Changing Gears

Author 
Sheila Johnson, Executive Director

It is time for Fanshawe Pioneer Village to change gears. As an organization, we have been hurtling down the road in fifth gear at well above the speed limit for the past decade. We have made foundational changes; stabilized operational funding, renewed capital infrastructure and developed an excellent education, public and museum program. As a result, we have transformed Fanshawe Pioneer Village into a respected community museum and cultural anchor for this region. So...what's next?

What's next is gearing down to second. For two years, the Board, staff and volunteers of Fanshawe Pioneer Village will slow down to review the past and dream about the future. It is time to develop the next 10 year master plan for this organization. Board committees have been restructured and an expanded Planning Committee will take on this task beginning in January 2014. This is an inclusive, community process. We need a detailed review of everything we are doing at present and take time to consult with everyone; staff, board, volunteers, donors, members, visitors and our community on where we should be going in the future.

The last 10 year Master Plan was developed during a time of crisis at Fanshawe Pioneer Village. Yet the organization took a year to create a Master Plan that was realistic and achievable. Our current success and stability can be directly attributed to that plan. Back in 2004, the issues were so significant, it was relatively easy to identify where we needed to go and what problems had to be addressed first. Today, the organization is stable and successful, yet the need for a clear, strategic plan is just as important, in fact critical to the continuing success of this organization. Where we go in the future is not clear, hence the need for an in-depth planning process to help decipher a direction. It is not often that an organization gets the opportunity to plan without a looming crisis. We need to take our time now to make sure we get it right.

Developing the next long range strategic plan for Fanshawe Pioneer Village will be the priority for this organization for the next two years. This task will also change our operational priorities. The capital campaign is complete and the capital improvements concluded. For the next three years, the organization will shift from a capital focus to a maintenance focus. Until the new master plan provides clear direction on capital priorities and a new capital plan, no new capital projects will be undertaken. This means, a moratorium on capital projects for three years. Our main operational priority for the next three years is maintenance. We need to learn how to repair and maintain the new infrastructure added over the past decade. Remember, we had to invest $5 million in capital repairs to this site because it went a decade with no maintenance. We need to prevent that from ever happening again. So for the next three years, job one is the development of a top notch maintenance program and put it into action.

Finally, in 2003, I wrote the last master plan with a team of consultants and then lead its implementation. Not so this time round. My job for the next two years is to shepherd the process and mentor an excellent group of junior staff who will lead the project.

These are exciting times at Fanshawe Pioneer Village. Developing a long range strategic plan is the most important work an organization can do. So, shift into second, slow down and enjoy the ride. While the final destination is important, getting there is half the fun.

Sheila Johnson
Executive Director