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Boston Dance Alliance Inc.

 19 Clarendon Street
 Boston, MA 02116
[P] (617) 4566295
[F] --
Debra Cash
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 Printable Profile (Summary / Full)
EIN 04-3064755

LAST UPDATED: 12/14/2018
Organization DBA --
Former Names --
Organization received a competitive grant from the Boston Foundation in the past five years Yes



Mission StatementMORE »

BOSTON DANCE ALLIANCE builds capacity for dance by identifying and creating shared resources, information, and productive partnerships to help dance flourish across the Boston community and New England region. We are an independent service organization representing dancers, choreographers, teachers, presenters, allied arts and cultural professionals, arts journalists and scholars, wellness and health providers, and dance enthusiasts brought together across dance genres and geographies. BDA strives to increase cultural equity and access to dance for diverse communities, build dance audiences, and promote quality and sustainability.

Mission Statement

BOSTON DANCE ALLIANCE builds capacity for dance by identifying and creating shared resources, information, and productive partnerships to help dance flourish across the Boston community and New England region. We are an independent service organization representing dancers, choreographers, teachers, presenters, allied arts and cultural professionals, arts journalists and scholars, wellness and health providers, and dance enthusiasts brought together across dance genres and geographies. BDA strives to increase cultural equity and access to dance for diverse communities, build dance audiences, and promote quality and sustainability.

FinancialsMORE »

Fiscal Year July 01, 2018 to June 30, 2019
Projected Income $240,050.00
Projected Expense $233,390.00

ProgramsMORE »

  • BDA Dancewear distribution program
  • Dance and Disability
  • Fiscal sponsorship for Boston dancemakers
  • Portable dance floor

Revenue vs. Expense ($000s)

Expense Breakdown 2017 (%)

Expense Breakdown 2016 (%)

Expense Breakdown 2015 (%)

For more details regarding the organization's financial information, select the financial tab and review available comments.


Mission Statement

BOSTON DANCE ALLIANCE builds capacity for dance by identifying and creating shared resources, information, and productive partnerships to help dance flourish across the Boston community and New England region. We are an independent service organization representing dancers, choreographers, teachers, presenters, allied arts and cultural professionals, arts journalists and scholars, wellness and health providers, and dance enthusiasts brought together across dance genres and geographies. BDA strives to increase cultural equity and access to dance for diverse communities, build dance audiences, and promote quality and sustainability.

Background Statement

Established by a group of passionate volunteer dancers and dance lovers in 1984, Boston Dance Alliance was incorporated as a 501(c)(3) nonprofit in 1994. In 2004 it hired its first professional Executive Director, Ruth Birnberg. During Birnberg's ten-year tenure, the BDA established its portfolio of programs and services, including the commissioning and manufacture of a rentable, portable sprung wood dance floor, enabling dancers to present their work safely in any setting; a fellowship that allows choreographers a chance to work intensively with their dancers and pay them for an extended rehearsal period; an annual Open Call audition that attracts more than 100 dancers across a variety of genres and streamlines the audition process for small, self-presenting Boston dance companies; fiscal sponsorship so that unincorporated companies and dance projects can accept tax-deductible donations to support their work; professional development workshops on a variety of business topics; a membership directory to build connections and awareness;  and regular discounts to performances, classes, workshops, dancewear, health and wellness services and more.

In 2015, Debra Cash, a well known arts reporter and arts research consultant with more than 30 years of participation in Boston's cultural community, succeeded Birnberg as Executive Director, with a new focus on increasing the organization's range, cultural partnerships, and financial and organizational sustainability.

Impact Statement

Boston Dance Alliance under Executive Director Debra Cash continues to increase BDA's portfolio of services and our reach across communities and dance genres. We established a new partnership with the Boston Public Schools called Raise the Floor! to provide our unique portable dance floor to the students and teachers free of charge. We inaugurated Dancer Health Day, where area clinicians provide dancers with free wellness screenings. Partnering with the Lyric Stage, and with the support of The Boston Foundation, we offer quality, below-market rehearsal space at Lyric Stage studio. In the three years of BDA's dancewear distribution initiative, we have provided almost $80,000 worth of new dance shoes, tights and other dancewear to financially disadvantaged youth and adults, including 1,000 pairs of ballet slippers as a corporate gift from Capezio. BDA's Dance and Disability initiative, launched with a daylong conference in June 2016 called Wheels UP!, now provides free referrals for dancers with disabilities and their families, caretakers, and teachers.  

