Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Strategic Planning

What is Strategic Planning?
1) What is a strategy?
Strategies explain how the initiative will reach its objective;
In a strategy, you think about and decide what you want to change, who will make the change, how you will make the change, and when you will make the change;
Being strategic sounds complicated, but all it means is thinking a head;
With directed initial thought about both your internal and external environment, the impact of any effort is likely to be increased.
2) Why Strategic Planning is:
Strategic planning is a process where a plan is formulated and implemented. It may be a plan to improve the local school facilities or to build a new well;
Strategic planning looks at the chain of cause – and – effect consequences overtime of an actual or intended decision;
Strategic planning is also sometimes known as action planning.
3) What Strategic Planning is NOT:
It is not an attempt to blueprint the future;
It is not a set of wishful thoughts. It should relate the actions to available resources/those that can be mobilized;
It should not involve preparation of massive; detailed and interrelated sets of plans.
Why is it useful?
Strategic Planning is a tool which community members can use to participate in their own development:
It enables community members to target a particular problem/issue and develop and implement specific action steps to deal with the problem;
It can also be used by the community to improve services that are working, or capitalize on strong points in the community in order to strengthen the community’s ability to take part in its own development;
Strategic planning is designed to overcome the typical shortcomings of traditional statutory planning tools and facilitate participation of stakeholders;
However, strategic planning and traditional methods of planning are not mutually exclusive.
Strategic Planning must take into consideration:
Plans may be short – term, depending on the type of project, and resources available;
Plans must be oriented to generate change: It is expected that the community’s reality at planning moment will be different once the plan is implemented. Life in the Community must be qualitatively superior;
Both men and women must be committed to its implementation;
Once formulated, the plan must link the micro or local Government level and the macro, or the national level – hence ensure that people centred development is feasible and, more importantly sustainable.

Steps to Strategic Planning
Simple Strategic Planning exercise consists of 5 steps:
1. Creating a common vision;
2. Identifying priorities;
3. Formulating objectives;
4. Developing strategies
5. Task definition.

Strategic Planning is the process of developing and implementing a plan
Strategic Planning usually aims to implement or improve a situation, service or program
It can also capitalize on a community’s strength and develop them further
It enables community members to target and implement particular problem/issues and develop and implement specific action steps to deal with them.
Plans must be oriented to generate change
A simple strategic planning exercise consists of 5 steps.

Developing a Strategic Plan
The 1st two steps in developing a strategic plan are:
1) Creating a common vision;
2) Identifying priorities

Creating a Common Vision or (identification of Problems)
This involves:
i. Developing a Vision Statement
Start by asking yourselves:
What is important to our community?
What kind of community do we want to become?
What values will guide our activities?
For example: We value self – sufficiency and helping ourselves, and we value everyone’s ideas and contributions.
Begin Crafting a vision statement by describing how you want your community to be in the future.
Think about your economy, environment, and community members.
How do you want things to be different from what it is today?
Describe the end result you want.
Involve as many people as possible in this process.
A community with a vision will have:
I. An integrated approach and a drive towards the desired future;
II. Emotion and group identification;
III. A reference framework for example activities;
IV. Motivation, Inspiration, and Commitment of the people;
V. Identified and prepared for challenges ahead it has to face.

ii. Recognising Common Realities and values
This is where participants organize the information about the common things of life they share as a community, that is; the social organization of the community, its history, cultural identity, productive resources.
The aim is to link the common vision with the common reality of the past and present.
This Step gives clear cohesion to the group and allows it to start with an analysis of reality with a critical eye.

iii. Prepare a Common Profile
In the exercise, you will need to prepare a profile of your community that describes its economy, environment and people.
Describe trends affecting your community, the problems it faces, the opportunities it currently has, and the potential ahead.
This community profile assessment will help you see where needs are not being met and identify people and resources needed to carry out your plan.

Step 2 – Identifying Priorities
In this step, the community diagnostic exercises, key stakeholders usually identify a long list of problems.
Priorities must be set by community, with safeguards to try and ensure that vulnerable sections have an adequate voice.
Several techniques can be used by the various groups to identify their priority problems. Three methods are outlined.

Methods of Identifying and prioritizing areas of action (Diagnosis)
1) The Problem Tree
The problem tree is an easy – to – use visual tool that outlines the causes and resultant effects of a stated problem situation.
Problem trees are used to uncover and analyse the underlying causes of a particular problem, to rank and measure objectives in relation to one another, or to guide design and evaluation systems.
Information is organized into a tree like diagram that includes information on the main issue, relevant factors, and influences and outcomes of these factors.
When completed, the problem tree looks similar to a hierarchial organization chart in appearance.
Start by writing down a problem that you wish to tackle in the middle of the sheet of paper. Underneath this, write in all the factors that contribute to this problem and link them up to form the roots of the problem.
Then, if you can, take each component at a time and think about its causes, drawing in the factors that contribute to the problem. The tree may have deeper roots than you think.
The materials needed are a surface on which to draw (news print, paper, etc) and markers, pens.
The simplicity of organizing the exercise and its emphasis on visualization and discussion make it easy to use across cultures in both rural and urban settings.
Keep tackling each root until you can take the exercise no further. You can also draw in the symptoms of your problem to create the branches of the tree!

2) SWOT Analysis
SWOT analysis refers to identifying the Strength, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats of the community.
Strength refers to the positive aspects internal to the community.
Weaknesses are the negative aspects internal to the community
Opportunities refer to the positive aspects external to the community; and
Threats are negative aspects external to the community.

A SWOT analysis is a method to help you to systematically analyse the information gathered on the environment or context in which your community is operating, and to frame that information in such a way that it becomes useful and relevant for planning and decision – making purposes.
SWOT analysis thus provides a framework for identifying these critical issues, and helps isolate key issues in order to facilitate a strategic approach to resolving them.
The common vision is used as a reference point for the analysis. In the SWOT technique, you define resources available and possibility to fulfill dreams.
It helps in the later stages of the strategic planning process when you need to develop goals and priorities for action.
It also helps avoid the “wish list’ syndrome where communities try to do everything instead of focusing on the activities that will have the most long term, sustainable benefit.
SWOT analyses are often subjective in nature. Thus, participants involved in this exercises may argue about their differences. But referring them to the future (expected results) and not about the past, which normally takes a lot of time with minimum results.

3) Resource Analysis
After you have completed the community assessment, you look at the available or required resources, such as people, money, organizations (Community Based, local, NGOs, and others), facilities, equipment, and other resources.
4) Appreciative Inquiry (or Asset Based Development)
Appreciative is an approach which focuses on a community’s Strength as a means of advancing.

The purpose of SWOT analysis is to identify key issues and to formulate a Strategic Approach
SWOT – Strength, Weaknesses, Opportunities, Threats
These are community characteristics that allow the community to take advantage of opportunities or reduce the impact of barriers.
These are community characteristics that might stand in the way or prevent the community from taking advantage of opportunities or reducing the impact of barriers.
These are factors outside the community that allow it to take advantage of opportunities or reduce the impact of barriers.
These are factors outside the community that might stand in the way or prevent the community from taking advantage of opportunities or reducing the impact of barriers.

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