The WAY Forward. A young girl stands at the start of a pathway leading into the stars

United Way of Calgary and Area is embarking on its next five-year strategic plan. Serving as a compass to guide our organization’s work from 2018-2022, the development of the plan is an opportunity to have meaningful conversations with community and agency partners, donors, corporations, governments, and the public about our way forward.

Throughout 2017, we will be inviting the community to share thoughts and ideas on how United Way should evolve to reflect the changing landscape in Calgary and in philanthropy to ensure community needs continue to be met.

We hear a lot about social issues like poverty, homelessness, school readiness, mental health, domestic violence, social exclusion, strong neighbourhoods, and aging. Which social issues matter most to our community and how will our ability to respond be influenced by what Calgary may look like in five years?

We’re excited to work with you in figuring out our way forward with the common purpose of making Calgary a great place for all.

Get Involved

We believe collaboration, transparency, and engagement are critical to our work. This is why we’re asking you to get involved. In the coming months, we will be posting surveys, hosting events, and encouraging everyone to take part in our shared dialogue.

We want to hear from you! We’re engaging more widely than we ever have before in our strategic planning process using an appreciative inquiry approach. Appreciative inquiry is a strengths-based approach that believes the process of shared dialogue and ideas is just as important as the outcome.

Throughout 2017, we will be actively engaging with the community through three phases: Discover, Dream, and Design. This work will result in the delivery of our 2018-2022 Strategic Plan, which will go to our Board of Directors in September.

Discover: September to December 2016. Dream: January to March 2017. Design: April to October 2017. Deliver: 2018 to 2022


The Discover phase took place between September and December 2016. The focus was to identify trends and implications that could impact our work in coming years; and understand the enabling factors that make us strong.

The Dream phase took the engagement work from internal to external. Throughout January and February, a series of Conversation Cafés were held to envision what we can and should be by working through potential future scenarios.

From April to December, Design will narrow the engagement from broad, over-arching themes to a more defined focus. This is where shaping and direction will begin to emerge. Conversations and engagement opportunities will continue in parallel with development of the strategic plan to ensure we are on the right path and looking further into areas identified as priorities.


Stay Informed

Sign up for updates, engagement opportunities, and reports on our strategic direction work.

What we heard

We’re excited to hear what the community has to say and think others will be too. Throughout this process, we will be reporting back on what we've heard as each phase of engagment is completed.



The Discover phase engaged United Way staff, our Board of Directors and committees, and volunteers.

An environmental scan analyzing five year trends specific to economy, philanthropy, technology, politics, environment, society, and innovation is currently underway and will be posted in early April.

The Discover engagement summary report looks at themes identified as strengths. The four key themes that emerged were:

  1. United Way must act as a connector, convener, and relationship builder
  2. United Way invests the time and effort to understand
  3. United Way must invest in developing and championing bold ideas
  4. United Way has a strong culture and must continue to build on it

Read the report



Building on findings from Discover, the Dream phase engaged community and agency partners, donors, corporations, governments, and others through four Conversation Cafés. Working in small groups, attendees worked through potential future scenarios and generated ideas as to the impact of scenarios on the community, social services sector, and United Way of Calgary and Area. A follow up survey was sent to invitees who were not able to attend to gather additional input. Illustrative drawings captured the conversations and activities live throughout each of the Cafés and are available for viewing below.

Five key themes emerged from the Cafés:

  1. Systems Coordination
  2. Advance Indigenous Reconciliation
  3. Diversify Access to Resources
  4. Tell Our Story
  5. Cause Driven

Read the report

Illustrative Capture (Staff)

Illustrative Capture (Agencies)

Illustrative Capture (Mixed Stakeholders)

Illustrative Capture (Mixed Stakeholders 2)