BDA's website and weekly newsletter spotlighting performances, workshops, classes, professional dance opportunities and more is the most comprehensive dance calendar in New England. One future goal is to expand participatory dance listings and outreach to social dancers. As a member of a Boston Foundation taskforce, we are working actively with other organizations to improve and communicate available professional development offerings to dancers, choreographers, teachers and others in the field. 

Needs Statement

Boston Dance Alliance has been able to accomplish a great deal within a tiny budget, but to continue to provide innovative programs and a high degree of personalized service to our constituents we must increase our operating budget in order to

1) compensate and expand staff time 
2) Cover costs associated with resources that have been donated in the past (our office and program venues)
3) Continue to serve low-income artists and do outreach to public schools and low-income dance students without regard to ability to pay. 

CEO Statement

At a time when the existence of the National Endowment for the Arts is threatened and the budget for the Massachusetts Cultural Council is continually under challenge, Boston Dance Alliance is in a unique position to leverage existing information and resources and create new programs that serve all who love dance. We are a respected, independent organization and are proud to have been recognized for our excellence and achievements by the Massachusetts Nonprofit Network as one of four state finalists in the small nonprofit category in 2017. 

Boston Dance Alliance envisions, designs,  and provides distinctive resources, such as BDA's nationally recognized portable dance floor so that dancers can share their work with new audiences and in new settings without making prohibitively expensive capital investments. Our direct business services, such as fiscal sponsorship, allow choreographers and dancers to raise funds without the overhead and expense of establishing nonprofit status. BDA consolidates information on performances, classes, and resources, and shares that information through a variety of mechanisms, from one-on-one consultations with our members to broad-based social media postings. We are able to build robust partnerships with other cultural sector players to insure that the needs of social, professional and student dancers are met.

BDA makes the dance activity that exists in Boston visible to a broad range of audiences and potential participants -- and our intention is to increase our reach in the years ahead. We believe that this visibility will, in turn, help to create an environment where dancers want to live, create, and perform.

Boston Dance Alliance is a small organization with a hard-working Board providing funds, advice, and encouragement across functions such as marketing, fundraising and governance. We recently completed the prestigious Bloomberg Philanthropies AIM program, which has helped us build our capacity and efficiency.

We have made the necessary investments in our own infrastructure to make our ambitions bear fruit. We have strengthened existing programs, launched new ones, and have others in the planning stages. This is a time of renewal and experimentation for dance in Boston and a great time for Boston Dance Alliance.

Board Chair Statement

A supportive, diverse, and collegial board of directors who are generous with their time and financial resources is one of BDA’s ongoing strengths. Directors are attracted to serving BDA for a variety of reasons. Some are working artists (dancers or choreographers), who can offer the perspective of BDA’s primary constituency. Board members have also included former professional dancers now working in fields such as law, finance, and business management, who want to retain a close connection with dance and the arts. Still others are avid recreational dancers and dance enthusiasts. All of us are engaged in seeing that BDA fulfills its mission while meeting high standards of professionalism and accountability to its supporters.   

The Board is continually energized by the challenge of growing and diversifying BDA’s donor base as the organization transitions to providing services and resources beyond the primarily, but not exclusively, modern dance community that it served for more than 25 years. The long-term plan is ambitious for a small organization that serves working artists and dance companies with financial challenges that make it difficult for them to offer significant financial support to BDA beyond their membership dues. We recognize that increasing revenue from floor rentals and fiscal sponsorships in conjunction with individual donations, corporate sponsorships, and foundation grants is critical to our ability to take BDA to the next level. To that end, a subcommittee of the Board has been working closely with the staff to ensure that BDA’s website offers state-of-the-art resources for members and non-members looking for information about performances, classes, workshops, production space and technicians, advocacy activities, and much more. Board members have also been involved in overseeing initiatives to enhance operational efficiency and save expenses through updated technology, and in developing new fundraising events in addition to our Annual Gala.




