If you develop your strategy in a vacuum, you could end up missing the mark or overlooking a key perspective that could make all the difference down the road. This is why it can be so powerful to bring a diverse set of ideas and insights together to inform strategic thinking and planning, especially when your business touches so many different people and organizations across a vibrant community and there are so many factors at play changing how your consumers behave and how your competitors do business. For one senior living community at the crossroads of change, engaging a variety of stakeholders in a dialogue about the future is proving to be quite the momentum-booster.

The Highlights

  • By bringing multiple stakeholders together for a strategy-setting initiative, the board has a stronger sense of certainty in the decisions they are making for the future
  • By developing the internal structures and processes to activate change, we helped our client achieve a cohesive sense of commitment to a strategic direction
  • By aligning a multi-stakeholder group around a unique identity, we helped the community to embrace its differentiators using vision, values and principles

The Opportunity

As a mirror to those who may feel a sense of uncertainty about entering the retirement phase of life, the board of directors at a senior living community found themselves looking to the future and asking: “Who is our new consumer and why would they choose us?” “How do we ensure we remain relevant today and down the road?” “How can we know we’re making the right decisions?”

The board, who were seeing declining financial and occupancy trends, experiencing changing consumer needs and other challenges, didn’t want to try and answer these questions alone. They knew that they would need a variety of perspectives to help shape the organization’s response to the inherent uncertainty of the future. This is where Collaborative Consulting jumped in to lead a collaboration-fueled strategy initiative, so this senior living community could take on the task of long-term planning with broader knowledge, more confidence, and a stronger sense of certainty in its vision for years to come.

The Approach


Our approach to help our client solve its strategy challenge blended multi-stakeholder collaborative design, participatory facilitation, design thinking, and parallel building of both short- and long-term strategies.

To get things started, we flexed our research muscles with a discovery phase. This phase of the project involved identifying dozens of stakeholders and conducting interviews across a wide variety of groups, from board members to staff leaders to representatives from the client’s management company to residents to family members to neighbors in the community. We also conducted an extensive external scan to understand the local, national, and international trends that have the potential to influence senior living and care. With all this research and exploration, we made sure we turned the many data points we collected into intelligence the client could use to move forward. When it came to engaging a variety of stakeholders to gather perspectives and gaining a deep understanding of the market, we wanted to be sure we left no stone unturned.

The next phase of the engagement centered on idea generation. With this phase, we brought together representatives from six different stakeholder groups, from organizational leadership and external experts to current residents to the neighborhood association, for a two-day strategy development session. Together, we reviewed the findings from our discovery phase, engaged perspectives from subject matter experts in areas of high interest to the community, and facilitated multi-stakeholder discussion to develop a vision and emerging strategy for the organization. Part of the strategy development intensive involved small groups coming together to create potential future scenarios for the community based on insights shared. This co-creation of the future bolstered the system leadership capacity of the board and gave the many stakeholders an opportunity to be heard throughout the strategy building process.

After the intensive session, we moved into the “planning to implement” phase. Here, we synthesized the findings – including future versions of the organization and specific opportunity areas of focus for this community – and discussion points from Phases 1 and 2 and provided guidance to a smaller planning taskforce charged with making key planning decisions to clarify the organization’s strategic priorities and vision for the future. From there, the board met to approve the strategic vision and priorities, which set the next phase of the organization’s evolution, driven by clear direction and detailed action, into motion.


The Potential Realized

With a comprehensive understanding of information and a strategic blueprint to follow, the senior living community’s board is now in a position to make courageous decisions more confidently and with less uncertainty about how the these will affect the organization, its residents and their families, and the surrounding community.

“Engaging in this process will allow us to end up with a better result and move beyond the status quo,” shared the board chair. “We came a long way to get ourselves on a path where we are responding to the needs and priorities everyone expressed in the strategy development session. Collaborative Consulting helped unearth all these different opinions from different stakeholders and turn it into something more than discussion and debate. We could not have done that on our own by just talking to our friends. The approach to invite all stakeholders to participate was clearly the right thing to do.”

This project produced an inspiring vision supported by everyone involved, with strategic focus areas that prioritized of high-need opportunities. The organization arrived at a structure for implementation which set the groundwork for putting ideas into action, and a process for strategic thinking and planning using small multi-stakeholder teams to ensure forward motion and accountability.

With so much momentum on the heels of the multi-stakeholder strategy project, this senior living community now has the vision they need to answer their “What should we do next?” questions with greater confidence and more certainty.