Keep Growing 2020: The Ten-Year Strategic Plan
Chicago Botanic Garden


Our mission is clear: We cultivate the power of plants to sustain and enrich life

 “We cultivate” suggests the hands-on effort of everyone at the Chicago Botanic Garden—staff, volunteers, donors, members, visitors, students, and colleagues—to care for this special place. “the power of plants” and  “sustain…life” speak to the fact that all life on Earth depends on plants. We depend on plants for the clean water we drink, the air we breathe, the food we eat…and for our medicine, shelter, and clothing. We also depend on plants to maintain fragile terrestrial and aquatic ecosystems and to help mitigate flooding and the effects of other natural disasters. “enrich…life” underscores the sustenance, inspiration, and joy that people derive from plants—and alludes to the vast array of Garden services that make life better (for people and plants).

Our mission is based on three core beliefs:

We believe: People live better, healthier lives when they can create, care for, and enjoy gardens.
We believe: Beautiful gardens and natural environments are fundamentally important to the mental and physical well-being of all people.
We believe: The future of life on Earth depends on how well we understand, value, and protect plants, other wildlife, and the natural habitats that sustain our world.

More specifically, we believe:

  • A visit to the Chicago Botanic Garden’s 385-acre, living museum campus—in all four seasons—should inspire awe, joy, and well-being, and feel welcoming and safe to people of all ages, backgrounds, and abilities.
  • The Garden, because of its science and education expertise, conservation focus, and research collaborations, is uniquely equipped to address some of the most pressing needs of our time.
  • Our plant-based strategies and solutions result in increased awareness and understanding of nature, science-based educational and career opportunities for youth and adults, and healthier habitats, people, communities, and provisions for future generations.

Our mission depends up fulfilling the needs of our customers 

We chose "customer" for a reason: the word refers to the phrase “the customer is always right,” and reminds us to put those we serve, rather than ourselves, first.

Rather than thinking of the Chicago Botanic Garden as “reaching out” to customers, as has been the tradition among cultural institutions, we are guided by a plan in which our customers are at the center, and their needs drive our actions.

We ask ourselves how the Garden can serve the people who visit, participate in our events, enroll in our classes, and support our work—regardless of their age, background, or ability.

We recognize that everyone shares the same core desires. Our customers are motivated by their desire for beauty, leisure, memorable experiences with family and friends, and a connection to nature. They seek knowledge and vocational expertise, inspiration, and a path to their own health and wellness. They crave a place of refuge from conflict and loneliness in a place led by people who understand the problems we confront—individually and as a society—and who are working to help improve our collective future.

At the same time, we also must respond to a customer base with diverse preferences and demands linked to age and demography:

  • A rapidly expanding population of people 65 years and older who want meaningful intellectual, social, and physical engagement that provides enjoyment and an opportunity to give back
  • Families of young children who trust the Garden to provide richly textured, accessible experiences for their families
  • Students and working people who look increasingly to the Garden for expertise in plant-science-based professional education options
  • Government agencies and corporations that need the Garden’s ability to build and train high-level scientific capacity as well as essential work skills for a changing world
  • An academic and science community—near and far—that looks to the Garden to model best practices and lead in problem solving related to plant species and ecosystem preservation and restoration
  • All of the diverse residents of Cook County, Illinois, who support the Garden through the Forest Preserves of Cook County

We are considered to be a great botanic garden; our dream now is to grow from being great to being legendary

Our defininition of "legendary":

  • Being known for bringing to the public innovative, inspiring, and deeply memorable horticultural displays
  • Becoming a recognizable and iconic destination that inspires visitors from many locations and cultures to express their creativity in multiple languages through various media, including books, movies, poems, songs, and the Internet
  • Contributing knowledge and graduating alumni known for the highest level of accomplishment in plant biology and conservation, horticulture, plant breeding, urban agriculture, and horticultural therapy—on a par with leading academic institutions
  • Having the courage to take a position on important but potentially controversial subjects such as climate change, genetically modified plants, responsible use of herbicides and pesticides, locally grown and distributed food, and sustainable use of water in gardens and planned developments
  • Ensuring that the rich 125-year tradition of the Chicago Horticultural Society in the City of Chicago is well understood by the Chicago civic community—now and in the future—no less than the Art Institute of Chicago, the Field Museum, or the Chicago Symphony Orchestra