Geographic Area Served


Organization Categories

  1. Arts,Culture & Humanities - Dance
  2. Community Improvement, Capacity Building - Alliances & Advocacy
  3. Mutual & Membership Benefit - Professional Societies & Associations

Independent research has been conducted on this organization's theory of change or on the effectiveness of this organization's program(s)



BDA Dancewear distribution program

Since 2015 BDA has distributed almost $80,000 of new, unworn dancewear (toe, tap and jazz shoes, dance sneakers, tights, leotards) to local dance schools, companies, and the Boston Public Schools to give to financially disadvantaged dance students and performers. This unique BDA initiative partners with local dance retailers and manufacturers who are able to donate surplus inventory to a nonprofit.
Budget  $3,000.00
Category  Arts, Culture & Humanities, General/Other Dance
Population Served Poor,Economically Disadvantaged,Indigent
Program Short-Term Success  The BDA Dancewear Distribution success has been demonstrated in the universal delight of its organizational recipients and its recognition, in 2017, with its first direct corporate gift of 1,000 pairs of ballet slippers from Capezio. 
Program Long-Term Success  This program will be successful to the extent that it contributes to a time when financial disadvantage creates no barrier to dance training, participation and performance. Given adequate supplies, we would be happy to distribute dancewear beyond the Boston metropolitan area.
Program Success Monitored By  BDA's Dancewear Distribution's success will be measured by the continued participation of and interest by retailers, manufacturers, dance organizations and schools. We will know which goods are in most demand based on lottery requests. While this program is by definition opportunistic, we can urge retailers to provide certain types of dancewear or certain sizes.
Examples of Program Success  Since 2015 we have been able to donate over 300 pairs of new ballet pointe shoes, retailing at $70+ per pair, to the dance company director whose request for supplies for his low-income dancers initiated this program. 

Dance and Disability

Everyone deserves the chance to dance, regardless of physical or cognitive limits. In June, 2016 BDA convened Wheels UP!, a regional meeting of people interested in promoting and developing physically integrated dance activity.  That event launched BDA's dance referral service which connects dancers with disabilities and their families and/or caretakers with the resources they need to participate in rehabilitative, social dance or performance. We have been especially gratified to support teachers who want to include students with disabilities in dance activities in classrooms or school assemblies and those who bring the joy of dancing to senior citizens with physical or cognitive impairments.
Budget  $10,000.00
Category  Arts, Culture & Humanities, General/Other Dance
Population Served People/Families with of People with Physical Disabilities Adults Veterans
Program Short-Term Success  Boston Dance Alliance is constantly building its network in the service of its referral service.  Since the inception of this program, we have been able to match teaching artists to classrooms, dancers to teachers, and caretakers to opportunities.
Program Long-Term Success  Currently, physically integrated dance and even dance with senior dancers who are able bodied are seen as a novelty. The long term success will be when people with mobility impairments feel they can be dance artists; major choreographers have skills working with dancers who have different ways of moving (for instance with wheelchairs); and audiences come to appreciate such difference and find it beautiful.
Program Success Monitored By  We partner with the Massachusetts Cultural Council's accessibility manager to identify gaps and opportunities in disability access for dancers. 
Examples of Program Success  The Cotting School wanted to include dance in its summer session for children with a range of disabilities. Boston Dance Alliance identified a number of teaching artists who might be appropriate. One of these recommended candidates was hired, and she created a completely new curriculum of adaptive flamenco dancing, which she is now offering as part of her year-round professional portfolio. 

Fiscal sponsorship for Boston dancemakers

BDA's fiscal sponsorship program is an indispensable benefit of membership in our organization. By providing the umbrella of our legal nonprofit status, choreographers and dance companies can raise the funds they need to do their work, and by offering tax deductions to their donors, are in a position to raise significantly more funds than they could otherwise. (See case below.) Currently BDA sponsors approximately 25 organizations in both ongoing and one-time projects, from small, self-producing independent choreographers to groups producing community dance festivals.
Budget  $20,000.00
Category  Arts, Culture & Humanities, General/Other Dance
Population Served Adults Adolescents Only (13-19 years)
Program Short-Term Success  Many independent artists have gotten their first grants through BDA's fiscal sponsorship program; this not only makes their presentations possible, it also gives them the confidence to approach larger donors.
Program Long-Term Success 
BDA's fiscal sponsorship program is already a success, as described above. Certainly, one sign of success is that no artist will feel the need to incorporate before they are organizationally ready to take that step merely in order to obtain funding. 
Program Success Monitored By 
Fiscal sponsorship depends on the varying needs and incorporation status of the dance artists in our community, so utilization of this program waxes and wanes. We have a regular stream of new fiscal sponsees in addition to those who continue year after year.
Examples of Program Success  BDA's most exciting example of fiscal sponsorship happened recently when a BDA fiscal sponsorship beneficiary was able to raise over $50,000 to support a major project in part because that donation was tax-deductible to the individual donor.

