Of all the events OUSA hosts each year, I think our annual strategic planning conference (StratCon) is my favorite.
This year we held StratCon at the beginning of July. All home office staff and members of steering committee get together for an intensive, four-day work retreat up in cottage country, away from distractions. This is one of the most important events we host all year, and this year’s was particularly productive: we discussed policy matters for the upcoming changes to financial aid, decided on some possible topics for future policy review, finalized our annual budget, reviewed our operating policies, and had in-depth discussions about all other strategic and organizational goals for the year. It was a jam-packed conference and we worked pretty consistently throughout each day, but I think we all left well prepared, and with a clear vision for the year.
One of the most important outcomes from StratCon is the selection of our core advocacy priorities: a group of five or six key issues that we commit to pursuing during the year. For the 2016-2017 school year, our core priorities are increasing the quality and accessibility of university data, increasing funding and the capacity of student support services, continuing our work on campus sexual violence prevention and response, negotiating the upcoming tuition framework, providing input on the implementation of the new Ontario Student Grant, and increasing the quality, number, and variety of experiential learning opportunities for Ontario students in all programs.
We also take the opportunity at StratCon to do some crash courses: our staff leads Steering Committee in lobbying simulations, media training, and workshops on policy writing. We even had our very own intern lead us all through some teambuilding and strength-finding exercises (which led to some pretty interesting photos).
Personally, I enjoy the roleplaying sessions the most: maybe it’s the troll in me, but I really enjoy pretending to be a particularly difficult reporter or unreceptive decision-maker. It’s always fun to see how our student leaders are able to handle whatever curveballs I can throw at them and adapt to tough situations. I think it’s safe to say that we have a very impressive group of representatives this year!
One of the best parts about StratCon is that it gives us all the opportunity to get to know each other better. Our Steering Committee members officially begin their role with OUSA in May, but StratCon is the first opportunity they have to spend more than a few hours together and with the staff. Being able to relax together and BBQ some dinner after a full day’s worth of work gives us all the chance to become much closer.
I’m happy to report that this year’s StratCon was a resounding success, and left me excited to see all the progress we’ll make this year.
Ontario Undergraduate Student Alliance