Back to the Future

We all love birds and bats, and maybe even scat, more than strategic planning.  Scat, or animal fecal matter, is actually quite interesting. It can indicate the presence of species that are otherwise hard to see in the wild, and can reveal feeding and other habits. Our new scat sorting activity cart has been very popular with visitors, docents, and staff.

Strategic planning, however, doesn’t always sound so exciting. But it is one of the ways we keep chaos and confusion at bay. A good plan helps us work together toward a shared goal and understand why it is important. It encourages us to look beyond the day-to-day needs and helps us develop resilience in changing times.

Over this past year—my first at the helm—we developed a new strategy roadmap that will guide the Museum’s activities as we approach our 150th anniversary in 2024 (check out a condensed version of it here). We had a lot of help developing the strategy. We consulted with 140 members of the Board, staff, volunteers, members, donors, Balboa Park and community leaders, elected officials, vendors, colleagues, and other experts in the field.

The result of this process is what we’re calling a roadmap rather than a plan because it indicates general direction for the Museum, not specific actions. The roadmap calls for leading with our science, and using our results to aid environmental conservation efforts. We will revisit our roots and strengthen our partnerships with the local science and conservation communities. We will focus our educational efforts and ensure The Nat continues to be an essential element of every childhood in San Diego.

The roadmap is already helping us focus our efforts and experiment with new approaches.

Inside our walls, we are experimenting with exhibitions and programs that feature our own rich collections and scientific discoveries. Our newest exhibition, Unshelved: Cool Stuff from Storage, features our wide range of collections. New programming is rolling out for students, preschoolers, and for the 21+ crowd. Our staff and volunteer experts are working toward having an increased presence in the galleries, and we will aim to have every visit fascinating enough to warrant a return. 

You will be hearing more about our scientific discoveries and seeing us step up our stewardship of the region. Our new café, The Flying Squirrel, has already enlivened our Atrium and provided a delicious new option for casual dining in Balboa Park. We are also going to be true to our mission by reducing our carbon footprint and waste stream.

Our deep-rooted history is part of our fabric. Science is our thing—it has been from day one. We’ve grown from a small society of natural history lovers and collectors to a big museum with eight million specimens, spectacular programs, and award-winning exhibitions. But our driving force remains unchanged after all these years: to learn more and to share what we’ve learned so we can help and protect this amazing region we call home.

Call it back-to-basics or call it old-school, but that’s what our strategy roadmap is all about. Interestingly enough, we think it’s more relevant now than ever, and will help prepare us for the next 150 years.  

Posted by President and CEO Judy Gradwohl.

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