“This collaborative culture will influence the respective bodies as precedents are set and staff sees the acceptance and potential of such collaboration."
- Vision Session Participant
Alexandria’s City Council and Alexandria City Public Schools collaborated with OPX to develop a decision-making guide to define the strategic vision for the future of Alexandria’s City and Schools. The Vision Session aligned, prioritized, and clarified Alexandria and ACPS’s existing resources and obstacles, big-picture values and guiding principles and produced a framework for making decisions. Alexandria City Council and Alexandria City Public Schools were determined to collaborate more effectively and develop a decision-making guide that defines a shared strategic vision for the future of these two bodies, the students and the city.
Often decisions get made through an individual’s internal criteria and the reasons for these criteria are unclear. If it is external, it’s usually something like, “How much does it cost?” which is valuable to consider, but by itself, not very strategic. Or worse, “I like it” or “I don’t like it”, which is not at all strategic. By developing an external, agreed-upon lens for decision making, the bodies can assess and select between competing or coincident opportunities in a transparent way.
Alexandria, like many cities around the country, faces the challenge of growing needs while operating in aging and overprescribed facilities. They compete for limited local resources and declining state and federal funding. These realities require an urgent shift across elected bodies, leadership, staff, and community members in order to realize future capital improvement projects, attract investment, and maintain its reputation as a first-class city. In response, Alexandria is beginning to collectively look at new ways of doing business and collaborating.
During the Vision Session, where the City Council and School Board gathered with their staffs, OPX led Alexandria City Council and School Board through the process of defining a new “targeted reality” to clarify priorities for decision making when considering how best to deliver capital projects and services. Participants identified, explored, and built agreement around important resources, guiding principles and decision criteria. Created and validated by the session’s contributors, the resulting output served as a guide to inform decisions about the future vision and planning for Alexandria and ACPS.
The City Council and School Board decided that being decisive, focusing on results, and showing mutual respect were the top values that they wanted to embody. Moving forward, they will prioritize urgency, cost, and mission alignment when deciding what projects and initiatives to undertake. This work elicited important insights that were subsequently crystallized into a shared document aimed at helping the bodies understand priorities and tradeoffs. A second Vision Session is scheduled to further explore more specific tactics and how they align with the priorities generated in the first session.
As Alexandria charts its future and proactively challenges traditional methods and practices, the outcome of this engagement will guide new collaborations and partnerships. Using this new shared vision, the City Council and School Board can assess all its initiatives and tactics in a structured and transparent manner with this framework. The entire City of Alexandria and the more than 15,000 students in the public school system will benefit from improved decisions about modernized infrastructure, improved resources, and greater business investment. In this competitive environment, Alexandria is now equipped with a tool to respond as opportunities present themselves.