Online Strategic Planning:
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Another New Tool in the COMMUNITY DEVELOPMENT TOOLBOX
•Why Strategic Planning?
•Strategic Planning in 7 (Not-so-Easy) Steps
•What is the Best Way to Use Online Strategic Planning?
•For More Information
Why Strategic Planning?
Everyone can agree that planning is key to realizing community goals
that matter most to your stakeholders. Online Strategic Planning has been
added to the Community Development Toolbox to help communities document
their assets and set goals to meet the economic challenges facing rural
places in the 21st Century.
Strategic Planning is borrowed from corporate culture which prescribed
the setting of long term goals and objectives, the outline of a course(s)
of action and an allocation of resources (Chandler, A.D., 1962 ). For
community development, strategic planning becomes equally important to
allow the community to formulate a vision, identify a mission and set
goals to determine their future. A clear and practical strategy will ensure
that your organization grows to meet its vision and does not lie on the
shelf and collect dust. The COMMUNITY DEVELOPMENT TOOLBOX' Strategic Planning
provides the framework to help your community organization build a simple
and powerful plan for your future. To access, login at http://www.communitydevelopment.uiuc.edu/cdo/,
enter the information for the login (there will be no charge and under
no circumstances will your name be forward or used for commercial purposes,
the information is used solely for our own evaluation).
Strategic Planning in 7 (Not-so-Easy) Steps
The strategic planning process is not easy. This online version is comprised
of 7 steps beginning with creating your planning committee to writing
the final report. This process takes time, but does not have take forever.
Using online tools, you are in charge of how your organization works through
the process and how much time you allocate to each step. Each step includes
interactive worksheets. Using the same login each time you access the
site will make certain that you retrieve the information you have previously
entered. Your login name also serves as a means to store all of your information.
Create a planning committee that represents the diverse interests in your
community. Use the worksheets to focus on stakeholder interests and skills
and to record potential committee members.
Create a sense of mission for your community organization. The 4 worksheets
in this section help your committee to define the parameters of your mission
- your purpose, values, the stakeholders you serve and the way you intend
to conduct your business. There is also a worksheet to help you brainstorm
Creating strategies for your community organization need to be based on
realistic and robust assessments of local attitudes and an evaluation
of community assets. Community assessments provide the data and the rationale
for setting priorities for your community development efforts. The worksheets
in this section provide a framework for you to summarize the most important
findings of your needs assessment. If you have not completed an assessment
in the past year, then use the links provided to help you organize an
A systematic identification of these 4 attributes becomes critical to
building future goals and objectives that are realistic within the parameters
of your local and regional economy. The SWOT analysis allows you to objectively
summarize your community's internal strengths and weaknesses as well as
the opportunities and threats that lie in the external environment, all
representing forces that may greatly impact your organization. These worksheets
provide space for the committee to brainstorm and more objectively articulate
your community's position in the regional economy.
Develop goals to establish the direction you want to take for your community
development initiatives. Goals express your aspirations for the future
of your community. Goals must be tied to outcomes rather than activities.
The worksheets in this section allow you to organize goals and determine
the timeframe for each. To maintain your focus choose only a few goals,
the ones you chose should reflect your most desirable outcomes.
These next set of worksheets help to document the means of accomplishing
the goals stated previously. For each goal, there is a worksheet to document
objectives (the details behind the goal), strategies (the action steps),
the resources you will need to fulfill the objective and a place to document
whether those resources exist locally. Also, this step includes a GANTT
chart (timetable) to help you document responsibilities and deadlines.
This final step, often the most difficult, is made easier using the online
model. At this point all worksheets are reproduced and ready for editing
in your final report. Select view to print the worksheets as they were
entered, or select edit to fine-tune the report. It is possible to highlight
the text, copy and insert it into word processing software for creating
a more complete report.
What is the Best Way to Use Online Strategic Planning?
Each of the members of the strategic planning committee need to have
a good understanding of the planning process. The first step should be
to have committee members become familiar with this process by reviewing
the 7 steps independently or as a group. Committee members can go online
and explore the various aspects of the process. Once everyone is familiar
with strategic planning, find a facilitator to help the committee stay
focused. If possible, the facilitator should be impartial and objective
of the group process - the referee, yet represent the stakeholders interest.
A committee member would not make a good facilitator because as a stakeholder
it would be difficult to be dispassionate. A member of the University
of Illinois Extension Community and Economic Development team is able
to serve as facilitator for your committee.
For each work session, the facilitator could set up a computer and projector
in the room, go online to access the program and project the worksheets
for the committee. If connection speed or access in general is poor, the
facilitator can print the worksheets and make copies available for each
member of the working committee. The committee can work on the worksheets
in small groups and when completed and consensus is reached, the facilitator
can input the information online. There are two benefits of inputting
your materials online: 1) The information is stored and remembered and
committee members can go online at any time to review the materials; and
2) The write-up of the final report is minimized because the program creates
The number of working sessions you will need depends on how much of the
strategic planning work you have already completed. You will need one
session to create a committee, another to brainstorm and build a mission
statement, a session to create a strategy for conducting a community assessment
(if you have completed an assessment recently then combine this session
with the SWOT analysis session), finally, you will need one relatively
long retreat (half to a full day) to document goals, objectives, strategies
Strategic Planning may not be easy, but important for your organization
to identify and pursue the opportunities for your community. Good Luck!
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For More Information
To learn more about strategic planning or connect to a University of Illinois
Extension Educator contact:
To access other tools in the COMMUNITY DEVELOPMENT
TOOLBOX go to: