Two (2) staff from the Watershed and Water Resources Research Center (WWRRC) of the Ecosystems Research and Development Bureau (ERDB) were trained on the use of a new model for strategic planning during the strategy building planning workshop sponsored by the Highland Agriculture, Aquatic and Resources Research and Development Consortium (HAARDEC) held at the Grey Sand Resort and Beach in San Fabian, Pangasinan on February 15-18, 2017. This new model is called SOAR- Strength Opportunities Aspirations and Results. It was used in the crafting of a strategic plan for HAARDEC for CY 2017-2022.

The SOAR (strengths, opportunities, aspirations, and results) framework enhances strategic planning and implementation of processes by using a positive guiding approach to inquire and focus into strengths, opportunities, aspirations, and measurable results. It is a strategic planning framework that seeks to understand the whole system by including the voices of the relevant stakeholders. It differs from the traditional SWOT (Strengths, Opportunities, Weaknesses and Threats) method in many ways. SWOT is analysis oriented, and is focused on weaknesses, threats, competition, and analysis planning. Whereas, SOAR is action oriented and is focused on strengths, opportunities, engagement of all levels and planning implementation. SWOT is energy depleting (there are so many weaknesses and threats) while SOAR is energy creating (members are good and can become great!). SOAR is one of the models of an Appreciative Inquiry (AI)–based strategic planning approach.

Appreciative Inquiry (AI) is a vision-based approach of open dialogue that is designed to help organizations and other partners create a shared vision for the future and a mission to operate in the present. The AI approach allows organizations to build on their strengths (the positive core); discover profitable opportunities; visualize goals and strategic alternatives; identify enabling objectives; design strategies and tactics that are integrated with their most successful programs and supply chain partners and; implement a strategic plan that is a dynamic, and continuous.

The SOAR model of the Appreciative Inquiry-based strategic planning was used during the workshop for the HAARDEC strategic plan for CY 2017-2022. Series of activities were performed to craft the plan. Such activities include small group workshop answering the question “who are we at our best”; appreciative interviews workshop about HAARDEC; sharing of dreams for HAARDEC; enlivening the dreams for HAARDEC; creating the dreams for HAARDEC; enacting the dreams for HAARDEC; provocative propositions for each organization design element and large group workshop identifying the design elements and building the architecture for HAARDEC. The exciting and enlightening workshop was conducted by the highly competent and friendly resource person, Dr. Lily Ann Lando, who is the Interim Director of Worldfish Philippine Country Office based in Los Banos, Laguna. Helen A. Maddumba , WWRRC