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ACS strategic planning: Making it real, making an impact

by Kathleen M. Schulz, ACS Director-At-Large
May 15, 2017 | A version of this story appeared in Volume 95, Issue 20

Kathleen Schulz
Credit: Courtesy of Kathleen Schulz
A photo of Kathleen Schulz.
Credit: Courtesy of Kathleen Schulz

The invitation to chair the ACS Board of Directors’ Strategic Planning Committee read, “Since you are so passionate about planning …” My immediate response was, “Just to be clear, I’m not passionate about planning, but I am passionate about getting results and making an impact!”

Getting results and having an impact are what count. Impact comes from turning planning into focused action—by making it real and making a difference. At ACS, action can be widely distributed among nearly 160,000 members and more than 750 grassroots units, which include local sections, technical divisions, international and student chapters, national committees, and regional boards. Focused action by individual members and our many groups creates a powerful multiplier effect that can make a real difference.

The Strategic Planning Committee helps the society, its members, and its grassroots units achieve this multiplier effect by understanding the opportunities, creating a blueprint for action, attracting and activating all of us to act, and supporting action.

Understand the opportunities

With all its people and resources, even ACS can’t pursue every opportunity, so we must focus. The Strategic Planning Committee leads environment scan activities to identify areas where ACS can make a big impact. Environment scan activities lead to an accurate, shared understanding of the environment in which ACS operates by (1) gathering information on trends important to chemistry and chemical professionals from internal and external sources and (2) facilitating discussions to determine which of these trends present the greatest challenges and opportunities for ACS action.

The ACS Office of Strategy Development also continually collects trend information from internal ACS sources and combines it with information from external sources. The Strategic Planning Committee analyzes this information annually and recommends to the ACS Board of Directors updates to the ACS Strategic Plan each December.

Create a blueprint for action

The ACS Strategic Plan is our blueprint for action. Its purpose is to provide enough focus to achieve the multiplier effect while allowing individual members room to act and grassroots units to creatively mobilize to serve their constituencies. It’s a delicate balance.

The current strategic plan consists of four broad goals, or areas of focus. These goals have remained unchanged for several years, though for 2017, some were restated and clarifying text was added. For example, there’s increased mention of “global,” more emphasis on chemistry’s role in addressing worldwide challenges, changing definitions of community, and a broader definition of support provided to members.

Goal 1: Provide information. Deliver the most authoritative, comprehensive, and indispensable chemistry-related information and knowledge-based solutions to resolve global challenges and to address issues facing the world’s scientific community.

Goal 2: Empower members and member communities. Provide access to opportunities, resources, skills training, and networks to empower our members to thrive in the global economy. Encourage and support member communities worldwide—traditional, established communities and limited-lifetime, self-organizing communities—as they work to achieve ACS goals.

Goal 3: Support excellence in education. Foster the development of innovative, relevant, and effective chemistry and chemistry-related education.

Goal 4: Communicate chemistry’s value. Communicate to the public and to policy-makers the vital role of chemical professionals and chemistry in addressing the world’s challenges.

Attract and activate an army

For there to be action, everyone who wishes to contribute needs to know and understand the plan. ACS informs its members, grassroots units, and leaders through the ACS website, materials such as infographics, videos, business-card-size quad-folds, e-mails to ACS leaders, meetings such as the ACS Leadership Institute and the New Councilor Orientation, Strategy Cafés, Leadership Development System courses, and Strategic Planning Retreats. Since 2012, more than 50 facilitated Strategic Planning Retreats have helped ACS local sections, technical divisions, committees, and regional boards create strategic plans consistent with the ACS Strategic Plan.

Support action

Finally, activities consistent with the ACS Strategic Plan must be supported. In ACS, support comes from many places and in many forms. For example, local section and technical division Strategic Planning Retreats can receive financial support through Innovative Project Grants administered by the Committee on Divisional Activities and the Local Section Activities Committee. Support for strategic planning by national committees is part of the annual budgeting process.

Here are four ways you can help multiply ACS’s impact:

Learn about the ACS Strategic Plan and decide on actions to help reinforce the goals.

Send suggested environment scan additions or updates or revisions to the plan to

Consider holding a Strategic Planning Retreat for your grassroots unit.

Attend or host a Strategy Café at a regional or local section meeting.

The committee is starting to update the ACS Strategic Plan for 2018, and we welcome your suggestions at

Views expressed are those of the author and not necessarily those of C&EN or ACS.



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