what do they dream about?
  • Facilitate a photo safari: Ask students to take photos of their favorite campus spaces and post them to a website along with a caption about what made each spot special. GPS also asked trustees to do this activity, as well. Along the way, they observed the condition of spaces and talked with students.
  • Do an architectural taste test: Offer examples of varying spaces to your school’s constituents and gather input. HCM nehung images of different spaces in public areas. Students, faculty and staff were able to write notes and comments about which spaces worked for them. This gave insight into the school’s preferences for types and designs for spaces.

HCM was able to use the information to articulate goals and priorities for the GPS campus. Those included creating gathering spots; taking advantage of the river views; improving the main entry or arrival point; and updating and expanding the space for science, arts, library and collaboration.

Gathering constituent input was only one part of creating a master plan. Effective planning requires a significant time investment and involves going back to your constituents often, but doing so builds ownership, commitment and trust.

For more information, read the executive summary of this session, listen to the recording or download the slides in the 2019 NBOA Annual Meeting Library, which is now open to all NBOA members.



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