Since the Futures Institute is only now in the process of being defined, the development of a comprehensive and detailed strategic plan seems at best premature. I have made the decision to have at least a part of the process of defining the Futures Institute by the doing of it rather than the thinking about it. In like form, the development of the mission statement:
To provide a forum for communities of investigators to explore, evaluate and propose responses to socio-economic, technological, and educational trends and developments that will frame the future of CPCC and ensure its readiness for a changing environment.
This forum provides only a philosophical place of departure from which detail and structure can be added as it seems appropriate or necessary.
As broad concepts of what the Futures Institute could become are presented to groups around the School and in the community, the Institute itself begins to take form, goals begin to emerge, possibilities broaden, and the formulation of the strategic plan begins to gather momentum. With this in mind, I have written a framework for a strategic plan, a foundation upon which a detailed plan could be written, rather than attempt to delineate a the plan itself.
Since no clear idea of what the Futures Institute would eventually become had been established, it seemed prudent to form an advisory committee that had the charge of getting the ball rolling. The product of discussions with the steering committee and many other discussions with individuals and groups both inside CPCC and in the greater community follows. First, an electronic platform was selected, Moodle, to allow, as outlined in the Mission Statement, "communities of investigators to explore, evaluate and propose responses to socio-economic, technological, and educational trends and developments that will frame the future of CPCC and ensure its readiness for a changing environment." This simple platform provides the required web-based forum that has as its primary functionality, free-flowing communication within and among communities interested, knowledgeable and passionate about a particular area of investigation.
Communities of Investigators
Each community is established around a common theme, trend, technology, etc and is provided with a Facilitator. Participants can either be invited into the community by the facilitator or can self select into the community based on background, research, expertise, or interest. Participants can be from within the college, but external participation will be strongly encouraged in an attempt to broaden the vision of all. The Facilitator will function as one who (from Merriam Webster, "makes easier or less difficult : free from difficulty or impediment") the communication process and the building of community. The facilitator is not the chief of the project, not the sage on the stage, but rather the protagonist, the supporter, and its champion. The facilitator is given direction, training, and extensive resources in the delicate art of facilitation. It is believed that the success of each community is a function, in large part, of the facilitator, so much time will be spend in the development of these skills.
Motivated by Intellectual Pursuit
At this point, it is believed that the communities can only be driven by their own passion for the areas being explored, and thus there will be no paid positions in these communities. However, there will be the possibility of funding for a project or an initiative if it turns out that such is recommended and approved for pursuit. This funding might include release time, stipends, grant funding or other support from the institution. With this model, it will be an individual's interest and passion for the research that drives him/her, with the thought that resources could be made available to bring initiatives to fruition that act as impetus for their dedication.
With the initial purpose of each community being to explore, research and investigate its sometimes loosely defined domain, the pragmatists among us will ask, "what then?" If it is appropriate to assign a goal to a dynamic, on-line, fluid and community, (and this might become an important question) the goal might be taken from the mission statement. To "explore, evaluate and propose responses to" the object(s) of its exploration. For example, a result of the community's work might be for the College to do nothing. The research might indicate that there is nothing that the College can do in response to this trend, no program that can be started at this time. This is important information to have and could conceivably save the College significant resources by avoiding a trendy opportunity that in reality provided no real opportunity.
On the other hand, the community might well be able to focus its research in an area that yields significant opportunity for a productive partnership, a new program of study, a new application of technology, or a new pedagogical paradigm that improves instruction and learning across the College. If this is the case, a group will begin working on a strategic plan to present to Cabinet for approval. Upon approval, funding and implementation issues will be addressed and the new initiative will be brought to fruition.
Whichever decision is made on the initiative --- to move forward, or to do nothing, the community of investigators can decide that the community will continue its work or not. The community might decide that there is still fertile ground that the community can explore, or the community might go through a process of reformation with some change in membership and a new focus, or, finally, the community might disband. In any case, it is expected that The Futures Institute Communities will be in a continuous process of creation and extinction driven by the interest and energy surrounding each area of research.