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Report on Great Outdoors Colorado
Strategic Plan Update

December 1998
By Ciruli Associates

Great Outdoors Colorado was established in the state constitution by citizen initiative in 1992. Shortly after its passage, a newly appointed Board authorized development of a five-year strategic plan that would establish principles of grant making. The Board desired to create reasonable and consistent procedures and budget priorities for future actions. The five-year strategic plan was adopted after statewide public input.

A process to update the strategic plan began at the October 1997 Board retreat. The update effort was prompted by a number of strategic factors:

The original strategic plan was designed for the first five years of GOCO's start-up. In 1998, lottery legislation was due for a 10-year renewal, which would provide an extended period of grant making.
A significant increase in funding due to the repayment of constitutionally mandated bond obligations would more than double the funds available for grants beginning in 1999.
The completion of the first five years of grant making provided an opportunity to evaluate successes and identify gaps where additional strategies were required.
Rapid growth in population, residential and commercial development since the Act was passed in 1992 created new challenges and opportunities for protection and enjoyment of the outdoors.
Nineteen ninety-eight was expected to be the year of political and policy change, with the potential of a new governor and changes in legislative membership.

The 1997 retreat included a review of program gaps, recommended innovations and adjustments. Also, an evaluation of grantee satisfaction with the program's operation was presented. A strategic plan update was then authorized.


Strategic Planning Committee

In the spring of 1998, the Board created a Strategic Planning Committee. In May 1998, the Legislature re-authorized the lottery for ten years. GOCO staff developed a situation analysis, which outlined the need for a strategic plan update and the critical issues that an update should address.

The Strategic Planning Committee began its review of the situation analysis in June 1998. The Committee identified the major issues for future consideration and made recommendations for long-term goals and a public participation process. Among topics for public input were the impact of growth on the outdoors in each area of the state, and the potential options for use of increased funding, including:

Land, Water and Wildlife Protection
• Protect important river corridors
• Protect important natural areas and wildlife habitat
• Protect important community separators
• Protect land for future parks and outdoors
• Protect strategic agricultural lands

Outdoor Recreation Facilities
• Develop new state and local parks
• Build new regional outdoor recreation facilities
• Build regional trails

Youth/Environment Education/Interpretation
• Develop new youth programs
• Enhance education and interpretation programs


Public Participation Process

The public participation process began September 15, 1998 in the San Luis Valley. Over the next six weeks, 39 meetings were conducted in 14 regions throughout Colorado with stakeholders involved in GOCO-funded programs, public officials and the general public. Also, meetings were held with GOCO constitutional partners, Wildlife Commission and Board of Parks and Recreation. In addition, sessions were held with special constituencies, such as parks and recreation directors and agricultural industry representatives.

A public information campaign was mounted to encourage participation in public meetings. More than 800 leaders and citizens participated in the process. Materials prepared for the public input process included regional descriptions of GOCO grants and the impacts of growth. Also prepared were a historical snapshot of GOCO and a description of significant upcoming issues to address.

In the public meetings, a questionnaire was distributed, which probed participants' priorities for the outdoors and rated how GOCO was meeting those priorities. Survey participants were asked to recommend current programs for increased, decreased or continued levels of funding. Participants also prioritized new or expanded programs as high, medium, low or no priority for
future funding. A total of 717 surveys were processed.

Also, a website was established to allow citizens and outdoor activists an opportunity to review strategic planning materials and respond to survey questions.

Finally, a statewide survey was conducted with 600 adult Colorado residents to provide the Board with a scientific review of public opinion on outdoor
priorities and issues.


Strategic Retreat

The GOCO Board's 1998 retreat began with a series of strategy development exercises, then focused on reviewing and modifying GOCO's vision and mission statements and guiding principles. In the second phase of the retreat, specific strategic goals were reviewed and prioritized. Finally, funding strategies were discussed.

In general, Board members believe GOCO has an important mission that will continue to be valued. But they believe GOCO must move rapidly to address growth-related and outdoor needs.


Headlines for Year 2008

The Board discussed plausible headlines that would represent high and low points for GOCO in the year 2008. A list of potential headlines was reviewed.

Some headlines Board members added include:

  • GOCO secures $1 billion in private donations
  • Cities, counties lose trust in GOCO
  • GOCO becomes bureaucratic morass
  • GOCO accused of inaction
  • Local government demands share of GOCO funds
  • Thousands of metro youth work outdoors

Board members expressed concern that GOCO could degenerate into a type of government characterized by low trust, cumbersome bureaucracy and top heavy decision-making. Board members believe new initiatives and quantifiable accomplishments would best serve the state and GOCO.


Review of Public Input

A review of public input from both the public meeting process and the statewide scientific telephone survey reinforced a series of balance points that GOCO has addressed over its first five years and must remain sensitive to as it introduces new long-term goals and funding priorities.

Urban/Rural: Urban and rural interests often express concern that their counterparts receive more attention and funding.
Active/Passive: Active and passive outdoor preferences are usually framed as "recreation vs. open space." There often is conflict within regions; some local leaders want more accessible parks and trails while others prefer more restricted natural and open areas.
Small/Large: Small communities often believe programs and grant processes are biased toward larger communities. Some larger communities believe grants are too small and handed out like patronage around the state.
Continue/New: There is considerable interest in continuing current programs, including existing Legacy programs. But ideas for new funding programs came fast and furious at numerous public meetings.
Lead/Partner: There are a series of balance points between GOCO's vision and desire to fulfill its mission and the sometimes contrary preferences and needs of grant recipients. Grantees often argue that they understand local needs and their own capabilities better than GOCO. They request simplified contract requirements and claim that GOCO could speed up expenditure of funds. GOCO, however, must maintain fiscal accountability and mission priorities. This tension will continue.
Central/Decentral: Another manifestation of the tension between GOCO's mission and the desire for local autonomy is the interest in some outlying areas either for local GOCO staff who reflect local viewpoints or decentralized funding authority for local discretionary grants.

