apple Assessing Mission, Mandates and Values

How to assess mission and values

Your organization’s mission statement is a definition of the agency’s reason for existence – its true purpose. Your organizational values shape how your agency carries out its mission. Together, they encapsulate who you are, what you hold to be important, why you exist, what you do, and who benefits from it all.

This starting point lays the foundation for everything else and provides some additional benefits as well.

  • It lets you know how aware people in the agency are of your agency’s core business and purpose.
  • It gives you a way to state again who you are and what you are about.
  • It provides an opportunity for stakeholders to express a common commitment to the purpose and work of the agency.
  • It serves as a reference point when ideas surface and plans for the future begin to take shape. You can always go back to your mission and values to check whether an idea really fits with who you are and what you are primarily about.

To get started find out:

  • Does your agency have a written mission statement that accurately captures who you are and what you are about? If so, what is that statement? If not, how will you develop one?
  • Are there commonly held values that shape how your mission is carried out? If so, what are those values?

There are different approaches you can take to assess mission, values and mandates. The approach you choose depends on the time you have available for this activity – and how much time you are devoting to strategic planning overall. To assess your current mission statement and values, you could:

  • Work it through yourself and then ask others for feedback
  • Recruit a small volunteer working group to represent various points of view and work with them
  • Conduct information-gathering activities with key stakeholders together in a group
  • Hold a focus group with key stakeholders
  • Have stakeholders answer a series of key questions, either in the form of a survey or a structured interview

Key questions for mission and values

Here are some key questions to ask about your mission statement and values. It is not necessary to use all of these questions, but do pick several of the ones that most suit the needs of your organization.

  • Who are we?
  • Why do we exist? What needs do we meet?
  • In general, how do we respond to these needs?
  • Who are our key stakeholders and what should they expect from us?
  • Does our current mission statement reflect who we are and what we do? If no, what changes should be made to it and why?
  • How well are we fulfilling our mission statement, values and mandates?
  • What is our agency’s reputation with our community and with funders? How do we know?
  • What are our agency’s strengths in meeting the needs of practitioners, learners and the local community? How do we know?
  • What are our agency’s beliefs and values re: the programs we offer and our abilities to address particular needs in the literacy community? Are these beliefs and values documented?
  • What strengths does our agency have with regard to its mission and values?
  • What challenges do we face with regard to our mission and values and what recommendations can you make with regard to these challenges?

For more information on assessing these core issues in your agency, please read this article called “Mission, Vision and Values”:


Mandates describe what your agency has to do based on the programs and services it has formally contracted to offer as well as federal, provincial, and local laws, codes, and regulations. Mandates can be expressed formally or informally through written contracts and business plans, community or group expectations, policies, procedures, and partnership agreements. It would be very short-sighted to produce a wonderful strategic plan only to discover that there was not enough time or resources left over to fulfill your contracted services.

There probably is no document called “Mandates” for your organization. This is something you can create by making a list of the various deliverables and expectations required of your agency. To make such a list, name the key stakeholders who have say in what you do and, for each, identify the agreed upon or expected activities or services you are obligated to carry out. Key stakeholders related to agency mandates are those with whom you have some binding agreement and accountability. Some stakeholders you might include in the list of mandates are: learners and your community; the Ministry of Training, Colleges and Universities; other funders (Trillium, United Way, etc); your Board of Directors; Revenue Canada; the Corporations Act; and any formal partners you might have.

Look up the written agreements/contracts that your agency has with each of these bodies and cut and paste the deliverables you have agreed (or are obligated) to fulfill into a list. These are the non-negotiable mandates that belong to your agency. You want to be clear about these because whatever your agency plans for the future, you must always take into account first and foremost the demands and activities you have already agreed to carry out.

What do you do with the information?

Once you have collected feedback from stakeholders on your agency’s mission statement, values and mandates, collate and summarize the information concisely in writing and set it aside until later in the planning process.

Questions and Activities for Reflection

  1. What makes your literacy agency distinct or unique in your community?
  2. How well do your key stakeholders and community partners know and understand your mission statement?
  3. What, in your view, are the most important things your agency does in order to fulfill its mission?
  4. What are the fundamental values of your literacy agency?
  5. What are your agency’s key mandates?
  6. What would be the most effective way for you to assess your agency’s mission, values and mandates?
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