Strategic Plan

Strategic Plan 2011-2014


In April 2011, the staff and advisory board of the Winter Institute began the process of updating the strategic plan that had guided the Institute for the last five years. With Chancellor Dan Jones’ encouragement, we did so to build upon the Institute’s record of accomplishment by expanding and enhancing its work. We were determined to do so thoughtfully and carefully and by engaging as many voices as possible.

We intend this strategic planning process to address issues, questions, concerns and/or opportunities facing the organization over the next 3 to 5 years.

We created a process for engaging as many stakeholders as possible. The process included meetings with key leaders, more than 50 intensive interviews with stakeholders and an online survey sent out to more than 200 constituents. Based upon this stakeholder input and ten years of experience, we identified the following strategic directions:

Four-Year Strategic Directions:


Strategic Direction 1:
Establish and promote the core programs of the William Winter Institute.

Honest, equitable relationships are at the heart of each core Institute program. Through an increased field presence in Mississippi, we shall foster more opportunities to establish and build relationships with young people and community partners around the state. More communities shall have the opportunity to transform themselves through dialogue, relationship-building and unified action. On campus, the Institute shall collaborate with University departments to offer a minor in race and reconciliation, integrate excluded historical data into the academic curriculum, and develop orientation and fellows programs for professors and students from across Mississippi and beyond.

The two core programs are:

  1. The Welcome Table: An Era of Dialogue on Race
  2. The Summer Youth Institute

Strategic Direction 2:
Provide strategic support and, where appropriate, advocate for public policies that advance racial reconciliation in Mississippi and beyond.

Racial reconciliation is the basis for dialogue and action on issues that affect the quality of life for the people of a community, a region of the state or the entire state. The Institute shall support and partner with communities where those communities have determined that advocacy and community organizing can achieve meaningful social and economic justice reforms. Working with economic development partners, the Institute shall highlight the competitive advantage of racial equity and inclusion for the state’s business leaders and policymakers. Together, these “grassroots” and “grass tops” strategies shall enable racial reconciliation to address the structural barriers and systems based upon race. The Winter Institute will engage in local and state level policy work only at the request of and in support of the community as a whole. Once identified through community consensus, the Institute will work with community leaders, strategic institutional partners and political leaders to secure appropriate policies.


Strategic Direction 3:
Increase the long-term sustainability of the William Winter Institute through diversification and expansion of the funding base.

The Institute shall continue to pursue multiple streams of income and sources. This funding diversity provides a level of independence essential for maintaining the Institute’s ability to stay true to its values and mission. The Institute will continually present itself in a compelling way to a diverse set of investors as both grantee and expert. In response to our expertise, investors are more likely to provide larger, more substantial general support investments intended to increase sustainability. Ultimately, the Institute position itself to begin securing the major capital investors in order to begin establishing an endowment.

Strategic Direction 4:
Expand of the breadth (number) and capacity (skills, knowledge and expertise) of the Institute’s staff.

The Institute shall employ a high-performing staff team committed to the values, vision and mission. Each staff colleague will have a deep respect for the people and communities with whom the Institute partners. Each staff member will be a self-starter with the ability to multi-task. Together, the staff will become a learning community dedicated to expanding and sharing knowledge and skills with each other and the Institute’s ever-growing network of community partners and stakeholders. The staff will be grounded in and respective of community voice.

Strategic Direction 5:
Restructure the board to reflect and advance Institute’s vision, mission and strategic directions.

The Advisory Board shall consist of people who embrace, protect, and advance the values, vision and mission. By providing guidance and support to the executive director through committees, board meetings and individual tasks, the Advisory Board extends the reach of the Institute. Mississippi residents will hold the majority of the Advisory Board seats to maintain our focus on the geographic priority. Partners from various parts of the region, nation and the world will join our Mississippi representatives to bring their own invaluable knowledge and skills to the table. Together, the Advisory Board will become the Institute’s ambassadors to the community, students, youth, partners, businesses, government, funders, and the University.


There are important broad themes to note in terms of structural changes for the Institute based on this new strategic plan. Changes must be made in the advisory board, including reducing its size while increasing the clarity of focus in the roles of its members. Thanks to the growing area the Institute serves, we must amplify our virtual services through increasing the availability of tools and resources on more accessible web sites. We will focus 75% of our work in the state of Mississippi, working to deepen and broaden our service to communities, but we will also begin exploring regional, national and international work. Any work beyond Mississippi must bring ideas, resources, connections and support to enhance the primary work in the state.

Our work has also begun to shift towards including advocacy and public policy, within appropriately designated protocols, as well as to taking on a technical assistance role. Our goal is to prepare community leaders to address their own challenges through such assistance. This shift demands a deeper field presence to consistently provide support and assistance. To maximize the Institute’s overall effectiveness, we will focus increasingly on cross-training all staff in several key areas: training/management, organizing, fundraising. We will also offer this training to community leaders in order to strengthen the community’s abilities to accomplish its goals.

In order to develop the capacity to implement this plan, the Institute requires a high performing board, staff and community. We will develop appropriate training tools and modules, both high and low tech. The Institute will continue to emphasize support for continuing professional development for staff, orientation and training for all board members and technical assistance and training to community leaders.

Theory of Change

The Winter Institute works to create a movement of racial equity and wholeness as a pathway to ending all division and discrimination based on difference. We employ an interconnected process of open and honest communication, relationship-building, and truth-telling with youth and adults alike. This approach–which importantly happens in both communities and classrooms–helps to develop collaborative, knowledgeable leadership and community building skills to increase capacities for positive social change and to secure our linked prosperity. This process leads to evidence-based, community-driven advocacy and equitable policy reform.



Open Communication:
Community members from different groups learn both to create a space where it is safe to communicate, and to foster the skills to do so effectively, including deep listening, open and honest questioning, understanding, and the giving of respect.

Relationships and trust can be forged across racial, ethnic, class, intergenerational and cultural lines only after people learn to talk to each other.

Within a safe environment and in the context of trusting relationships, communities can begin to tell the truth about the legacies of racism and other structural systems of discrimination. Honesty about that history and its framing of our present circumstances is a prerequisite to creating effective restorative policies and systems change.

Based on trust and truth, communities can move forward to clearly assess the problems they face, and develop comprehensive plans to address them through collective action.

Equitable Policy Reform:

As communities identify areas in need of structural change, the Institute, in coalition with allies and in support of grassroots leadership, engages in community building, advocating for the change or abandonment of detrimental policies and creation of new policies that benefit the entire community.

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