Adaptive Strategy

Designing flexible strategies for a rapidly evolving world

In an increasingly turbulent world, the old centralized approach of “make a plan and stick to it” is no longer effective: static strategies fail to align with changing conditions. Instead, organizations that aspire to make a significant and sustainable social impact should embed adaptive strategies by “setting a direction and testing to it.”

What we offer

We have worked with dozens of foundations, networks, and operating nonprofits to help increase their impact by designing and implementing an adaptive strategy for their organization: one that provided clarity of direction while emphasizing ongoing learning. We treat the whole organization as a team that is experimenting its way to success—an approach that is equally effective for innovative new start-ups and established organizations who are re-inventing themselves for an increasingly connected, technology-enabled world.

To provide structure to this fluid approach, we focus on answering a series of four interrelated questions about the organization’s strategic direction: what vision you want to pursue, how you will make a difference, how you will succeed, and what capabilities it will take to get there. The answers to these questions provide powerful strategic guardrails for an organization while giving it enough freedom to learn, adapt, and grow.

Particular areas of focus

  • Clarifying and aligning on underlying drivers of and potential solutions to the social problems an organization is tackling, and, where the organization should (and should not) focus
  • Building strong connections between the organization’s strategic aspirations and the practical considerations required for successful implementation
  • Designing strategy for successful implementation: alignment within the organization’s staff and integration of strategic thinking into the team’s everyday decisions

Issue to impact: College Possible

The issue

College Possible is a nonprofit organization whose mission is to make college admission and success possible for low-income students in the United States through an intensive curriculum of coaching and support. College Possible was at a critical inflection point as it sought to strike the right balance between serving a subset of students “on-the-ground” and having transformational impact, helping hundreds of thousands of students to earn college degrees.  Having spent time considering potential paths forward, the leadership team wanted to explore what a transformational strategy could look like in practice. With this directional insight, College Possible sought an external advisor to help develop a robust strategy that more fully articulated their strategic choices, presented a strong business case and detailed the operational and financial implications.


Our impact

The Deloitte team was engaged to develop a transformational growth strategy that would enable College Possible to reach dramatically more students across the country. The project resulted in the development of a new capacity building model, Catalyze, which positions the organization to significantly scale its program on college campuses to help low-income students complete their degrees. The associated growth plan aspires to reach 20 high-need universities across the country over the next five years and has positioned the organization to become one of the largest college access and success organizations in the country. College Possible now has a clear, ambitious path to growth designed to transform the organization, the national conversation on the degree divide and— most importantly—the futures of promising low-income students across the country.