Visioning and Strategic Planning
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A community vision statement is future-focused, describing what a community hopes to look like or achieve in the long-term. It should be both aspirational and inspirational and created by a diverse group of citizenry committed to the long-term sustainability of the community.
When conducting community visioning and planning processes, NC State Extension uses the Appreciative Inquiry methodology, which consists of four stages: Discovery (what makes the community special), Dream (what could the community become), Design (what can we do to get there), and Destiny (what should we do, given our limited reality). When in the Dream stage, community visioning can be accomplished through the facilitated completion of a simple worksheet.
NC State Extension has engaged in a variety of regional planning initiatives, including Stronger Economies Together and CREATE BRIDGES. At a community level, we suggest communities consider our Cultivate NC initiative, which uniquely incorporates the assistance and perspective of community youth. To kickstart any strategic planning process, we recommend that communities follow this simple recipe to build the foundation for a written strategic plan:
- Identify a group of committed stakeholders, representative of the demographic diversity of the community. This group should include leadership of government agencies, the nonprofit sector, the business sector (both large and small businesses), higher education, K-12, faith-based organizations, healthcare, law enforcement, philanthropy, and neighborhood organizations. This group of 15-20 individuals becomes the steering committee for future processes.
- Hold 1 full or 2 half-day public workshops to create a logic model that answers the following questions:
- What is the current condition the community wants to focus on?
- What needs to change and what conditions need to be in place in order for change to occur in that condition?
- What are the goals of the community planning effort? How will they impact the condition the community is seeking to change?
- What evidence exists that the actions the community will take will create that change?
- What resources does the community have to support the actions it plans to take?
- What actions will the community take to achieve the intended goals?
- What programs or other products will be created as a result of those actions?
- What are the intended short, mid, and long term outcomes of these programs or other products? What will the implementation of these programs or other products lead to?
- What are the high-level impacts on the condition the community is seeking to change? Do these impacts come as a result of the short, mid, and long term outcomes of these programs or other products?
The logic model process should be facilitated by a qualified independent professional. Most Extension offices have an agent trained in facilitation.
- The steering committee should gather community feedback on each segment of the logic model to further strengthen its assumptions, before submitting the vetted logic model to community elected officials for consideration and support. We have found that community engaged processes yield the best results.
- The Cultivate NC Curriculum takes strategic planning to a whole new level by incorporating community-engaged processes, youth-adult partnerships, Appreciative Inquiry, Asset-Based Community Development, and Ripple Effect mapping.
It’s important to gauge the impacts of a strategic planning process. One method of evaluation that is especially effective in identifying the how a community has responded to strategy implementation is Ripple Effect Mapping.
- Appreciative Inquiry (AI)
- Cultivate NC
- Transforming Board Practices
- Decision-making Tools
- How to Build a Steering Committee
- Ten Tips for Running a Successful Meeting