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Priority Mapping

The priority mapping process is designed to help you identify executive-level strategic goals at your institution, as well as specific metrics and objectives that make up these goals. The Big Ten and Friends Sustainability Group originally developed this process with their consultant Emilie Rex. Mapping your institution’s strategic goals will deepen your understanding of the campus or system-wide priorities, and the language your executive leadership uses to communicate its objectives.  In the next step, you’ll use this language to express the value of climate action and make a case for its critical role in advancing institutional goals.

The first step is to compile sources of strategic planning material, taking into considering the stage of strategic planning at your institution.  For most institutions, strategic planning processes are cyclical, dependent largely on executive leaders’ relationship to the institution (e.g., length of time at the institution, leadership styles), and these factors are likely to impact the availability of strategic planning documents. Some examples of common strategic planning source material that you can review include:

  • System-level strategic planning documents
  • Campus-level strategic planning documents
  • Refined list of executive leadership priorities
  • Official presidential remarks
  • Interviews with executive leadership allies
  • Presidential job description or search guidelines
  • News releases or briefs

For more examples of strategic planning source material, and how they may fit in with the life cycle of executive leadership, check out:

The images below illustrate how this priority mapping may be organized.

Commitment Alignment

After mapping institutional priority areas and objectives, the next step is to identify where the Presidents’ Climate Leadership Commitments contribute to each objective.  For each priority area, look for potential connections to your Commitment or related activities-from components of your Climate Action Plan to course requirements in sustainability or student internships. For each objective, ask yourself if the Commitments add value, and how.  Instead of asking what your institution is doing for sustainability, ask, “What is sustainability doing for my institution?”      

While the degree to which the Commitments contribute to strategic priorities differs for each institution, NECLAI cohort members found they generally supported objectives in several priority areas including:

  • Improving educational value and student experience
  • Enhancing institutional reputation and visibility
  • Catalyzing research and innovation
  • Fostering community engagement
  • Stewarding financial and natural resources

Further Resources

During NECLAI, we developed several examples of the priority mapping and Commitment Alignment processes.  These provide step-by-step narratives for completing the processes, one at a large public research university, the University of Massachusetts System, and one at a small private liberal arts college, Lasell.  The priorities and alignments detailed on these pages were identified independently of the institutions and do not reflect official statements of positions of each.

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