The Oct. 5-7, 2015, Joint Strategic Initiative conference had great participation, with 353 people attending. During the January Strategic Initiative (SI) leaders meeting with Bill Frost, we carefully reviewed the conference feedback. The conference evaluation survey had a good response rate (23%). A summary of responses to the closed-ended questions is at http://ucanr.edu/sites/2015jointsiconference. Below are some highlighted themes from the open-ended questions, and how we are planning to address them:
- 75 percent of respondents liked the Joint SI Conference format compared to having individual SI conferences.
- In response to this preference, as well as to better facilitate synergies with Workgroups and Program Teams, we plan to have SI-hosted conferences in 2016-17. Multiple SIs will co-sponsor, and the conferences will be co-planned with relevant Program Teams or Workgroup leaders.
- When asked “What did you learn during the conference that you may use in your work?,” the respondents' most common themes were 1) in-service trainings, 2) networking and 3) better understanding of ANR.
- These aspects will continue to be emphasized in the future SI co-hosted conferences.
- When asked “What is working well?” withtheSIs, the themes explain thattheSIs provide value for outward messaging, as well as focus, direction and coordinated effort.
- To build on existing strengths, we will develop a more formal external communications strategy for the SIs, to include producing an impact piece to illustrate the value of the SIs to ANR, UC and California. In addition, we will be working with ANR's Communication Services and Information Technology to improve the SI webpages and social media presence, and to develop regular communications tools.
- When asked “What could make the SIs better?,” the themes found that some people are still unclear about SIs, including overall function, respective priorities, cross-disciplinary efforts and impact.
- To help clarify the role and scope of the SIs, we plan to take a more active role in orienting new academics to the SIs. We are considering participation in the new academic program orientation, county director meetings and program team meetings, and to initiate meetings with small groups of new advisors and specialists.
- To facilitate improved understanding of the SI priorities, we will encourage all advisors and specialists to apply for the ANR Competitive Grants Program at least once, and provide Letter of Intent writing training. This will help ensure that academics are familiar with the SI strategic plans and priorities, given these are the focus of the Request for Proposals (RFP).
- To better capture and communicate SI impact, we discussed creating a project recognition program, and will work to develop a coordinated evaluation plan. We will meet with county directors, department chairs and campus-based specialists to share information on SIs and hear about successful ANR network collaborations.
We thank all those who provided this valuable feedback about the 2015 conference. We will continue to seek input as we develop and implement strategies to coordinate ANR's considerable infrastructure and talent, focusing on the most critical issues, seeking new resources and new ways of partnering within and outside UC, and communicating our collective impact finding science-based solutions for California.
ANR's Strategic Initiatives Leaders
David Doll, Sustainable Food Systems
John Harper, Sustainable Natural Ecosystems
Keith Nathaniel, Healthy Families and Communities
Doug Parker, Water Quality, Quantity, and Security
Cheryl Wilen, Endemic and Invasive Pests and Diseases