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Building Sustainable Alliances Part 2: Action and Outreach Plans

Overview

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Identify action and outreach plans.

An action plan identifies a task that is necessary to accomplishing a goal. It also sets a target date and specifies which individual is responsible for accomplishing the task.

An outreach plan creates a means for accomplishing the task outlined in the action plan. It designs a message, determines who is to receive the message, and outlines how the message should be sent.

By the end of this lesson you will be able to:

  • Recall the definitions of an action plan and an outreach plan;
  • Recall techniques to design action and outreach plans; and,
  • Apply strategies for implementing action and outreach plans.End of text

Preparing to Plan

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Review your vision and goals.

The alliance’s vision statement should describe an ideal future—a brief outline which includes who you want to impact, a timeless end state, and an inspirational framework for planning. The goals, a blueprint for accomplishing the vision, need to be measurable, observable, and explicitly tied to the vision. The measurable indicators of success must be clear and identifiable in order to connect succinctly with the action plan. Take a few moments to review your alliance vision and goals.

Know what you need to conduct the action plan.

Before you begin building your action and outreach plans, make sure you are properly prepared.

  1. Know who is in the room: Who are they? Which organization do they represent? What is their authority? What assets do they bring to the table?
  2. Be sure that each organization is committed; have a clear understanding in place with the required agency individuals (board members, directors, etc.).
  3. Prepare an agenda or road map that will guide the meeting, show where you want to end up and how you intend to get there. Whether you are meeting in-person or remotely, this is important to successfully creating action and outreach plans.End of text

The Action Plan

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Understand action plans to build them successfully.

What is an action plan? If the goals are the steps to accomplishing the vision, the action plan provides the steps for accomplishing a goal. An action plan is related to the goal and its measurable indicators of success. It specifies the tasks, due dates, and responsible individuals necessary to accomplish a goal. An action plan must include discrete actions for which a single person can be responsible. It must be specific enough that a due date can be assigned and completion easily assessed. Take a look at this action plan:

Action Plan

It is explicitly related to the goal and indicator of success. It identifies a discrete action: to identify social work programs and secure meetings with key departmental personnel. Finally, it specifies a single responsible person and a due date.

Know the process for creating an action plan.

There are four basic steps to creating an action plan. Click the resources link to download a template for creating an action plan.

  1. Know what you already have. Know your vision, goals, and their measurable indicators. Know the members of the alliance, and their strengths and assets.
  2. Identify what actions the alliance needs to take to be successful. This should be defined by the measurable indicator.
  3. Work backwards: what actions will lead to the result you want, as identified by the indicator? Are there additional actions that must come first?
    1. For example, the indicator is: “800 licensed LCSWs complete the online invisible wounds of war course.”
    2. For this to happen we probably need to take at least two actions; in addition, each of those actions have steps that must be taken before this can be completed.
      1. Step one: Send the state’s network of LCSW information about how to access the course. To do this, we must first:
        1. Identify a point of contact at the professional association
        2. Write an article for their monthly newsletter
        3. Prepare a presentation for their annual conference
      2. Step 2: Identify and leverage incentives for participation.
  4. Ask, “What assets can we leverage within our alliance?”End of text

The Outreach Plan

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Understand outreach plans to build them successfully.

What is an outreach plan? An outreach plan begins by supporting an action plan. It identifies the audience(s), message(s), and channel(s) for communicating. It is clear, simple, and memorable. The message is tailored to each audience and channel. For example, take a look at the following outreach plan:

Outreach Plan

It identifies a specific audience (social workers), a specific delivery plan (presentation by Jill), and provides an audience-focused message.

Know the process for creating outreach plans.

To create the outreach plan, begin with the template. You can download this by clicking the resources link.

  1. Identify your potential audiences. Who would be interested in the alliance’s vision or activities? Whose interest or participation is critical for the alliance’s success?
    • First, make a list of all potential audiences.
    • Prioritize. Keep in mind that most of those you need to reach are probably in just a few specific audience groups.
  2. For each of the top two to four audiences, do the following:
    • Identify what action you want the audience to take.
    • Describe the message that moves the audience to this action. Make sure the action supports your goal and vision. You can use the same brainstorming and refining processes from Part 1.
  3. Identify the best method of communication. Consider how the audience currently receives information. Is there a place they gather regularly, either in person or online? Think about industry newsletters, professional association meetings, websites, Facebook groups, etc.
    • Decide when this message should be delivered and who should take responsibility.End of text

Creating the Plans

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Tips for successful planning.

For a successful planning session, try a few of these tips:

  1. Prepare thoroughly.
  2. Create the right environment by:
    1. Displaying the vision, goals, and relevant indicators while planning actions
    2. Removing distractions
    3. Employing processes that engage physically
    4. Breaking into smaller planning sessions or groups if applicable
  3. Bring the right people:
    1. Decision makers
    2. Connectors
    3. Influencers

Understand the reluctance to commit.

Not all partners will be as enthusiastic and ready for action as you might be, so it is important to prepare strategies for working together with everyone. First, think about why they might be reluctant. It might be because they don’t have the authority to make decisions, they may not be fully committed to the vision and goals, or they may feel pressure from a scarcity of resources such as time, staff, or money.

To overcome reluctance, be willing to have an offline listening session. Allow them to explain their reluctance, and make an effort to understand the concerns that hold them back from fully committing to the alliance. Identify where the control lies: if this is outside their area of authority, make a plan to get support from the person or office with authority. Schedule a briefing to make a case for the alliance. If you are in the middle of a session and not able to move the session along because partners are reluctant to commit, reframe the planning as mapping a “best case” scenario.

  1. First, ask, “With no constraints on time or resources, which actions would you take? When is the best time and who is the best person to take responsibility for those actions?”
  2. Second, ask, “How would you prioritize the actions in terms of which would have the biggest impact on achieving the goal and realizing the mission?”
  3. Third, ask, “Can you identify barriers to achieving the goal?”
  4. Finally, say, “Let’s brainstorm ways to overcome these barriers. Do we need to recruit more partners? Do we need to ask for support at higher levels of the organization?”End of text

Summary

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Do your research, hone your conversation and presentation skills, and arm yourself with tactics to overcome “no.”

Now that you have completed this lesson, you should be able to:

  • Recall the definitions of an action plan and an outreach plan;
  • Recall techniques to design action and outreach plans; and,
  • Apply strategies for implementing action and outreach plans.End of text

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