Since it was founded as the Columbia Park and Recreation Association more than 40 years ago, employees of the Columbia Association have been asked, "What does CA do?"
Because CA, a nonprofit, lien-charging homeowners' association with a budget that exceeds $60 million, is unique, that answer is often long-winded, multi-faceted and complicated.
However, CA leadership is hoping a new document approved by CA's Board of Directors last Thursday will better define its role for residents and streamline functionality for the organization.
"This is a very short but comprehensive look at where CA is going to go in the future," said Anne Brinker, CA's director of Strategic Organizational Planning. "We are an organization with a lot of diverse functions and sometimes it is difficult for people to get a bird's-eye view. This is a way to get a snapshot of what the organization is doing."
The document that was approved by the board lists a mission statement, and five values and five goals for the organization. The two-page document is a departure from CA's previous strategic plan, which was 44-pages long. According to CA Board Chair Andy Stack, the plan will serve as a guiding document for the next five years.
"Five years from now we should look back and say, 'How close did we get to those goals?' " Stack said after Thursday's meeting.
Among the goals is to communicate and develop "a shared vision for Columbia," educating residents about the history of Columbia and founder James Rouse's original vision.
"We are almost 50 years later, and a lot of (advocating for Columbia) was done by Rouse and the Rouse Company, and no one has really picked that up," Stack said. "I think what we'd like to do is try and get some of that spirit back."
Hickory Ridge resident and community activist Joan Lancos applauded the board's approval of the plan, calling it "a terrific road map."
"Implementing these goals will set us on the path to reminding everyone why Columbia is a destination of choice," Lancos said. "We need to sell Columbia just like Jim Rouse did nearly 50 years ago. The strategic plan is a great way to start."
The goals that were approved by the board were shaped by residents and other community stakeholders through a rigorous public input process.
CA conducted phone interviews with 11 community groups that included the Horizon Foundation, Howard County Recreation and Parks, Kimco Realty Corp., which owns most of the village centers, and others, according to Brinker.
CA also interviewed residents, members from the 10 village boards and business owners.
"We reached out to a diverse group to find out what they are seeing, what they think the challenges and opportunities are," Brinker said.