Portable dance floor

Portable sprung wood dance floor rental and Raise the Floor!

The Boston Dance Alliance floor enables dancers to perform in any setting, from grassy outdoor conditions to parking lots to indoor spaces that have unsafe cement or linoleum floors. The floor is routinely used by self-producing dance companies and by organizations such as the Somerville Arts Council, Dance for World Community, Gardner Museum, and Boston University and for festivals and events throughout New England. In May 2016 BDA launched a special program to provide the floor, with delivery, assembly, inspection and return, to the Boston Public Schools free of charge. It has been used successfully for school programs on the Parkman Bandstand, in school environments, and for teacher training. 

Budget  $16,000.00
Category  Arts, Culture & Humanities, General/Other Dance
Population Served General/Unspecified
Program Short-Term Success  This program has already proven successful, with for instance, the Somerville Arts Council arranging to use this shared resource eight times over the course of the summer months, making a popular series of free dance performances available outdoors across the city. 
Program Long-Term Success  The BDA portable floor enables dance to occur in previously unsafe or inaccessible spaces both indoors and out; the ultimate success of this program is the increasing use of the floor by dancers of all genres and levels of expertise to present work to a wide variety of audiences of all types. Ultimately, the floor helps to bring Boston dance to public awareness and enables dancers to reach new audiences.  
Program Success Monitored By  BDA has an online reservation system and tracks where and when the floor is being deployed; each company/presenter keeps track of his or her own audience engagement numbers and other success metrics. We have regular feedback from renters by phone and email.
Examples of Program Success  See above. Somerville Arts Council use of the BDA floor

CEO/Executive Director/Board Comments

BDA has made significant investments in software and improved management  procedures to make our programs efficient and transparent. Our main concern is that with one full time ED and one half-time operations and membership associate to address daily operations, we are stretched very thin.


CEO/Executive Director Ms Debra Cash
CEO Term Start Feb 2015
CEO Email
CEO Experience

Debra Cash is Executive Director of Boston Dance Alliance. A long-time member of Boston's cultural community, she has reported, taught, and lectured on dance, performing arts, design, and cultural policy for print, broadcast, and internet media. Her roles have spanned journalism, education, consulting, and advocacy for the rights of creative professionals.

A longtime consultant to the National Endowment for the Arts and New England Foundation for the Arts, Debra has served on panels and nominating committees for the Massachusetts Cultural Council, The Boston Foundation, The LEF Foundation, The Yard, Boston Center for the Arts, and the New Hampshire State Council on the Arts. She regularly presents audience engagement lectures for World Music/CRASHarts and other leading regional presenters. She is Scholar in Residence at the Bates Dance Festival and has served in that same capacity at the Jacob's Pillow Dance Festival. She was the manager of research and documentation for the 2016 National Convening on Physically Integrated Dance funded by the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation. 

Debra was a dance critic for the Boston Globe for 17 years, followed by a five year stint at WBUR, and seven as a founding Senior Contributor to The Arts Fuse which she now serves as a member of its Board.

Debra has taught at Emerson College, the Boston Conservatory, and Northeastern. She earned her B.A. at Brandeis University and a Master’s degree in Design Studies at the Harvard Graduate School of Design. Before coming to Boston Dance Alliance in 2015, she led an international research consultancy.

