The (Un)Strategic Process and Another Sara(h)

Hi everyone! My name is Sara Surface and I’m the newest member of The Spark Mill Team. Yup, you read that right…The Spark Mill now has THREE Sara(h)’s on the team. In fraction form, that means The Spark Mill is now 3/8th Sara(h)’s. You’ll see that Sara is now as large as “facilitator” on a wordle of our about page.

(But we promise, it was just a coincidence).

I came across The Spark Mill’s work while wrapping up my last semester at The University of Virginia, where I majored in Global Development Studies and Women, Gender, and Sexuality. I was very involved in sexual violence prevention work, and was a part of several clubs that developed peer-led trainings to educate the community on the issue. After some time, I began to see a pattern of what I’ll call “The Unstrategic Process.” 

Essentially, without guidance and proper strategy, all of our ideas were getting lost as the idea-generators graduated, regardless of how “perfection-focused” we are thought to be. 5 year strategic plans are unheard of for student groups with 1 to 4-year turnover rates. Hear the words “planning” and “goal-setting” and UVA students will perk up. Hear the words “strategic”, “retreats”, “implementation” and “long-term accountability” and the color will drain from our faces.

That’s exactly why I was drawn to the work of The Spark Mill – because these facilitators understand what a burden strategic work can be for individuals who are already burnt-out from the day-to-day work of their organization, and they choose to approach planning from a fun, creative, visual process.

So, this summer, I’ll be working as TSM’s Organizational Development Intern. I’ll be responsible for documenting our facilitation methods and strategic planning process, while adding some new ideas into the mix. I also have the opportunity to tackle on a project of my own…so stay tuned for updates!

- Peace, Sara