Joy and Hope for Our Planet Flows Through Our Rivers – River Network’s Refreshed Strategic Plan
Our new dog, Juno, is a water dog. She spent a number of weeks tentatively sniffing the water and delicately dipping her paws before one day bounding in with undiluted glee. There can now never be enough throwing and retrieving of sticks and pinecones or splashing in the riffles before tugging her homeward. Walking along our local creek and watching Juno bound in and out of the water makes me smile and lifts my spirits.
Whether you boat, play, swim (or dog paddle) in our rivers, drink from them, or just appreciate them for flowing onward, rivers have a way of connecting and renewing us if we let them. At River Network, we came together to listen to our network and clarify our strategic path moving forward, through the State of the Network Survey and our 2023-2026 Strategic Refresh. In both processes, we committed – and recommitted – to a number of things, several of which stand out to me and help define who we are, starting with joy and hope.
Joy and hope for our planet flow through our rivers. Because the work all of us do is challenging and sometimes frustrating; because the work requires us to move at the speed of trust while addressing the fierce urgency of the moment; and because the work must recognize the weight of past injustices, finding joy and celebrating success is critical. We take this to heart and are embedding it, and our other core beliefs, into our organizational DNA. We’re also looking to celebrate as a network as we move together toward a powerful and inclusive movement that ensures abundant clean water for all people and nature to thrive.
Listening to the network. Through our inaugural State of the Network Survey, listening sessions, and interviews, we listened to YOU to help clarify our work, sharpen our programming, and ensure we are centering equitable, community-based approaches. River Network has always both reflected the needs of the network and provided leadership in emerging areas, and we will continue to do so across our programs. Specifically, we heard from you that there are key training and support needs around communications, fundraising, and and we’re committed to thoughtfully finding ways to address those needs.
Centering equity, diversity, inclusion, and justice internally and externally. Core to our work to grow and strengthen a transformational national network of water, justice, and river advocates, we will continue on our journey to center EDIJ. Whether creating a more inclusive and welcoming River Rally in 2024, supporting climate justice flow funding, or striving to improve our internal hiring and onboarding processes, we will hold ourselves accountable and continue to learn with all of you.
Sharpening our programming to meet the moment. Building on our foundational work, we’re clearly stating our three result areas, reflecting today’s pressing needs for rivers and water, and more clearly addressing climate change impacts.
What’s staying the same is how we work: strengthening and growing the capacity of organizations and leaders, expanding and connecting a diverse and powerful network, and working together to advance equitable and sustainable water policies and practices. Whether we’re supporting your ability to access and influence federal infrastructure dollars, partnering to develop a new strategic plan, providing technical assistance for Community Led Research, connecting groups to resources for healthy floodplain planning (coming this Spring!), or training on the Clean Water Act, River Network will stay true to our values and to our network members, partners, and supporters.
We’re excited for what comes next, grateful for and inspired by this network, and can’t wait to jump in!