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Case Study: How a Listening Campaign Supported The Walrus' New Strategic Plan

Updated: 3 days ago

How "Canada's Conversation" used a listening campaign to inform their new strategic plan.

Founded in 2003, The Walrus is a not-for-profit media organization that's dedicated to the exchange of ideas and conversation on matters vital to Canadians. As a registered charity with an educational mandate, it publishes independent, fact-based journalism, as well as fiction, poetry, visual art, and multimedia storytelling, on all platforms and formats. The Walrus also produces national, ideas-focused events, and trains emerging professionals in publishing and non-profit management.

The organization has also proven to be resilient during challenging times. Despite the COVID-19 pandemic, historic shifts in the media sector, the decline of print media readership and advertising revenues, and inflationary pressures driving up the costs of printing and events, The Walrus has remained financially sustainable and prolific in its publishing.

The Challenge

Looking to the future, The Walrus sought to create a new strategic plan that would build upon their successes while supporting them to weather the uncertainty facing media and publishing institutions.

They brought on Evenings & Weekends Consulting to design a listening campaign that would leverage ideas from staff and leadership, while reinforcing a culture of collaboration and communication within the organization. To complement the internal dialogue, a survey and one-on-one conversations were organized to connect with Walrus readers and supporters, as well as representatives from other innovative media outlets.

"As a media organization that bills ourselves as Canada's Conversation, it's very important that we are in conversation with our community," explains Jennifer Hollett, Executive Director of The Walrus.

Our Approach

To inform the design of the listening campaign, our project team immersed themselves in all things The Walrusreviewing previous plans, policies, and procedures and conducting external research on best practices for independent journalism. We used our findings to create a custom "train-the-trainer" session that would help guide The Walrus team members on how to elicit ideas through listening on an ongoing basis.

"The training by Evenings & Weekends really helped our team with how to listen closely to our colleagues and partners in this work," explains Hollett. "That included what questions to ask, and how to build meaningful opportunities for engagement into our strategic plan process with house meetings, one-on-ones, and a survey for input. This offered us a larger, 360 view."

Project Team

What We Uncovered

Across the hundreds of insights gleaned from the campaign's one-to-one conversations, focus groups, and surveys, core themes emerged—namely, that The Walrus should build on opportunities to diversify its revenue sources and reach new audiences, continue nurturing a healthy team culture among its staff and contributors, and prioritize what the organization does best: producing award-winning journalism, platforming good ideas, encouraging debate, and convening leaders. 

These insights flowed into a strategic plan that foregrounds organizational sustainability, consolidates The Walrus as a multi-faceted media organization (one that includes, but isn’t limited to, a magazine) anticipates the risks and possibilities represented by AI, and invests in contributors and staff to broaden the organization’s reach and deepen Canada’s conversations.

"Working with Evenings and Weekends was very collaborative, and allowed us to weave consultation and conversation into the strategic planning process; collecting information, reporting back, the drafting stage, and the final document. It was also helpful to have external consultation and an independent review of the survey capturing a range of feedback and ideas, and offering recommendations." Jennifer Hollett, Executive Director

It was such a pleasure to work with The Walrus on the successful creation of its 2024-2026 strategic plan! 

We're confident that the plan will provide strong momentum and clear direction for the organization’s national team, while leaving space for experimentation, generative risk, and the unknown.


Interested in exploring strategic planning with Evenings & Weekends? Reach out to book an intro call!

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