Not all community enterprises will need to undertake each of these steps; in
some cases additional steps relating to the enterpriseís particular activities
may also need to be added.
Review: How did we get here?
Each participant should record the points he or she feels accounts for the
success of the organisation to-date. All points should be discussed and
agreement reached on which are the most important.
It is also necessary to determine what your members, clients and partners
opinions are about the service or product you provide. This can be done through
a simple sample survey or interviews. It is best that this be done as part of
the Strategic Planning process, and need not be expensive and time consuming.
Organisations should be encouraged to use local non-members to undertake such a
Vision Statement: Where do we want to go?
Each should write two visions:
the one that got the organisation to this point, and
∑ the one needed in the future.
Each vision should be limited to not more than two sentences. From these
statements a consensus vision should be formulated and agreed for the future.
The facilitator should help the group reach consensus by listing all
suggestions, and then helping them to choose or develop the most appropriate.
Reality Check: Is the vision realistic?
Are there any conflicts between personal ambitions and the vision? Are there
any differences still remaining about the future direction? Is the vision
compatible with the kind of organisation and people you are? Does the vision
build on the kind of things you do well? These issues need to be answered before
the vision can be presented to the organisationís membership for adoption.
Assessment: What are our strengths and weaknesses?
Each participant should list the strengths and weaknesses in order of
importance, including ones for each major service or product. No more than a
dozen should be listed. After discussion, the top six strengths and weaknesses
should be accepted.
It is important to ask: Do the strengths support the vision? Will weaknesses
prevent realisation of the vision? Is the vision realistic given these?
Each participant in open discussion should suggest the specific objectives
needed to realise the vision. Each should be discussed and a list agreed.
Objectives should be limited to not more than eight items. These objectives
should be achievable in light of the strengths and weaknesses outlined above.
Remember, objectives should be achievable targets and not vague
Indicators for monitoring: What are our goals?
Each participant, in open discussion should suggest goals to be achieved.
These are essentially indicators of success. They must be capable
of being measured. How do these compare to other organisations offering a
similar service or product? Should there also be goals for quality, customer
care, innovations, number of disadvantaged clients reached, or others? Goals
should be agreed for the most important indicators.
Marketing: What and where are the best opportunities?
It may be necessary to break the session and collect market data on other
similar services or products. What does the market currently offer? To whom and
at what price? The answers should be summarised in a brief position paper
circulated before the next session. Participants should then discuss the
findings thoroughly, in terms of opportunities.
Budgeting: What resources are needed to convert these opportunities?
Each participant should agree through open discussion, what is needed in
terms of funds, accommodation, employees and technology. From this, a budget
should be developed which clearly indicates local and external funding to be
Implementation Plan: How will this be implemented?
An implementation plan which outlines who does what, how and
when should be drawn-up for the first year, and general parameters
set for subsequent years.
Reviewing and Revising
Annual reviews should involve all participants and be done once a year, as a
minimum. The first review may benefit from the assistance of an outside
facilitator. Reviews should, if possible, be held outside the organisation
workplace and at a time when participants are least likely to be interrupted. It
should involve going through the original plan and altering it in light of
experience. Key questions from the facilitator may help to guide the process.
As a final note, the time required to do a Strategic Plan must remain
flexible. The review process can often be done prior to the strategic planning
days and by local persons with minimal guidance from that facilitator. A two
day workshop is often required, plus additional time if market studies need to
In conclusion, strategic planning should be a regular and recurrent part of
any community enterpriseís annual business development calendar. It is a
cyclical process, always beginning with a review of the past and then building a
vision for the future.
This paper was prepared for a 1994 ACE-HI training course for
Community Enterprise Agents in the Highlands of Scotland. The course was funded
by the European Social Fund.