set the course for success— incorporate these steps in your agenda-planning process:
- Identify key community stakeholders— They can support plan development and implementation. Your community may already have an existing youth development or Out-of-School Time coalition. If so, this group should be tapped into to help develop your OST action agenda; if not, the process of developing an action agenda presents an opportunity to organize and convene a coalition focused on this issue. Use existing tools like the Ready By 21 Stakeholder's Wheel to identify essential stakeholders that should be part of the process.
- Identify by consensus a lead organization— It can facilitate the action agenda planning process. Don’t assume that your United Way will play this role. Instead, the broad stakeholder group should make this decision. Make the case for your United Way (see Why United Way), but be willing to accept that the group may feel differently and that there are other community-based organizations and entities that may be qualified to be the lead, especially in communities where there is an existing OST coalition. Whoever the lead ultimately is, they should be prepared to assume primary responsibility for ongoing communications, organizing and facilitating regular group meetings, summarizing and synthesizing conversations and decisions, taking the lead on writing the action agenda, and communicating back to the community.
- Engage the community to develop the action agenda— You can use community conversations, surveys, focus groups, etc. to engage community stakeholders, especially those who will directly benefit from this work (parents, youth, teachers, school administrators, municipal leaders, providers, the business community, etc.). Stakeholder input should be used to develop a shared vision and prioritize issues, challenges, and solutions. This is important because when individuals and institutions are engaged, they will take greater ownership and responsibility for doing the work called for in the action plan.
- Gather and use community-level data to inform strategies that will be included in the action agenda— Community demographic indicators, school,and student performance data should be analyzed to help inform the strategy development. In order to identify gaps in opportunities, Out-of-School Time stakeholders also need data on existing school and community based programs— where they are, who they serve, what types of activities they offer, frequency and duration, etc.
- Create an ongoing representative group— The group can help refine and develop the action agenda. Identify representatives of the key stakeholder group to support the actual writing of the plan. These individuals can be grouped into sub-committees that align with specific key issues or strategies that will be included in the plan (e.g., subcommittee on access, or middle school Out-of-School Time). These individuals can also be asked to solicit feedback on the work and regularly communicate their peer’s progress on action plan development.
- Establish clear expectations, time commitments, and deliverables— These can sustain people's involvement and bring the planning process to a successful result; it helps for individuals to know what is expected of them. The representative group should know up front what their estimated time commitment is (Three months? Six months? One year?). They should also understand what they are expected to produce. (An actual document? Feedback and input on drafts? Participation in a certain number of meetings?)
- Write an action plan that includes the components listed above.
- Publicize the final agenda and share it with the community— The product of this planning process, the action agenda itself, should be available in multiple formats (hard copy, electronic); disseminated at key community meetings and public events; posted on relevant websites; and sent to all stakeholders and the interested public to have maximum visibility. Stakeholders will know that their input resulted in something tangible, and those not already involved might become more interested and willing to raise their hand to support Out-of-School Time efforts.
- Periodically adjust, measure and communicate results— An action plan will not be valuable if it does not become a “living document”—periodically adjusted as community needs change and used as a basis to measure progress and share results on shared community goals. Although this notion is beyond the scope of the initial process to develop the plan, this element of the work is critical to sustain public engagement and advocate for increased resources to ensure that young people have access to quality Out-of-School Time initiatives.
To learn more tips on creating an effective Action Agenda, head to the Learning Modules.