Client Case: Kauffman Foundation

Strategic Planning & Innovation Culture


  • The Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation (EMKF) is among the largest private foundations in the U.S. EMKF’s vision is to foster a society of economically independent individuals who are engaged citizens in their communities by advancing education and entrepreneurship.
  • The Education department of EMKF focuses on preparing students for education and life after high school, and on ensuring quality teachers and leaders to staff high-quality schools.
  • The Entrepreneurship department of EMKF advances entrepreneurship education and training and promotes startup-friendly policies, each on a national scale.
  • Both divisions undergird their work with extensive research and policy work, making them a national leader in advancing entrepreneurship and education. These two departments are supported by the departments of Public Affairs and Communication; I.T., Talent and Culture; and Admin/Legal/Finance.


  • Establish a strong conceptual awareness of Rainforest principles and tools within EMKF.
  • Assess the current state of innovation across six domains, using the Rainforest Scorecard: leadership; frameworks, infrastructure and policies; resources; activities and engagement; role models; and culture.
  • Facilitate collaborative creation of strategic plans, balanced scorecards, strategy maps, and innovation initiatives for each department.
  • The issues raised in the Rainforest Scorecard assessment are addressed in the planning process, thus making innovation culture creation an integrated part of strategic plans and operating performance measures.
  • The integration of strategic planning and Rainforest principles launches an innovation culture change process inside a relatively familiar planning discipline.


  • 65 participants convened across several sessions to renew and align strategic plans for three major departments: Public Affairs & Communications; Entrepreneurship; and, Research & Policy. In the process of strategic planning, the latter two departments were merged into one.
  • In addition to onsite organizational analyses, during the major planning events, participants translated Rainforest Scorecard assessment results into a SWOT analysis. This identified strategic issues and improvement opportunities relative to innovation culture.
  • Facilitated multi-day events were used to update each department’s values, mission, vision, strategic plan including objectives, measures, targets, initiatives, and execution timeline.
  • Provided training to select staff on facilitation and design-thinking to establish greater in-house capacity for innovation and strategic planning.



  • Rainforest Principles: educational keynote address on innovation ecosystems.
  • Rainforest Scorecard short-form assessment and synthesis of individual scores (by department). Data was visualized using the Rainforest Radar and bar charts.
  • Strategic Planning Event Summary for each department’s 2-day event
  • Strategic plan document for each department. These followed best practices for design/usability to aid implementation by department executives and managers. All the plans use the same logics/formats to facilitate alignment, cross-departmental collaboration, and C-suite coordination of enterprise strategy and execution.
  • To support staff learning and develop a consistent vocabulary across EMKF, Rainforest Strategies published a Strategic Planning Primer. The Primer included all the key concepts, models, and frameworks being used in strategic planning sessions across the enterprise.


  • Updated and ratified Mission, Vision and Values statements for each department with whom we worked.
  • Codification of, and clear alignment of strategic plan objectives, measures, targets, and initiatives – including those specifically targeting innovation culture.
  • Strategy maps to enable visualization of each department’s objectives as a system – one that can be compared to and aligned with that of other departments – including innovation culture and leadership objectives.
  • Each department’s strategic plan mapped to a timeline that reveals sequencing and dependencies.
  • Identification of internal cultural issues and solutions that would affect strategic success and innovation capacity, velocity, and sustainability. 
  • Mapping of existing initiatives against objectives with determination of which should be accelerated, maintained, or eliminated.

Set the stage to align individual performance management to objectives with enterprise level strategic themes and innovation objectives.


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