Strategic Planning

Strategic planning is all about determining long-term goals and developing the most effective and efficient means for achieving them. At Mt. Auburn Associates, we believe successful strategic planning must incorporate a process that builds consensus, engages key stakeholders, and leads to strong ownership of the strategy.

While every assignment is customized to the client's needs, our general approach involves:

  • Clarifying and reaching consensus on goals, values, and anticipated outcomes
  • Using quantitative and qualitative methods to assess the external context and the major challenges and opportunities
  • Identifying strategic priorities that address challenges and build upon opportunities
  • Developing a detailed action plan for successful implementation
  • Designing indicators that can be utilized to measure success


Mt. Auburn has worked effectively with a wide range of foundations at the national and community levels. The values underlying the firm’s approach to economic development are closely aligned with the foundation community’s commitment to equity and social justice. At the same time, our in-depth knowledge of the market and institutional environment driving regional and local economic development enables foundations to effectively leverage key opportunities and resources. Mt. Auburn’s expertise also spans two important dimensions of foundation economic development efforts -- people-based initiatives to expand economic opportunities for low-income/low-wealth individuals, and place-based initiatives to increase the flow of resources and economic activity into distressed downtowns and neighborhoods.

The Surdna Foundation

In the fall of 2007, Mt. Auburn was retained by the Surdna Foundation to extend and strengthen the program approach of its Community Revitalization Program. Our work with Surdna staff included assessing the efficacy of the foundation’s strategy in relation to success measures in its nine targeted cities; refining the overall program model; shaping and facilitating grantee learning convenings; preparing an overall assessment report; and follow-up work on a new communication and learning strategy and the development of new program areas.


Much of our consulting practice is focused on collaborating with “learning organizations,” organizations that put a premium on self-examination and learning. In our experience with community, workforce, and economic development organizations, we have found that strategic planning is most effective when organizations take the time to look internally and externally, examine their accomplishments and failures, and identify the factors that lead to good policy and practice. Our work with clients in this area often entails market and economic research, a review of finances (budgets, sources, and investments), interviews with staff and stakeholders, and extensive discussions and engagement with a steering committee or strategic planning task force.

Reconnecting America Strategic Plan

Mt. Auburn Associations, together with Marc Smiley’s team at Solid Ground Consulting, worked with Reconnecting America’s board to, first, assess the evolution of the organization’s services, funding structure, and organizational structure, and then determine the right set of key constituents to consult as part of the organization’s strategic planning effort. Mt. Auburn and Solid Ground Consulting reviewed documents and reports, interviewed internal Reconnecting America staff and board members, and then conducted an environmental scan of others working in field of transit and transit-oriented development. Our Team assessed the policy context, the funding environment, and other organizations serving the sector in order to provide Reconnecting America’s board with a memo and decision book outlining findings and implications for moving forward. The team facilitated several board meetings.

Strategic Plan for Coastal Enterprises, Inc.

Mt. Auburn managed the formulation of a five-year strategic plan for this statewide economic development organization, which serves rural communities. Our work included board and staff interviews, facilitating staff and board retreats, conducting detailed business analysis of program areas, reviewing lending programs, analyzing opportunities in ecotourism and heritage tourism, and developing overall strategic principles, goals, and priorities.


Over the past 30 years, Mt. Auburn has mastered the research and analytical methods required to understand the economic dynamics in a community. Our research methodology is customized to every client, but involves in-depth analysis of secondary economic data and primary research including surveys, focus groups, and individual interviews. Our Team has developed a breadth of knowledge on economic development models and best practices that produce highly effective regional and local economic development strategies. We have worked in a range of economic settings from rural regions to small cities to large metropolitan areas.

Strategic Plan for Fall River, Massachusetts

For the Fall River Partnership, we developed a strategic plan for attracting companies, encouraging new startups, and retaining existing firms in this older industrial city. Mt. Auburn developed strategies around two key existing sectors — textile and apparel — as well as targeted plans to attract emerging industries well suited to the strengths of the city and region.

Beyond the Crossroads: Positioning Nashua to Compete in a Global Economy

In 2005, the City of Nashua, New Hampshire, asked Mt. Auburn to update our 1991 economic development strategy, which had helped the struggling community respond to the impact of a New England recession and defense cutbacks. The diversification strategy focused particular attention on stimulating high-tech entrepreneurship and was highlighted as a model in the National League of Cities' Handbook on Defense Adjustment. Our new strategy defined and capitalized on Nashua's niche within the Boston metropolitan area as a home for young professionals with families, an enterprise hatchery, a center of advanced engineering, and a retail hub.

Strategic Plan for the Northern Tier Region of Massachusetts Economy

In 2004, Mt. Auburn was asked to update an economic development strategy we had prepared in the mid-1980s for the Northern Tier of Massachusetts, an economically depressed area in the north central part of the state. Our updated plan proposed new strategies for entrepreneurial development, sector-based workforce training, and strengthening and expanding established and emerging economic base industries.