A plan documents a community’s shared vision and charts a course on how to achieve that vision. In essence, a plan helps a community answer three questions:
- Where are we starting (baseline)?
- What do we want to achieve (vision)?
- How do we get there (implementation)?
The most important part of the plan is the process- engaging the community to make sure the plan is reflective of their values and desires and to make sure implementation will happen. The process, however, starts even before you hire a consultant. Before embarking on a planning process, use these simple tips to make sure:
- Your RFP says what you want. A well-crafted RFP is written so that those responding are very clear on what the plan is to accomplish. It should include background, purpose, requirements for submission and fee range. Make sure that if you specify a certain approach or aspect (“sustainable”) that it is a sincere request.
- Decision-makers are on-board. Decision-makers have to be on board with more than just authorizing the expense of a plan. They must be supportive of the reasoning behind the plan, the timing of the plan and the goals of the plan. This is especially true if you received a grant to create the plan. Sometimes if the elected officials aren’t “paying for it” then it is not valued. This becomes an issue once it is time to allocate resources to implement the plan.
- The community is primed. If you are updating your comprehensive plan, the community should know about it before the first official kick-off meeting. Make an effort to educate the public through the press, through meetings with civic organizations and neighborhood groups, and other appropriate means so that once the official process begins, people can focus on the planning.
- You’ve identified partners. You can’t do it alone. Successful implementation is likely to require outside help. Chambers of commerce, civic organizations, sister agencies, and funders are examples of planning partners. Get them involved before the process starts instead of approaching them at the end.
- Implementation is the focus. Implementation should be the first, not the last thing on your mind as you begin a planning process. The recommendations for implementation usually don’t contain surprises, it’s more a matter of choosing the appropriate ones. This means you can make some guesses as to what money, staff, and other resources may be needed to implement the plan. Be ready with a “quick win” to demonstrate effectiveness and keep the community apprised of progress.
These simple tips should help to ensure a smoother planning process from start to finish.