When Sedgwick County Zoo, located in Wichita, Kansas, hired Jeff Ettling as their new Executive Director in 2017, he saw the need to create a strategic plan to shape the Zoo’s vision, mission, and goals. The city of Wichita was growing, and the Executive Director was excited at the opportunity to engage a broad base of stakeholders to create a plan that would reflect the growth and excitement of the city and build off the long support of Sedgwick County.

Zoo Advisors met with the Executive Director and soon learned that the two organizations shared similar core values that would form the foundation of the strategic plan. The Director charged Zoo Advisors with developing a bold and unified vision; strengthening the Zoo’s mission; improving their fiscal sustainability; enlivening their guest experience; and energizing the staff, board and stakeholders. To achieve these goals, Zoo Advisors implemented their inclusive process with four site visits over a ten-month period using their proven phases of Discovery, Dreaming, Reality and Action. Zoo Advisors also engaged long-time partner GLMV Architects to conduct the facilities planning, a concurrent initiative that was seamlessly integrated with the strategic goals during the plan development.

The 24-member strategic planning committee was specifically designed to include Zoo senior staff, curators and marketing/public relations staff, six Zoo board members, and a Sedgwick County Commissioner. Additionally, over the course of the planning process, Zoo Advisors engaged more than 250 employees, board members and other stakeholders, including a survey of 150 staff and board to develop core values. Zoo Advisors also conducted a Blue Ribbon Panel of four national thought leaders who participated in a two day session with the planning team and Zoo staff and board.

The input of this diverse group of stakeholders enabled Zoo Advisors to confidently construct a robust strategic plan—a living document that would guide the Zoo.

Throughout, the Zoo leadership team exhibited excitement and enthusiasm, enjoying Zoo Advisors’ inclusive, outcomes-related process. Never had the Zoo engaged in such a comprehensive and integrated planning process, yielding a roadmap for a compelling future for the organization and its nearly 50-year-old campus. The strategic plan reflects not only the vision of the Zoo’s leadership but the vibrancy of the city of Wichita and the committed support of Sedgwick County.

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