Resolution of many of these tension points will require skilled management and Board leadership. Some of these differences are based on misunderstandings and false impressions and can be resolved with information from credible sources. Other issues are not either/or alternatives and can be translated into win/win propositions. But some balance points will simply require vigilant efforts to satisfy understandable differences in interests and opinions.


Driving Forces

GOCO's driving forces (i.e., the primary factors that impact its major decisions) are strongly positioned to allow the organization to fulfill its mission during the next 10 years. However, each driving force has its limits.

Constitution: GOCO's constitutional position gives it considerable autonomy and authority. But it is still politically accountable to the Governor and Senate.

Money: While more money is available, it will not be sufficient for the many needs. Priorities still must be set and tough decisions made.

Conservation Ethic: Colorado's conservation ethic is strong; rapid population and economic growth give it urgency. However, if growth diminishes, the public's attention could shift to encouraging economic development.

Opportunities/Challenges: The multitude of opportunities and challenges to protect and enhance enjoyment of the outdoors create a fertile environment for GOCO action. GOCO's strategic planning effort must be aggressive and set long-term goals, but must remain innovative and flexible to address new challenges or take advantage of special opportunities.

Partners: GOCO's partners are a great asset, but many have capacity limitations and differences in strategic outlooks.

Human Resources: Many of GOCO's core capabilities in grant making are reflected in the institutional memory and experience of its senior management. The increase in funding and programs will put pressure on GOCO staff and management. It will be important to protect those assets.

Politics: GOCO was created by political action and will always be involved in the political process: governor appointments with Senate approval of Board members, interaction with state agencies and legislative committees, and grantor/grantee relationships, including local government.


SWOT Analysis

An analysis of GOCO's strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats (referred to as a SWOT analysis) shows that the significant increase in funding is an organizational strength and opportunity. But more funding can also lead to weaknesses and threats. Strengths and weaknesses refer to present and past capacities; opportunities and threats reference future actions and circumstances.

For example:

More money will put pressure on the capacity of local grantees. And it will increase the work load of GOCO staff, management and Board decision-makers.
More money will increase pressure to invest funds rapidly. Land purchases and construction can face numerous delays. This is a weakness today and could be a future threat.
More money will raise concerns among grantees regarding funding parity: Some will worry about receiving an equitable amount based on their historic share or their sense of what other similarly-situated organizations are receiving. GOCO's track record of equitably balancing areas and constituencies could be threatened.


Principles for Success

The Board also reviewed the principles for successful organizations outlined by Peters and Waterman in their classic In Search of Excellence (1982) and Osborne and Goebler's best seller for government managers Reinvesting Government (1992), which became a handbook for the Clinton administration.

There is an alignment between many of GOCO's guiding principles and the principles of effective organizations developed by the authors.

Vision and Mission Statements and Guiding Principles

The Board reviewed and revised GOCO's vision and mission statements and guiding principles.


Guiding Principles

(*) Integrity is never compromised. We pledge honesty, accountability and an open process.

(r) We are financially responsible. We believe in maximizing the value of public dollars. We protect the assets of the Trust and invest them prudently.

(r) We reach our goals through cooperation. We work to empower our partners and to leverage our resources, optimize results and, wherever possible, fund projects that integrate the GOCO amendment categories of wildlife, outdoor recreation, open space, and local government grants.

(*) We are flexible and innovative. We seek out and respond to opportunities that otherwise might be lost. We appreciate both traditional and unconventional approaches to complex projects. We encourage and support entrepreneurial endeavors.

(r) Careful listening and thoughtful investigation guide our decision making. We acquire advice, ideas, and information from all of Colorado's geographically, ethnically, and culturally diverse citizens.

(r) We proactively and responsively pursue our mission. We are guided by the needs and aspirations of the people of Colorado and will be anticipatory in our approach to help people realize those goals.

(n) We measure our results. We evaluate our decisions and measure our results against our vision, mission and guiding principles, as well as the goals of the people of Colorado as outlined in the amendment and strategic plan.

(n) We value our employees. We value our employees and assist them in realizing their highest levels of technical and professional skills.

(n) We strive for a sustainable, lasting legacy. We recognize that growth challenges the sustainability of Colorado's ecosystems. We value projects that anticipate the state's long-term needs and protect its heritage.

(n) We provide statewide leadership. We are a leading partner with our stakeholders and serve as a catalyst, convener and communicator to achieve amendment goals. We stimulate dialogue and cooperation among local, state, and federal government interests, as well as those in the private and nonprofit sectors.

(*) indicates existing principle; (r) indicates revised principle; (n) indicates new and/or consolidated principle


Long-term Goals

The GOCO Board reviewed and prioritized proposed new long-term goals.


Financial Issues

The Board reviewed financial projections and expenditure priorities aligned with long-term goals.


Next Steps

The draft strategic plan was approved. It will be presented to key constituency groups for their opinions. After their input and any Board revisions, a final draft plan will be presented for public comment. The Board expects to adopt a final strategic plan in February 1999.


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