Developing a Strategic Plan to help the West African Cultural Arts Institute connect Oregonians with the African Continent


The West African Cultural Arts Institute (WACAI) based in Eugene, Oregon is a grassroots nonprofit organization dedicated to connecting locals with the culture of West Africa. When I came into contact with the organization, it became clear that it was ran by high-performing individuals with strong ambitions, but they faced the same challenges many nonprofits do– limited funds and staff availability.

My team and I were asked to develop a strategic plan to identify and address WACAI's most pressing issues. After a site visit, a review of their materials, and a SWOT assessment, we realized the challenges we needed to solve were largely related to communication.

A community event hosted by WACAI

A community event hosted by WACAI

The organization had a strong reputation and positive responses from virtually all the community partners they've worked with, however much of the public did not understand their mission as an organization, and the lack of clarity was inhibiting their growth. Our next step was to conduct research in order to create a strategic plan that WACAI could use in their marketing moving forward.


My team and I spoke to dozens of stakeholders with ties to WACAI. This included past and current students, the organization's board of directors, schools they had partnered with, and other collaborators. We also spent time with the executive director to determine what was feasible within the organization's next several months.

A snippet of our strategic plan

A snippet of our strategic plan

We also began drafting a guide– a written out explanation of our findings and a user-friendly manual of what next steps could look like for the organization. We wanted to ensure that our strategic planning session could lead to action steps.


We developed three objectives, along with suggested tactics for WACAI to undertake–

1) Being present at public events and information sessions to provide broader audiences with more information about what the organization does. There are many in the Eugene area who would be attracted to the offer of a cultural exchange.

2) Create other fun events, like music or food festivals, in collaboration with other likeminded nonprofits. This would increase working partnerships and public visibility.

3) Use a team of volunteers to take advantage of social media and community based platforms for promoting WACAI's activities.

These, along with other suggestions, were outlined in a comprehensive 34 page guide that was presented to WACAI's executive director and governing board.

Cover page of our 34-page report

Cover page of our 34-page report

The organization remains a strong presence in the Eugene area and continues to thrive in its artistic programs. As it grows, it now looks to purchase land in Guinea that can be used for humanitarian purposes.

Philippe Lazaro