An effective organization needs a clear idea of what it is striving towards. Knowing ‘the big picture’ will help you and your team of refugee rights advocates focus on your long-term goals, and ensure that partners, supporters and refugees understand the work that you do. This is not only important for your current operations, but it also helps foster continuity for your organization beyond your direct involvement.
Creating mission and vision statements for your organization establishes its purpose, and will help you formulate a coherent plan of action to achieve the change you would like to create in your country. This section will help you take the first steps towards creating your organization’s vision and mission statement.
Firstly, it should be noted that:
- A vision statement communicates the world you want to create with your organization. It is future-oriented.
- A mission statement describes the specific purpose of your organization, often including how you intend to fulfill this purpose, and for whom. It is present-oriented.
- Core values are the foundational values common to the entire organization. They determine your organization’s activities and decision-making.
For example, Asylum Access’ vision and mission statement are:
Vision: Asylum Access envisions a world where refugees are seen as people with rights, not just people with needs. Asylum Access believes that by empowering refugees to assert their human rights, we can create effective, lasting solutions for refugees around the world.
Mission: Asylum Access’s mission is to make refugee rights a reality in Africa, Asia and Latin America. Asylum Access achieves this mission by providing legal information, advice and representation to refugees in first countries of refuge, and by advocating for the implementation of refugee rights worldwide.
How to draft a vision and mission statement
Drafting a vision statement
Your vision statement should describe the long-term change that you hope to see as a result of your work. This should align with your strategic plan. For example, Asylum Access “envisions a world where refugees are with rights, not just people with needs”.
Consider the following:
- What needs to be changed? What is the key problem that you wish to address?
- What is your dream end-state? What is the ideal situation in the future when this problem is solved?
- Will it draw people to common work?
- Does it give hope for a better future?
After you have considered these questions, describe the ideal state with key words and phrases. This might include phrases such as “every refugee..” and “refugee rights”.
Then, attempt to draft a vision statement that includes these key words and phrases. It can be phrased in terms such as “We believe…”, “We are committed to…”, “We seek…”, or “We envision…”. Your statement should ideally be one or two sentences long, so be as concise as you can.
Drafting a mission statement
Before drafting your mission statement, identify the purpose, method, values and beneficiaries. Questions could include:
- What is your organization’s purpose?
The organization’s purpose is central to the mission statement in almost all organizations. For example, Asylum Access’ purpose is “to make refugee rights a reality”.
2. How does your organization achieve this purpose?
Your mission should be separate from your activities. However, you may want to reference the core activities that make up your methodology. Alternatively, if you have more than two core activities, or if your core activities cannot be described in about three words, you may want to find a more general term to describe your methodology or approach. For example, Asylum Access achieves its purpose by providing legal information, advice and representation, and by advocating for the implementation of refugee rights.
3. What is your organization’s underlying values?
Your values may form part of your mission statement. Even if they are not explicitly included, they can influence the words you choose for your statement. For example, Asylum Access believes refugees should be seen as people with rights, not just people with needs.
4. Who/where are the beneficiaries of your work?
For example, Asylum Access’ work benefits refugees in Africa, Asia and Latin America.
Finally, review the following questions, and consider revising your mission statement accordingly.
- Does your mission statement explain why the organization exists?
- Is it broad enough to encompass not only your current work, but work you anticipate doing in the future?
- Is it specific enough to guide future decisions about which activities the organization should undertake?
- Is it consistent with your values? Does the content and language reflect your values?
- Does it describe the end result? Does it describe your effect on clients’ lives rather than just listing your activities?
- Is it easy to understand and free of technical jargon? Is it concise? Could your mother understand it? Could a 7-year-old understand it?