The Shepherd Higher Education Consortium on Poverty (SHECP) Board of Directors, at its meeting on August 4, 2013, elected a new Board Chair, James Calvin Davis, Professor of Religion at Middlebury College. It simultaneously charged Davis to appoint a committee from the Board to begin a strategic planning process that will consider the future direction of SHECP. Davis appointed five members to the planning committee in the fall: Brian Doyle, Director of the Center for Ethical Concerns and an Associate Professor in the Theology and Religious Studies Department at Marymount University; Margaret Finucane, Associate Professor in the Tim Russert Department of Communication & Theatre Arts and Director of the Center for Service and Social Action at John Carroll University; Rebecca Todd Peters, Associate Professor and Chair of the Religious Studies Department at Elon University; Tom Shepherd, a businessman and one of the founders of the Shepherd Program on Poverty and Human Capability at Washington and Lee University and of SHECP: and Rosemary Townsend, Director of Community Partnerships & Business Affairs and Community Engagement & Service at Baylor University. Harlan Beckley, now Executive Director of SHECP and retiring Fletcher Otey Thomas Professor of Religion and in the Shepherd Program at Washington and Lee University joined the committee as an ex officio member and to provide administrative support. Beckley is also a founder of the Shepherd Program and of SHECP.
Davis and Beckley consulted with Larry Connolly, retired CEO of Connolly, Inc., in Atlanta and a supporter of the Shepherd Program at Washington and Lee and of SHECP, as well as with others in non-profit strategic planning. They then decided to arrange for the strategic planning committee to meet with Aimee White, Owner and Principal Evaluator of Custom Evaluation Services (CES) in Seattle. At that meeting in December, the strategic planning committee voted to consider a consulting contract with CES to advise the committee and the entire SHECP membership on its strategic planning process. After negotiations with CES, Davis submitted a proposal to the SHECP Board to accept the consulting contract, which the Board did.
The early stages of the strategic planning process will be funded by a generous grant for the Connolly Family Foundation in Atlanta, and Beckley and CES will collaborate in seeking additional funding to complete the strategic planning process by early in 2015 for Board approval its summer in-person meeting in 2015.
CES, an independent evaluation consulting firm, specializes in collaborative, participatory, and empowering evaluation practices. The CES partnership with SHECP will seek to strengthen SHECP’s membership model (including its collaborative summer internship program), organizational leadership model, board level capacity, and resource commitments from member institutions and external funders. The process will engage faculty, staff, administration, and students from all the SHECP member institutions and lead to a plan for organizational change and growth with goals and a time table for evolving over the next five to ten years. The strategic planning committee and CES team believe that this process will strengthen and refine SHECP’s mission to graduate students in multiple professions sufficiently informed about aspects of poverty that their work and civic leadership will become more focused on diminishing poverty and increasing opportunities. It will also clarify and specific SHECP’s aspiration to promote a sustained study of poverty and its prospective remedies throughout undergraduate and professional education in the United States. A clear mission and vision and time table for leadership and organizational growth will enable SHECP to articulate its goals for higher education to address more effectively this persistent, although not intractable, social problem in the United States.