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Strategic Planning Basics

Completing a strategic plan can help a community

  • recognize its development assets and opportunities;
  • identify trends and activities that shape the community;
  • analyze the community's context and link to the larger region;
  • get the support of state, federal, private, and nonprofit partners;
  • identify the time, money, and other resources needed to support community change; and
  • integrate the perspectives of a variety of community members in the plan for change.

Seven Steps in Strategic Planning
Leading community-capacity-building organizations have identified the following seven steps involved in strategic planning:

  1. Decide on your community's overall strategic planning process and get buy-in from key players.

  2. Prepare a community assessment and analysis of factors related to future change. This step often includes data collection and analysis that describes the current reality; an identification of strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats (also known as a SWOT analysis); and a resource audit.

  3. Develop a shared, practical vision of community success—an image of success for the community in 10 years.

  4. Determine priority issues; develop long-term goals (strategic directions); and form task forces/working groups.

  5. Formulate achievable objectives and strategies and identify the actions that will be effective in achieving those goals.

  6. Prepare an implementation plan identifying the concrete steps required to fulfill each objective, as well as the individuals responsible for the action, the timeframe, and the resources required. As part of an implementation plan, organize a major kick-off event to introduce the strategic plan and announce its initiatives.

  7. Determine how to measure and evaluate progress made under the plan. Elements that should be addressed include how to continue public involvement, report annual progress to stakeholders, review and modify the plan, and evaluate the process and results.