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The Transformative Journey of Water People Theater

Toward a New Institutional Model and Strategic Plan

Partner: Water People Theater

Water People Theater is a Latina-led nonprofit organization that believes in the transformative power of theater. For over two decades, they have produced socially engaged theater, serving communities that have been historically excluded from arts ecosystems. Their mission is to leverage the power of high-quality performances and educational offerings to advance social values, defend human rights, and inspire people to become changemakers.


How did terra cotta support? We partnered with Water People Theater to create an iterative strategic plan that allowed for constant revision, feedback, and adaptation. This approach encouraged their staff to view the strategic plan as a living document, fluid and adaptable to evolving circumstances.

Through our collaborative efforts, Water People Theater embarked on a transformative journey, charting a course towards the next two years while incorporating a more nimble institutional model to their ongoing operations, practices, and processes. 

Like many small-sized theaters, Water People was forced to pause all in-person events and pivot them to a virtual setting. Rather than showcasing pre-recorded plays, they prioritized relationship-building and high-quality performance, meaning that they deliberately presented live productions online.

This challenging yet exciting process led Water People Theater to test new tactics and iterate some of their existing programs, allowing them to re-imagine their institutional model, practices, and operations.

That journey led them to recruit terra cotta to embark on a strategic planning process and explore how to sustain these endeavors while strengthening their organizational model.

• Envisioning Session: We embarked on a three-day strategic planning process, commencing with an envisioning session. This session revolved around engaging practices, storytelling, and envisioning exercises, fostering a shared understanding of Water People Theater's future.

• Organizational Model Revision: Together, we delved into their current organizational model, shedding light on what was working and what wasn't. We explored their programs, segments, channels, partners, resources, and budget structures, gaining a comprehensive understanding of their current framework. Rebeca and Iraida, staff members, wanted their organizational model to be more nimble and adaptive to the emerging needs of their communities and work, so we re-envisioned their management practices to make them more responsive.

• Engaging Participatory Research: Utilizing diverse participatory research tools, we sought answers to the crucial questions: "What needs to change? Where should change occur? How can change be brought about?" These insights shaped the foundation of the strategic plan.

• Strengthened Mission, Vision, and Values: Water People Theater emerged with a refined mission, vision, and values that align with their current purpose, especially in light of the COVID-19 pandemic's impact.

• Visual Organizational Model: We created a visual map of Water People Theater's organizational model, identifying areas of strength and opportunities for improvement.

• Two-Year Tactical Strategic Plan: Identified goals, strategies, tactics, deliverables, and indicators of success through a mixed-method approach (quantitative and qualitative data). A practical and actionable two-year strategic plan was developed, equipped with tools for effective implementation, monitoring, and completion of action items.

• Digital Strategic Plan Report: A comprehensive digital strategic plan report was crafted, allowing for easy sharing with communities, partners, collaborators, boards, and funders.