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The agency has a strategic plan that focuses
staff, the community, and the media on the priorities the agency will pursue as
it moves toward excellence. It has opened its doors and invited the community
to join it in working toward increasing safety for the community’s children, in
increasing the stability of the community’s families, and in strengthening the
community itself. For the agency to succeed in fulfilling its mission, it must
have broad community support. Garnering that necessary support takes time and
begins with the agency taking the first step. That first step was to invite the
community into its planning process and to use the community’s beliefs and
values to shape the final strategic plan.

It is critical to see that the community’s
support is tentative at this point. It is based on the fact that the agency has
involved the community in the development of its strategic plan. The community
can see its input throughout the plan. People believe they have been heard.

Were the agency to go back to
business-as-usual at this point and simply shelf the plan, community support
would be quickly withdrawn. In that event, further support would be very
difficult to amass again, even at this tentative level, anytime soon. If,
instead, the agency implements the plan and shares the results of its efforts
with the public on an ongoing basis, community support will continue to grow.
This growing support is, in turn, reinforced by the agency’s increasing ability
and willingness to be explicitly responsive and accountable to the public.

Strategic achievements and successes should
also be regularly celebrated with staff. The agency must “chase
success” and recognize the staff that are responsible for that success.
Over time, success is contagious. Staff attach increased meaning to their work
because it is now connected to a vision they have participated in creating, a
vision that is also supported by the community.

Achievements and successes should, likewise,
be regularly shared with the community in a planful manner. The same measures
of success that are celebrated with the staff become measures of accountability
to the public. In short, the accountability of the agency increases and it is
perceived as being more responsive to the community. The agency has stated
publicly, “This is what we are going to do,” and is doing it. The
public knows that the commitment is being kept because it is receiving regular
feedback chronicling the agency’s progress.

The agency’s mission and goals are explicitly
stated and the public has agreed with their contents. The agency has provided
the leadership to initiate this dialogue and the public values this open,
pro-active approach. Its confidence in the agency continues to grow.

As a result of the agency’s success, other
community organizations may be pressured to follow its lead, if they have not
already done so. The public values openness. If one organization opens its
doors, community expectations are that others should be doing the same. If this
occurs and other agencies respond, the vision that was created through the
agency’s strategic planning process should be used for it is the community’s
vision, not just the agency’s. It may be modified through future planning
processes but that only gives emphasis to the reality that it is the
community’s vision, not any single agency’s.

If the planning process can be extended to
other community agencies and organizations, the resulting mission statements
and the associated strategic plans of the individual organizations can be laid
side-by-side. This enables the identification of gaps in services, duplication
of effort, and needs related to better coordination of services. The community
issues identified through these activities can be shared with elected officials
and other key stakeholders. Again, this openness and collaboration with the
community builds strong public value for the work being done and will lead to
increased authorization for needed programs and services. Putting the
“cards on the table” in this way will also likely result in increased
operating resources to do the needed work.

As you consider strategic planning for your
agency, it will help to explicitly highlight the key factors that support
successful plan implementation and increase community support for the agency:

community is heavily involved in the planning.

right people are in the guiding group.

The plan
is followed and modified as necessary.

and barriers are communicated internally and externally on a regular basis.

decisions are held next to the vision and mission statements to measure
consistency. If a decision is consistent, go forward. If it is not, go back and
get it right.

It will also help to explicitly highlight the
key factors that undermine successful plan implementation and community support
for the agency:

agency only invites people it feels will agree with it to the scanning process
and only superficially involves the public.

A small
group of agency leaders develop the plan in a vacuum.

The plan
is abandoned and staff are permitted to go back to business-as-usual.

and barriers are not communicated internally or externally.

are reactionary and made without a clear vision and well-defined mission.

The following vision and mission statements
were developed jointly by Ohio‘s
88 county child protection agencies in 1994, with updates and revisions during
the 1996, 1998, and 2000 strategic planning cycles.

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