Co-CEO --
Co-CEO Term Start --
Co-CEO Email --
Co-CEO Experience --

Former CEOs and Terms

Name Start End
Ruth Birnberg 2004 Dec 2014

Senior Staff

Name Title Experience/Biography
-- -- --


Award Awarding Organization Year
Champion of the Arts Award to Debra Cash OrigiNation Cultural Arts Center 2017
Operations Support The Boston Foundation 2017
State Finalist (one of 4) in Small Nonprofit category. Massachusetts Nonprofit Network 2017
Support for Wheels UP! Town Hall on Physically Integrated Dance Barr Foundation 2016
Vision Fund Capacity Grant The Boston Foundation 2016
Arts Innovation and Management grant recipient Bloomberg Philanthropies --


Affiliation Year
Americans for the Arts 2016
MASSCreative 2012
Dance USA 2004
Member of state association of nonprofits? Yes
Name of state association Massachusetts Nonprofit Network

External Assessments and Accreditations

External Assessment or Accreditation Year
-- --


Boston Dance Alliance is committed to leveraging strong partnerships within the creative sector across Massachusetts, the region and nation. To that end we are currently working closely with a number of key players a) The Boston Foundation, with whom we are working to develop shared and coordinated resources for artist professional development; b) Boston Center for the Arts, with whom we have partnered to expand the impact of our fellowship program for choreographers  c) Boston Ballet, which partners on issues of dance and disability access d) The Dance Complex in Cambridge, with whom we partner to deliver workshops on business topics and whose centralized venue we use to hold our Audition and Dancer Health Day events  e) MassCreative, for which ED Debra Cash serves on the Leadership Council.

CEO/Executive Director/Board Comments


Foundation Comments


Staff Information

Number of Full Time Staff 1
Number of Part Time Staff 1
Number of Volunteers 25
Number of Contract Staff 0
Staff Retention Rate % --

Staff Demographics

Ethnicity African American/Black: 0
Asian American/Pacific Islander: 0
Caucasian: 1
Hispanic/Latino: 1
Native American/American Indian: 0
Other: 0
Other (if specified): 0
Gender Female: 2
Male: 0
Not Specified 0

Plans & Policies

Organization has Fundraising Plan? Under Development
Organization has Strategic Plan? No
Years Strategic Plan Considers --
Management Succession Plan No
Business Continuity of Operations Plan No
Organization Policies And Procedures Under Development
Nondiscrimination Policy Yes
Whistle Blower Policy Yes
Document Destruction Policy Yes
Directors and Officers Insurance Policy --
State Charitable Solicitations Permit Yes
State Registration --

Risk Management Provisions


Reporting and Evaluations

Management Reports to Board? Yes
CEO Formal Evaluation and Frequency Yes Annually
Senior Management Formal Evaluation and Frequency N/A N/A
Non Management Formal Evaluation and Frequency Yes Semi-Annually


Board Chair Ms Alicia Downey
Board Chair Company Affiliation Downey Law LLC
Board Chair Term Jan 2016 - Dec 2018
Board Co-Chair --
Board Co-Chair Company Affiliation --
Board Co-Chair Term -

Board Members

Name Company Affiliations Status
Constance C. Chin Norman B. Leventhal Map Center of Boston Public Library Voting
Alicia L. Downey Downey Law LLC Voting
Dr. Lauren Elson Spaudling/Partners, Harvard Medical School Voting
Angela Gomes Skadden Voting
Laura Howenstine Wellington Management Voting
John Michael Kennedy JMKPR Voting
David Parker The Bang Group Voting
Marsha Parrilla Danza Organica Voting
Murray Sackman Independent consultant, theatre producer Voting
Aysha Upchurch Independent consultant Voting

Constituent Board Members

Name Company Affiliations Status
-- -- --

Youth Board Members

Name Company Affiliations Status
-- -- --

Advisory Board Members

Name Company Affiliations Status
Carl Alleyne Boston Mobile Dance Studio NonVoting
Thelma Goldberg The Dance Inn NonVoting
Gretchen Hayden Chhandika, Chhandam Institute of Kathak Dance NonVoting
Marsha Parrilla Danza Organica --

Board Demographics

Ethnicity African American/Black: 3
Asian American/Pacific Islander: 1
Caucasian: 6
Hispanic/Latino: 0
Native American/American Indian: 0
Other: 0
Other (if specified): --
Gender Female: 6
Male: 3
Not Specified 0

Board Information

Board Term Lengths 3
Board Term Limits --
Board Meeting Attendance % 90%
Written Board Selection Criteria Yes
Written Conflict Of Interest Policy Yes
Percentage of Monetary Contributions 100%
Percentage of In-Kind Contributions 60%
Constituency Includes Client Representation Yes

Standing Committees

  • Development / Fund Development / Fund Raising / Grant Writing / Major Gifts
  • Executive
  • Finance
  • Marketing
  • Nominating

