Marine Science Institute VI

Marine Science Institute VI

Redwood City, CA
Round –
Fall-Winter 2020
Project Type –
Full team
Project Focus –
Business Plans, Cost Analysis, Market Analysis
Organization Type –
Children, Youth & Families, Education, Environment

The Marine Science Institute (MSI) was founded in 1970 as a nonprofit organization, focused on stewardship for the natural environment, at a time when there was broad public concern over water resource issues in the San Francisco Bay Area. MSI’s goal is for today’s Bay Area children and youth to join together to form tomorrow’s community of environmental activists, champions and stewards.

The Discovery Voyage was MSI’s first program, which was and continues to be the Bay Area’s only ship-based program that allows students to participate in scientific exploration on the water using industry-standard equipment. Over the years MSI has expanded its experiential learning programs to include land-based programs at its shore-side facility in Redwood City, excursions to Pacific Coast habitats, and in-class “field trips” facilitated by its mobile aquarium.


Which of the science education programs that MSI is considering to meet the current moment and future environments will leverage the organization's core strengths and position it for long-term sustainability?


Since the COVID-19 pandemic has shut down schools, MSI is unable to deliver any programs except socially-distanced summer camp in severely reduced numbers. MSI has created online curricula for schools and individuals, but struggles to make them profitable. The organization’s budget has seen a serious decrease in income from earned revenue sources.

MSI is seeking professional guidance in developing a new business model that will make the organization more resilient during turbulent economic times. While the COVID-19 pandemic has wreaked havoc on a wide range of educational nonprofit organizations, it has also underscored the need for scientific literacy among the general public.

Project Objectives

During the past few months, MSI staff and board members have been hard at work developing a list of new program offerings outside of the organization’s core in-person, school-based science education.

MSI is asking ACT to work with its staff and board to further define, forecast revenue and cost, price, and market its most promising potential new program offerings. Current front runners are below, although this list may change before project kick-off given the dynamic nature of the pandemic:

  1. Online versions of MSI’s science education program that both parents and teachers can access
  2. In-person programming to children who are distance learning, either at the students’ homes or onsite at the MSI facilities
  3. Programming for corporate groups, including marketing existing programs on board their 90’ research vessel in the SF Bay

MSI has a highly engaged board and team. A key success factor of this project will be bringing the organization along for the journey via the ACT team working directly with MSI staff and Board in working groups &/or workshops. In this way, ACT can leverage MSI’s expertise in science education and help the MSI team understand and embrace the changes that will be required for MSI to succeed in the post-pandemic environment. This approach worked successfully in MSI’s last project with ACT.

Useful Items

This is a Full Team project:

  • Scope: High-priority organizational challenge involving strategy or management
  • Team Size: 6 consultants, including 1-2 project leaders
  • Project Duration: 6 months
  • Estimated time Contribution: Team member: 3-4 hrs/week, Project leader: 5-6 hrs/week

Read more about the Full Team Project Consultant role and the Project Leader role.