Mahatma Gandhi once said: “People who think religion and politics are not related, don’t understand much about either.” In the same light, we believe that if you think that the health of our environment and politics are not related, you might not understand much about either.
As an organization focused on the environment (not politics), the outcome of the 2016 Presidential Election surprised the Directors, staff, and membership of Friends of the Fox River as much as anyone. And although our board and membership includes supporters of both national political parties, we all understood how the campaign promises the candidate made while campaigning, would be serious threats to the health of our local environment should the winner actually keep those promises.
We also understood that we need to strengthen our commitment to our mission. We need to strengthen our base of members, volunteers, partners, and supporters. Moreover, we need to strengthen our capacity to respond locally to new threats to our watershed and river from reduced regulation, and reduced enforcement of federal environmental protections.
In its first month, the current Administration installed as head of US EPA someone who had a track record of supporting polluting industries instead of protecting the environment of his state. Almost immediately, US EPA announced a re-assessment of the Clean Water Rule and began conducting hearings in order to roll back protection for wetlands that you live near or pass daily. The President’s budget calls for huge cuts to US EPA’s funding which will affect how US EPA oversees and regulates state Environmental Protection Agencies including Illinois’ EPA.
Partly in response to the results of the 2016 Presidential election, Friends of the Fox River engaged in an extensive strategic planning process for the first time in our history. We researched how to conduct such a process, developed a set of on-line surveys, invited members, partners, board members (current and past), volunteers and friends to take the surveys and participate in phone interviews. Our planning team volunteered an entire weekend to an intensive retreat to understanding the survey and interview data and building the bones of an effective plan. In the months since the September 2017 retreat, team members and staff have fleshed out the plan by translating the set of six strategies we developed into action plans.
Six Strategic Areas
The planning process probed participant’s values and we began to see which values we all share. We explored each element of our mission statement and we began to see how well, or poorly, we do each part. Finally, the planning process revealed six areas of Friends of the Fox River’s operations where we need to improve our existing efforts, or create new events, projects, and programs to better fulfil our mission.
The first two strategic areas; Education and Protection, are about expanding and enhancing what we do to protect the river.
The next two strategic areas; Communications and Membership, are about expanding and enhancing the ways we protect the river.
The last two strategic areas; Funding and Governance, are about expanding and enhancing Friends of the Fox River’s organizational sustainability and integrity so we can continue to protect the river.
What follows are brief explanations and summaries of each strategic area. While the details of any plan may seem dull to some when printed on a page, or seen on a screen, we hope you will find our new initiatives to protect and improve the Fox River exciting and, most importantly, personally engaging.