CEO/Executive Director/Board Comments


Foundation Comments



Revenue vs. Expense ($000s)

Expense Breakdown 2017 (%)

Expense Breakdown 2016 (%)

Expense Breakdown 2015 (%)

Fiscal Year July 01, 2018 to June 30, 2019
Projected Income $240,050.00
Projected Expense $233,390.00
Form 990s

2017 Boston Dance Alliance 990

2016 Boston Dance Alliance 990

2015 Boston Dance Alliance 990

Audit Documents

2017 Review

2016 Review

IRS Letter of Exemption

IRS Letter of Determination

Prior Three Years Total Revenue and Expense Totals

Fiscal Year 2017 2016 2015
Total Revenue $283,540 $324,891 $192,746
Total Expenses $277,012 $300,338 $177,722

Prior Three Years Revenue Sources

Fiscal Year 2017 2016 2015
Foundation and
Corporation Contributions
-- -- --
Government Contributions $0 $0 $7,100
    Federal -- -- --
    State -- -- --
    Local -- -- --
    Unspecified -- -- $7,100
Individual Contributions $240,984 $266,628 $87,564
Indirect Public Support -- -- --
Earned Revenue $8,853 $16,069 $83,076
Investment Income, Net of Losses -- -- $1
Membership Dues $13,660 $13,270 --
Special Events $19,782 $28,908 $15,005
Revenue In-Kind -- -- --
Other $261 $16 --

Prior Three Years Expense Allocations

Fiscal Year 2017 2016 2015
Program Expense $220,393 $249,829 $165,544
Administration Expense $40,287 $35,300 $9,068
Fundraising Expense $16,332 $15,209 $3,110
Payments to Affiliates -- -- --
Total Revenue/Total Expenses 1.02 1.08 1.08
Program Expense/Total Expenses 80% 83% 93%
Fundraising Expense/Contributed Revenue 6% 5% 3%

Prior Three Years Assets and Liabilities

Fiscal Year 2017 2016 2015
Total Assets $106,328 $99,800 $72,516
Current Assets $106,328 $99,800 $72,516
Long-Term Liabilities $0 $0 $0
Current Liabilities $2,731 $2,731 $0
Total Net Assets $103,597 $97,069 $72,516

Prior Three Years Top Three Funding Sources

Fiscal Year 2017 2016 2015
1st (Source and Amount) -- --
-- --
-- --
2nd (Source and Amount) -- --
-- --
-- --
3rd (Source and Amount) -- --
-- --
-- --

Financial Planning

Endowment Value --
Spending Policy --
Percentage(If selected) --
Credit Line No
Reserve Fund Yes
How many months does reserve cover? 2.00

Capital Campaign

Are you currently in a Capital Campaign? No
Capital Campaign Purpose --
Campaign Goal --
Capital Campaign Dates -
Capital Campaign Raised-to-Date Amount --
Capital Campaign Anticipated in Next 5 Years? --

Short Term Solvency

Fiscal Year 2017 2016 2015
Current Ratio: Current Assets/Current Liabilities 38.93 36.54 inf

Long Term Solvency

Fiscal Year 2017 2016 2015
Long-term Liabilities/Total Assets 0% 0% 0%

CEO/Executive Director/Board Comments

BDA's operating income is augmented by funds received as part of our fiscal sponsorship program. While they pass through to sponsees, these funds are not always disbursed during the year in which they are received from donors. 

Foundation Comments

Financial summary data in charts and graphs are per the organization's IRS Form 990s.  Contributions from foundations and corporations are listed under individuals when the breakout was not available.


Other Documents

No Other Documents currently available.


The Impact tab is a section on the Giving Common added in October 2013; as such the majority of nonprofits have not yet had the chance to complete this voluntary section. The purpose of the Impact section is to ask five deceptively simple questions that require reflection and promote communication about what really matters – results. The goal is to encourage strategic thinking about how a nonprofit will achieve its goals. The following Impact questions are being completed by nonprofits slowly, thoughtfully and at the right time for their respective organizations to ensure the most accurate information possible.

1. What is your organization aiming to accomplish?


2. What are your strategies for making this happen?


3. What are your organization’s capabilities for doing this?


4. How will your organization know if you are making progress?


5. What have and haven’t you accomplished so far?