Forge City Works, Inc. (FCW) is seeking proposals from qualified individuals or firms to coordinate a participatory planning process that will result in a 3-5 year strategic plan.


Founded in 2007, Forge City Works’ mission is to provide job training, food access, and sustainable social enterprises to help people change their lives. Formerly known as Billings Forge Community Works, we use the power of food to make lives better, and to do so we partner with the people who live, work, and eat in Hartford, Connecticut and those who care about removing barriers to food access and employment opportunities. Part restaurant, part urban farmers market, part oasis for youth, we develop food-related businesses to support our programs. The Kitchen includes both catering and our retail cafe. It hosts our culinary on-the-job training for 20-24 Opportunity Youth (ages 18-24 and disconnected from school and work) and adults with barriers to employment. Our farmers market provides access to fresh, local produce in the center of the city, serving thousands of shoppers per year and doubling SNAP benefits (food stamps).

The organization just finished a 2018-2021 strategic plan. FCW is undergoing an executive transition after the death of our founder, Cary Wheaton, in May 2021. A search firm, Koya, is leading the search, with a target of having a new hire in early 2022. The Interim Executive Director is a long-time staff member with extensive organizational experience. She is supported by senior staff who have been with the organization for several years.

Our partner fine dining restaurant, Firebox, closed early in the pandemic. In late July 2021, we also closed our downtown café, due in large part to a change in priorities by Capital Workforce Partners, which funded the training in that space.

Pre-pandemic, almost half of our organizational income was earned through our social enterprises. This has been a point of pride, but it has increased our vulnerability to the pandemic. Corporations near our café have not yet called their employees back, decreasing the number of workers in the neighborhood who eat at our cafe.

We are exploring a new culinary business in the Firebox space with equity at its core and to host our culinary training. We researched several equity-based strategies through conversations with a wide range of businesses and culinary providers nationally to understand best practice and how these ideas might be applied in Connecticut, including:

  • open accounting,
  • living wage,
  • shared tips,
  • hiring and onboarding, and
  • advancement and promotion practices.

We are working with current staff in The Kitchen to prioritize these ideas and to test them in our current business, with lessons to apply to the new business.

Concurrent work

Staff are currently working with external consultants in three key areas; this work will need to be incorporated into the organization’s strategic plan:

  1. DEIB: training for staff and board; prioritization of equity strategies for testing; update internal systems with a DEI lens
  2. Development: on-going coaching for staff, strategy for fundraising including major September fundraising event
  3. Financial planning: clear separation of social enterprise and organizational costs and training with front-line staff as part of open accounting; financial planning for new business

Expected scope of work

FCW seeks an experienced strategic planning consultant for an expected nine months:

  1. Coordinate with the board’s strategic planning committee and organize efficient and effective meetings and planning process.
  2. Support the staff leadership to consolidate all planning work into a single coherent strategic plan, with a draft in August 2022 and a final document presented to the board in November 2022
  3. Identify, define, and propose targets for key performance indicators (KPIs) across the organization, including equity-based KPIs
  4. Update organizational research on culinary job opportunities in CT to include wages, types of businesses, in-demand positions, by the end of March.
  5. The consultant will deliver the components of this engagement in person and/or virtually, based on the needs of the board and staff


Because the strategic planning involves staff and other consultants, there are several key points in our timeline that all parties need to meet in order to keep the process moving:

March          Consultant starts early in month, completes culinary job opportunities research by end of month

May-June    Board and staff workshop, which we very much prefer to be in-person

August         Draft KPIs proposed

Draft or outline ready for presentation to the board

November   Strategic plan complete, presented to board

Evaluation Criteria

Consultants who can demonstrate competency in the following will be most highly scored:

  • A track record of efficiently managing strategic planning efforts and identifying appropriate SMART (Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, Time-Bound) metrics
  • Experience in the culinary sector, social enterprise, and restaurant planning
  • Commitment to equity
  • Understanding of workforce development and of Opportunity Youth
  • Knowledge of Hartford


Interested consultants should submit a brief approach to the work (1-2 pages); estimated costs; and a CV of the individual who would do the work. A sample of comparable work would be helpful. Contact information for references will be required of finalists who will be contacted for interviews in the first week of March.

Inquiries and proposals should be submitted by email to Becky McGuigan, Interim Executive Director, at titled “Strategic Planning.” Responses are due Monday, February 28, 2022.