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Planning (SPF Step 3)

When the community needs assessment is completed and capacity building activities are under way, it is time to begin engaging in strategic planning. Using the community needs assessment as a guide, the plan should clearly outline the specific tasks, resources, and strategies that will need to be implemented to reach the community’s stated goals. Ideally, the plan should include strategies for sustainability, tools to assist with finding funding for the project, and a means of evaluating the success of the project. In addition, it is important that the plans and strategies are culturally relevant to and sustainable for members of the community.

Setting goals

Before implementing any program, the change-making organization needs to set specific goals for reducing adolescent substance use in the community. It’s important to set small achievable goals that have a measurable outcome. The organization needs to decide what the long-term goals are, and whether they are attainable within an appropriate timeframe for implementation of the program.

Some examples of programmatic goals would include: establishing an actively networking group of multi-disciplinary stakeholders, attaining buy-in from the community as a whole regarding the proposed program agendas, and to provide and attend relevant training to ensure sustainability at a community level.

Road maps

A strategic prevention roadmap is a method of systematically documenting goals, strategies, and the resources needed to accomplish those goals and objectives in a manner that is concise, clear, actionable, and measurable. It can also serve as a visual aid that structures and displays applicable information relevant to long and short-term project goals. Strategic roadmaps are a mainstay in the planning of a project or goal-oriented task and serve as a guide for project implementation and long-term sustainability.

Logic models

Logic models are another method to concisely communicate information regarding strategic planning. Logic models are a visual display which are particularly useful for efficiently depicting relationships between concepts or groups, prioritizing project areas or variables, and demonstrating how affecting change in one area may impact variables in another. Logic models typically include information regarding the scope or definition of the target problem, assessed risk and protective factors as well as causal or maintaining factors related to the target problem, and identified intervention or prevention strategies.

Sustainability and culture change

As previously mentioned, in order for a large-scale program to be successful and sustainable there has to be a shift in the ideology of the subject community. This can be an arduous task in and of itself. However, if strategic communication and networking with the right influential people in the community can be obtained, half of the battle is won. A coach, a respected teacher, a peer, and a school counselor are all examples of people with the ability to influence change.

In order for change to be truly sustainable, it must be culturally relevant. Culturally relevant change begins with the organization and its members using the concepts of cultural competence: valuing diversity and being respectful and responsive to the needs, beliefs and practices of diverse groups by adapting intervention strategies to the specific cultural needs of the community. Because culturally competence is essential to the sustainability of a program, it must be considered and rigorously applied during all stages of the SPF.
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