Sustainable Strategy

Teaching & Training



About Mark Light


Don't miss this opportunity.

Matt Pieper, Executive Director, Open Hand, Atlanta (testimonial)


A unique, clear and engaging style
that is both beautiful to experience and results oriented.

Paul Plate, Former Executive Director, Positive Impact (testimonial)

Mark’s content and packaging are right on . . . commend with great enthusiasm
William Hardy, President & CEO
AIDS Resource Center Ohio (testimonial)


Sustainable Strategic Planning achieves powerful mission impact and bottom-line results. Subscribing to Michael Porter's advice that "the essence of strategy is choosing what not to do" (1996) and built upon Mark Light's Results Now book, the right answers come from five questions: 



Instead of the typical approach to strategy making that can be pie-in-the-sky unrealistic or down-in-the-depths pedestrian, sustainable strategic planning strikes the right balance by focusing on two primary elements:



The Sustainable Strategy Program is powerful action learning "that involves taking action and reflecting upon the results." Unlike the one-off classroom method that suffers from transfer of training problems, action learning builds long-term capacity and uses on-the-job coaching and training. The Sustainable Strategy Program consists of four day-long workshops spread across an eight-week period. Each one of the workshops is immediately followed by on-site coaching and training to help the agency work on specific assignments including the written report and presentation for the next workshop two weeks later. The final presentation and report delivers a Sustainable Strategic Plan.


The common approach for strategic planning is to engage a consultant who makes recommendations on what to do next. The Sustainable Strategy Program believes the best people to make recommendations are those who work in the agency. In addition to addressing agency challenges and opportunities, building lasting capacity and a Sustainable Strategic Plan, takeaways include learning how to think strategically and competitively, and polishing presentation skills. Participants have full access to all of the templates, samples, and tools needed to succeed in the program including Mark's comprehensive Sustainable Strategy Workbook (est. 3/16) keyed to the program's agenda.


The Sustainable Strategy Program uses the following agenda for deliverables and includes the four on-site training workshops, on-site coaching, and teaching that lead up to your agency's new strategic plan:


What are we doing now?

(1 day)

A. Get Ready

B. Purpose

1. Values

2. Mission

C. Current Strategy

1. Lines of Business

2. Success Measures

3. Vision


What could we do next?
(1 day)

A. Vision Statement

1. Ideate

2. Statement

B. Vision Ideas

1. Collect

2. Evaluate

3.  GREAT Strategies

What will we do next?
(1 day)

A. Great Ideas Presentations

B. Great Strategies

1. Build

2. Test

3. Decide

C. Strategic Plan


What will we do today?
(1 day)

A. Strategic Plan Presentations

B. Operations

C. Promoting Strategy

D. Leading Change


Cohort of Agencies

All – not most, not some – of the participants were enthusiastic.
Kathy Palumbo, Director of programs, The Community Foundation for Greater Atlanta (testimonial)


So valuable is the sustainable strategy approach that some agencies join together for a cohort approach. Beyond saving costs, takeaways include long-lasting relationships with other like-minded executives where potential collaborations thrive. Included in the program are up to four hours on-site coaching that can include ideation sessions, training courses, or one-on-one coaching.


Another difference from the single agency approach is that cohort agencies present the results of their assignments to cohort peers for feedback and enrichment at every workshop. And at the final session, each agency presents its sustainable strategic plan to a panel of philanthropists (subject to availability). The cohort model requires each agency do its own written reports and presentations; First Light Group provides everything else including templates, samples, and workbook, and coaching to facilitate the process. Like a master class, cohort agencies must bring the desire and concentration to succeed and some quality time to do the work.   


Funders will often initiate and/or underwrite a sustainable strategy program. The Community Foundation for Greater Atlanta wrapped up its program supported by the Elton John AIDS Foundation in September, 2014. Participants were AID Gwinnett, Center for Black Women's Wellness, Project Open Hand, and The Living Room. Here are the Participant Evaluations for the program.


AIDS Foundation Chicago completed its sustainable strategy program thanks to the Chicago Community Trust in November 2013. Participating agencies were Howard Brown Health Center, Illinois Caucus for Adolescent Health Project VIDA, Mt. Sinai HIV program, South Side Help Center. Information on outcomes for the agencies is in the Summary Report. The Dayton Power and Light Company Foundation completed its program in 2012 for seven Miami Valley agencies.


All Chicago's Sustainable Strategy Program addressing homelessness supported by the Chicago Commuity Trust (the second SSP supported) will conclude May 18 with presentations to a panel of influencers in the filed. Particpating agencies are Family Rescue, La Casa Norte, Near West Side CDC, St Leonard's Ministries, and Teen Living Programs. Please visit the program's home page to learn more including evaluations.


One of the most valuable training and educational opportunities of my career.
Jim McCarthy, President/CEO, Miami Valley Fair Housing Center (testimonial)


Single Agency

In a single-agency Sustainable Strategy Program, the agency has the answers and First Light has a coaching, training, and coordinating role. This ensures much higher buy in from agency stakeholders (internal and external) because they are fundamentally involved as the makers and deciders of strategy. Because First Light handles all of the report writing, staff homework is relatively modest albeit vital. Here is a sample sustainable strategic plan report.


It helped us to apply proven business principles to achieve objectives.
Monique Rucker, HIV Program Manager, Mt. Sinai Hospital (testimonial)

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