Practical Planning Models
There is no one strategic planning model that fits all communities. Rather, communities typically select an approach and modify it as they go along, developing their own planning process. The following models offer a few alternatives from which a community might begin to develop its own strategic planning process.
Moving from Vision to Action
Figure 1 depicts the nine-step Vision to Action process.
Moving from Vision to Action
Note that these steps are laid out in this guide in a rational, linear fashion. However, communities and their economies, institutions, and people are dynamic and changing entities. The planning process should be seen as flexible: you should go back and forth between steps as needed. The process should also be seen as cyclical. To bring about change that is long-term, equitable, and sustainable, it is necessary to go through the process, measure the results, and then use those results to determine how the work can be improved and what work remains to be done.
Figure 2 summarizes each of the nine steps, their purpose, and the key questions they answer.
Source: Moving from Vision to Action: A Guide for Planning Community Change, © June 2002 MDC, Inc.
MDC, Inc., a private nonprofit focusing on expanding opportunity, reducing poverty, and building inclusive communities, created Moving from Vision to Action to meet the needs of the economically distressed communities with which it works. This process has since been tested and refined in communities across the United States, from Appalachia to Texas border communities, including 24 sites that participated in the Rural Community College Initiative (RCCI) demonstration funded by the Ford Foundation and designed and managed by MDC. Now a national program, RCCI uses college/community teams to development and implement strategic plans to improve the economic prospects of their people and communities.
Resources available from RCCI are: the step-by-step Moving from Vision to Action planning workbook, which includes a guide for gathering and analyzing data on community conditions; The Building Blocks of Community Development, an essay discussing MDC's approach to community development; and the RCCI toolkit, a collection of planning resources in print and video form tailored to college-led development efforts but profiling strategies that could inform any rural development effort.
Asset-Based Community Development
The ABCD emphasis on the assets of people, neighborhoods, and communities is distinctly different from the many community-development strategies that focus on the deficits of communities. Rather than continuing the traditional focus on the needs of individuals and communities, ABCD offers a new mindset that identifies the skills, talents, and capacities of individuals, associations, and organizations, and mobilizes these positive energies to improve communities. ABCD, with its capacity-oriented emphasis, is simply "seeing the glass as half full."
These elements do not presume to add up to a complete blueprint for community development. Rather, they are intended to identify some of the major challenges facing community builders, and to point toward the beginning of a path or process that would mobilize an entire community's assets around a vision and a plan. Such a path would cover the following elements/steps:
Although Kretzmann and McKnight's original research and work focused on community problem solving in urban neighborhoods, subsequent work has shown how the ABCD approach has been effectively used in rural areas. More information is available at the Asset-Based Community Development Institute Web site. This site offers information about ABCD publications, training opportunities, asset-mapping tools, and a variety of other resources.
A full description of the ABCD approach can be found in Building Communities from the Inside Out: A Path Toward Finding and Mobilizing a Community's Assets, published by the Northwestern University Institute for Policy Research in 1993.